How to help your baby’s development from six months, including games to play & toys that will help them learn
You may think it’s just having fun, but playtime can really help improve learning and boost your baby’s development.
Playing to help your baby learn
Playing is an important way to help your baby learn different skills. As well as helping with their mental and physical development, their verbal and non-verbal communication will quickly improve too. It may just seem like fun to you, but singing, playing games and giving your baby simple toys and books is key to improving development.
"At six months, your baby knows who you are, and is increasingly aware that they are a separate person from you," says Boots Parenting Club health visitor Angela Davy. "This knowledge spurs them on to become physically active."
Even just a few minutes a day will help support your baby’s development, while you’re having bucketloads of fun in the process…
How your baby learns to communicate
Your baby will already be using sounds to express their emotions – squealing when excited or shouting when they want attention – and will soon begin to babble. At around seven months they may begin to repeat simple sounds such as ‘Dada’ or ‘Mama’ as they imitate adult speech. Babies also develop meaningful ways of communicating without words too, such as a hand signal for ‘Pick me up, please!’
Tips to get them talking
- Talk to your baby, allowing time for them to respond
- Read board books or cloth books
- Repeat the sounds they make
- Encourage them to wave ‘bye bye’ to people
Build your baby's memory skills
Your baby’s powers of recall are developing fast. They will enjoy anticipating repetition in singalong and, at around nine months, will begin to remember games.
Easy ways to support memory development include playing ‘Peekaboo’ with your face or a toy, or finger games such as ‘Round and round the garden…’ waiting for your baby to giggle as they remember what comes next.
Helping your baby to crawl and get moving
Between six and nine months, babies practice gross motor skills – learning to roll or sit or getting ready to crawl by rocking back and forth on hands and knees. "Babies develop at their own pace," says Angela. "Offering encouragement and praise is the key to supporting them."
Three easy ways to improve your baby's gross motor skills
- Prop your baby up with cushions for sitting practice
- Get them to lift their head when lying on their stomach by holding a toy above them
- Encourage them to move towards you across the floor
Developing hand-eye coordination through play
"As eyesight develops, babies can see so much more, and with that comes an eagerness to learn," says Angela. "They become more determined to reach, swipe and grab objects of interest."
Six ways to build a baby's dexterity
- Encourage them to move a toy from one hand to the other
- Place small items on the floor so they can pick them up using the ‘pincer’ grip with thumb and first finger
- Give your baby musical toys or light-up toys that they can bang, shake or examine
- Offer electronic games or books that light up or have animal sounds and speech
- Use stacking cups and tower toys to stimulate hand-eye coordination
- Let your baby experiment with bath toys – filling pots with water and pouring it out again
Easy ways to play at home
Rainy day or baby too tired to go out? Here are nine baby brain-boosting games that don’t cost a fortune or involve too much preparation. Sometimes all you need is a ball, a drum, a cardboard box, and of course, you!
Nine baby play ideas that help learning
- Use finger puppets to talk to your baby or tickle them
- Put on baby-friendly music, turn on the bubble machine and carry your baby around, trying to catch bubbles as you go
- Turn off the lights and shine a torch on to ceiling and walls, following its beam
- Lie on the bed and play airplanes, balancing your baby on your shins, tummy down, and holding their hands as you rock them from side to side
- Build towers of stacking cups, cotton reels, plastic mugs or wooden blocks and allow your baby to knock them over again and again to build motor skills
- Make a shaker by filling an empty plastic bottle with dried beans, pulses and seeds. Replace the lid, cover with paper and let your baby shake
- Create a cardboard box tunnel and encourage your baby to crawl through
- Make some spaghetti, leave to cool then let your baby play with it. They love the feeling on their hands, in their hair, everywhere…
- Make an indoor mini ball pit and fill it with things for them to find