Playing With Your Baby




Play is very important for babies and children because it:

  • helps them learn about themselves and the world around them
  • promotes their physical, cognitive (thinking), language, emotional and social development (how they will get along with others)
  • helps you nurture your relationship with your baby
  • helps develop their skills

From the very beginning of your child’s life, they are engaging in play with you. It might be as simple as following your face as you move it slowly from one side of his/hers to the other or listening to your voice as you sing during diaper change. It may be as simple as your baby following your face with their eyes as you move around them, or listening to your voice as you sing during diaper changes.


  1. Create a safe place to play. Remove all dangerous things from your infant’s reach when they are is exploring their environment
  2. Give your baby toys that are simple and right for their age
  3. Play with your infant one-on-one every day so they can share their discoveries with you
  4. Play with your baby down on the floor, face-to-face
  5. Give your baby a chance to play around other children
  6. Limit the time your infant spends in a playpen, a swing or anything that restrains their movements
  7. Let your infant move freely so they can develop their co-ordination and muscles
  8. Take your baby outdoors to play
  9. Supervise your baby while they are playing
  10. Watch your baby's signals for what they are interested in and respond
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  1. Supervise your infant closely, but do not restrain their movements
  2. Toys should not have sharp edges or pieces that can be swallowed
  3. Toys should be light-weight, brightly coloured, non-toxic and have varying textures
  4. Your baby needs a minimum of a 1.5 m X 2 m (5’ X 7’) blanket on which to play and roll
  5. Your infant should play at ground level to avoid injuries
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Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

  • Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend that babies sleep on their backs on a firm surface to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

‘Tummy time’ is the time that your baby spends lying on their stomach while they are awake. Once your baby’s cord has fallen off, you can put them down to play on their tummy or side several times throughout the day. Make sure you’re watching them when they're on their tummy.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS):

Health Canada and the Canadian Paediatric Society recommend that babies sleep on their backs on a firm surface to reduce the risk of SIDS.

Infants (aged less than one year) should be physically active several times daily - especially through interactive floor-based play.

‘Tummy time’ is important:

Because it helps your baby learn to:

  • Hold up their head and get strong enough to turn their head from side to side
  • Get up on their elbows
  • Get up on their hands with straight elbows
  • Roll from tummy to back and then onto their tummy again
  • Shift their weight to reach for toys
  • Crawl forward on their tummy and then all fours
  • It can even help keep your baby from getting a “flat head” (which happens when baby always lies the same way)

‘Tummy time’ ideas:

  • Lie on your back and have your baby lie on your chest
  • Lay your baby down on a clean, firm surface (like a playpen or mat on the floor)
  • Avoid putting your baby down on a high surface like a change table because they could roll off
  • Sit on the floor with your baby
  • Remember, blankets and quilts can block your baby's face and prevent proper breathing
  • If your baby gets tired and falls asleep, you can roll them gently onto their back to sleep
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Babies who always sleep with their head to the same side can develop flat spots (flat head). A simple way to prevent your baby from getting a flat head is to change the position of the baby’s head each day. Because babies like to have something interesting to look at, they tend to turn their head to look out into their room rather than toward the wall. This way they can see you as you come and go.

Here’s how you can change the position of your baby’s head while still giving her the same ‘view’.

  • One day, place your baby with her head at the head of the crib.
  • The next day, place your baby with her head at the foot of the crib.
  • Each day, alternate your baby’s orientation in the crib.
  • Check to make sure that your baby is always looking out into the room.

Give your baby supervised “tummy time” when they are awake, several times a day. Not only will time on the tummy help prevent a flat spot on the head, but it’s important for your baby’s development.

If your baby still develops flat spots, talk to your health care provider.

Ways to prevent flat head

Remember to change the position of your baby's head when you put them down on their back to sleep. The idea is to give your baby a different view of the room and encourage your baby, while sleeping on their back, to turn their head to look at different things when they wake up.

Here are some other things you can try:

  • Move mobiles and crib toys to different sides of the crib
  • Change your baby's head position from side, to back, to side especially if they prefer a particular side
  • Limit the amount of time that your baby spends in car seats, infant seats, swings and strollers
  • Change positions when feeding, carrying, holding and playing with your baby
  • Once the baby has good head control, increase your baby's time in an upright position

For more information see Caring for Kids flat head prevention (external link).

Adapted with permission from The Region of Peel (external link)

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Babies like to:

  • Look up and see your face, smile and coo
  • Listen to your voice and musical sounds
  • Be held, rocked, cuddled and massaged
  • Lift their head when lying on their tummies
  • Be placed in different positions so they can look at different things
  • Follow a moving object with their eyes

You can:

  • Talk and sing to your baby when changing, bathing, feeding and dressing
  • Hold baby close to your face and smile and talk to your baby
  • Allow your baby to spend time on their tummy when they are awake once the cord has fallen off
  • Hug and hold your baby close
  • Hang a mobile over your baby’s crib (make sure to remove it when your baby can push up on their hands and knees though)
One month
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical Likes to move his arms and legs around. Allowing clothes and blankets to be loose enough to enable movement
Placing your baby in a safe place to play (e.g., on a blanket or mat on the floor, or in their crib)
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Can focus on objects 8 - 12 inches away. Holding your baby close to your face
Putting interesting shapes/patterns around the crib that are black and white
Language Can hear voices and sounds that can turn to a familiar voice. Talking and singing to your baby
Playing music
Reading to your baby (lets you baby use all their senses)
Social/emotional Cries to tell you they need something. Trying different ways to sooth your baby such as rocking, talking softly, stroking, cuddling and singing/humming.
Understanding that your baby cannot be spoiled by being picked up when they cry
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Babies like to:

  • Play and hold objects with two hands
  • Reach out and grasp objects
  • Turn their head to your voice and make a variety of sounds and coos
  • Laugh and smile at you
  • Lift their head and support themselves on their forearms when lying on their tummies

You can:

  • Give your baby toys that are safe to chew and shake
  • Repeat your baby’s actions and talk back to them
  • Follow your baby’s lead when playing and recognize cues your baby shows when they do not want to play anymore
  • Wait for your baby to respond and react to your baby by smiling, laughing and praising
  • Give your baby supervised time playing on the floor on his/her tummy
Two months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical May begin to try to lift their head when lying on their stomach Placing your baby on stomach and back during playtime - "tummy time"
May hold an object for a few moments Putting toys in front of your baby (e.g., rattle, hanging toys)
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Can follow movement with their eyes Watching your baby follow your face as you move when they are watching you
Putting a mobile above the crib (make sure to remove it when your baby can push up on their hands and knees though)
Moving a rattle from one side of your baby's head to the other
Language Gurgles and coos when spoken to and turns head at sounds close by Repeating sounds your baby makes
Playing soft music
Social/emotional Smiles at people and is soothed by a gentle, familiar voice Smiling at your baby when you see them
Soothing your baby by talking softly and repeating words and phrases

Three months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical Puts things in his/her mouth Giving your baby soft toys that are safe to mouth. Do not give your baby toys made from vinyl/PVC (polyvinyl chloride)
May swipe at dangling toys
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Likes simple games Playing "peek-a-boo" and "making faces" with your baby
Playing games like "shake the rattle" or rings
Language Begins to make "ooh" and "aah" sounds and squeal Copying your baby's sounds
Looking at and talking about picture books
Social/emotional Smiles in response to parent's face Holding your baby closely and securely
Enjoys playing with other people and may cry when playing stops
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Babies like to:

  • Hear familiar voices, make a variety of sounds and babbling noises and listen to music
  • Kick and use their legs
  • Look in the direction of a new sound and respond to their name
  • Sit with support
  • Roll from back to stomach and stomach to back

You can:

  • Let your baby see and touch your face and play peek-a-boo
  • Repeat your baby’s talk and speak to your baby often (repeating words and stories helps develop your baby's memory)
  • Provide safe and chewable objects for play like blocks and colourful textured toys
  • Play music, use songs and rhymes in gentle tones
  • Place your baby on his/her tummy and encourage your baby to roll
  • Change your baby’s position often throughout the day
  • Read to your baby every day
Four months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical May support them self on his/her forearms when lying on their stomach and may roll from back to side Putting a mat or blanket on the floor for playing
Can hold their head steady when supported in a sitting position Placing toys a few inches out of your baby's reach
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Can turn their head from side to side to follow a toy Moving side to side while you’re talking and singing with your baby and watch as your baby follows your face
Moving toys from one side to the other side of your baby’s head (e.g., a bright, soft ball)
Language Will babble to them self and to others Talking to your baby and explaining what you are doing
Bringing your baby closer to family activities so they can hear conversations
Social/emotional Gets scared by loud/angry voices Not using loud/angry voices around your baby
Responds to your soothing Using a mirror and pointing out baby and parent
Can recognize her parents

Five months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical Rolls from stomach to back Encouraging your baby to reach for things
Enjoys rocking on their tummy and kicking his/her legs Giving your baby a safe place to move around
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Can see objects far away Taking your baby for walks outside and pointing out new things
Putting your baby in places where he/she can see what is going on around them
Language Reacts to music and other sounds by cooing Singing songs/nursery rhymes (e.g., Humpty Dumpty, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star) (external link)
Social/emotional Looks and vocalizes when their name is said Not using loud/angry voices around your baby
Smiles at them self in the mirror Using your baby's name
Enjoys exploring adult features Putting your baby in front of a mirror
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Babies like to:

  • Sit alone and use their hands for balance or sit with assistance
  • Stand on your lap with help
  • Get on hands and knees and rock
  • Combine sounds with actions and babble, saying “mama”, “dada” and “nana”
  • Throw, wave and bang toys together
  • Begin to crawl and pull up on furniture
  • Play with objects that are easy to hold and of different shapes, textures and colours
  • Sit with you for family meals

You can:

  • Provide objects of different colours and textures. Encourage your baby to use both hands
  • Sing action songs like “pat-a-cake” and imitate sounds
  • Place your baby on their tummy and encourage your baby to push up and reach for toys
  • Put toys out of reach and encourage your baby to move towards them
  • Provide quiet time by hugging, holding, talking, singing and reading to your baby
Six months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical Can sit with support for a short time Sitting with your baby between your legs or supported with pillows with your supervision so they can see things all around them
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Can play with a single toy for a short time Giving your baby different toys to play with (e.g., board or cloth books, activity centre, rattles)
Enjoys banging, splashing, reaching and grabbing for things (e.g., hanging toys, soft cuddly toys)
Language Says "dada" and "mama" non-specifically Pointing out who mama and dada are
Social/emotional Can tell she/he is separate from parent Pointing to baby and parent in the mirror
Wants to be picked up when stretching out their arms

Seven months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical Can stand on your lap with support and may sit by them self Providing a safe place for your baby to practice sitting
Helping your baby go from sitting to standing on your lap
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Can pick up a toy and move it from one hand to the other Encouraging your baby to pick up and pass toys (e.g., blocks)
Likes playing with their feet and pulling on ears and hair
Language Tries to imitate sounds Imitating different sounds for your baby
Repeating nursery rhymes
Reading story books
Social/emotional May show fear with previously accepted situations Reassuring your baby and keeping them close by
Enjoys playing peek-a-boo games
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Babies like to:

  • Crawl and move around furniture
  • Sit without support for a few minutes
  • Bang toys together and use actions to get your attention
  • Empty a container full of toys, pick up the toys and replace them in the container
  • Use thumb and finger to pick up small, soft table foods
  • Continue to babble different sounds like “dada” and “mama”

You can:

  • Offer your baby objects to bang and stack, like soft blocks
  • Give big containers to hold smaller objects
  • Play games with your baby like peek-a-boo
  • Give your baby a variety of small objects to pick up (toys should be big enough that they cannot fit through a toilet paper roll)
  • Allow your baby to crawl and explore
  • Let your baby lead the play
Eight months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical Begins to crawl and may pull to stand Providing a safe crawling space
Dressing your baby in comfortable clothes
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Will overcome an obstacle to get an object Hiding a toy halfway under a blanket and watching to see what your baby does
Language Makes babbling sounds that are like real words Using simple words to help them go from babbling to talking
Letting your baby take part in adult conversations
Social/emotional May not let you go out of sight without crying. This is called "separation anxiety" and will resolve itself over the next few months Letting your baby stay close to you
May play alone for two or three minutes Easing baby into new situations

Nine months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical May stand for a short time holding onto things and drop or throw objects Giving your baby sturdy things to pull up with
Encouraging your baby to pass, reach and hold toys like blocks and balls
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Understands what "no" means Saying "no" to your baby when appropriate and redirecting their attention to another activity
Enjoys dropping objects and watching you pick them up
Language Recognizes some words Naming objects
Repeating words
Social/emotional May show fear at going to bed and being left alone Having a night time routine
Enjoys finger feeding them self and is better at drinking from a cup Giving your baby a toy or stuffed animal to cuddle
Leaving a night light on
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Babies like to:

  • Pull themselves to stand up using furniture
  • Walk with one hand held or alone
  • Drink from a cup
  • Repeat an action that gets a reaction, like knocking over blocks or clapping hands
  • Start games like hiding (peek-a-boo) or clapping (pat-a-cake)
  • Turn pages and point to pictures in books
  • Follow simple directions like “Get the ball”
  • Bend over and pick up objects from the floor

You can:

  • Repeat your baby’s talk, sing songs and rhymes and praise your baby for following directions
  • Read picture books to your baby with lots of colours and images
  • Provide toys that develop hand skills like noisemakers, wheeled toys and picture books
  • Encourage your baby’s sense of touch by offering objects of different textures
  • Teach your baby about feelings by naming them, for example – “Are you happy?”
  • Include your baby in family routines like eating at the dinner table
Ten months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical Makes stepping movements when held Holding your baby in a standing position for short periods of time
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Tries to imitate scribble Providing large, non-toxic crayons to scribble with
Language Imitates speech sounds Imitating sounds for your baby
Social/emotional Tries to please you by showing off new skills Recognizing your baby's new skills and providing chances to practice them

Eleven months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical May be walking or cruising by holding onto furniture Giving your baby a safe place to move around
Covering the sharp corners of or removing furniture
May like turning pages in a book Showing your baby how to use toys in new ways (e.g., household items - spoons, pans)
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Is thinking of new ways to play with toys Reading story books with linking words with pictures
Language Says mama and dada when looking at parents and may also say a few other words Talking to your baby and asking questions
Social/emotional May start taking part in routines Encouraging your baby to take part in the routine (i.e., getting ready for bed)

Twelve months
Development Your baby: You can help by
Physical May stand alone for a moment and use a pincer grip to pick up small objects Providing a safe place to practice standing
Giving your baby appropriate finger foods
Cognitive
(how your baby thinks)
Can guide a toy manually and shows an understanding for colour and size Giving your baby push or pull toys and toys of different colours and sizes (e.g., cars, trains)
Enjoys putting and taking objects in and out of a container
Language Understands short instructions and lets you know what he/she wants by making combination sounds Asking your baby to do simple things
Responding to your baby's request
Social/emotional Explores the world enthusiastically Providing a safe place to explore
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