23 Baby Game Ideas for Your Baby's First Year

There's nothing more fun or rewarding than playing with your baby. Playtime together is entertaining for both of you, of course, but it's also a big part of the way your little one learns and grows. No matter how simple the game, play stimulates the senses and helps your baby develop skills, which means she’ll learn a lot about the world around her through play. Here are some great suggestions for games you can play with your baby at home.

Games for Babies From Birth to 6 Months Old

These game ideas can work well for your newborn up until she’s around 6 months old:

  1. All smiles. Your baby may begin to smile around the time she turns 2 months old. This will be a good time to play a smiling game with her: Simply smile at your baby and wait for her to smile back. Try making faces and funny noises to get her to grin.
  2. Monkey see, monkey do. Get close to your baby, and try imitating her facial expressions and gestures. You’ll soon see your baby will start imitating you! For example, try sticking your tongue out to see if she copies you.
  3. Show and tell. As you hold a toy or a safe household object, show your baby what you’re holding and talk about it. Describe its shape, color, and even its texture. Let your baby feel the object, especially if it’s an unusually textured item like a squishy ball. It’ll be a fun learning experience for her.
  4. Clappity clap. When your baby’s in a happy mood, clap her hands together, narrating what you’re doing. Eventually she’ll love getting your attention by making this sound all on her own.
  5. Pedal pedal. Maybe after you’ve changed her diaper and while she’s lying on her back, pedal your little one’s legs, just like a bicycle. She’ll get a kick out of it for sure!
  6. Tickle me. Chant a classic tickle rhyme such as “This Little Piggy” or "Round and Round" as you touch your baby's toes, tummy, or chin. Your baby will get excited in anticipation of the tickle to come.
  7. Shake and rattle. Grab a rattle or a squeaky toy to attract your baby’s attention and shake away. If you don’t have a rattle or squeaky toy, you could half-fill a jar or bottle with dried beans or rice, and secure it tightly. But don’t give the homemade rattle to the baby.
  8. Bubble blowing. Have your baby sit in your lap or in a bouncy chair and blow bubbles around her. Just make sure none go into her eyes. She’ll love the magic of the bubbles and following their direction with her eyes. She may even try to swat at them.
  9. Play ball. A ball can be a great plaything for your baby at nearly any age. In this game, all you have to do is roll a soft toy ball toward your infant. Encourage your little one to reach for it. She may even try to roll it back, or just grab it and mouth it.
  10. Tummy time. Practicing tummy time can help your baby strengthen her head and neck muscles. Lay your baby down on her tummy on a blanket, and entertain her while she cranes her neck to look up at you. You could blow bubbles in her direction, shake a rattle at her, put on a puppet show, etc.
  11. Baby workout. This game does require some equipment, specifically an infant gym. If you have one of these, you can set your baby up on the living room carpet, placing her on her back with the gym above her. She can swat and hit all the dangly objects safely, actions that help your baby develop muscle strength and coordination.
  12. Chitchat. Use every opportunity to talk to your baby and narrate as you go about your daily activities. Explain what you’re doing together or what you'll soon by doing—changing her diaper, dressing her, taking her for a stroll, etc. Be as specific as you can; for example, while dressing her describe the jumpsuit you've chosen, and how you're placing her feet in one at a time, followed by her arms, and then buttoning her up.Tummy time mom with baby
  13. Fishing for fun. Attach one of your baby’s favorite toys to a long piece of ribbon or string. You can dangle the toy in her line of vision to get her attention during tummy time, for example. This game will help develop visual coordination, and she’ll love watching her favorite toy bounce around. Just be sure to put the string away when you two are not playing.
  14. Read aloud. Just like talking to your baby, reading and looking at picture books together is a great way to promote language and cognitive development while bonding with your little one. Check out these all-time favorite baby books to find some to add to your baby's library. Good choices include sturdy books with big pictures and simple stories, and books that introduce different colors, shapes, or animals. As you turn the pages, describe what you're seeing on the page. If it’s an animal book, you could make animal sounds and describe what the animal likes to do.


Games for Babies From 6 Months to 1 Year Old

The following game ideas can work well for your baby from 6 months old up to around the time he’s 1 year old: 15. Crawling course. Once your baby reaches the crawling stage, it’ll be great fun to create an obstacle course for him in the living room. You can use couch cushions, pillows, oversized plush toys, and other soft, safe objects. Once you’ve shown him what to do, encourage him to crawl to you from the other end of the course by enticing him with one of his favorite toys. Any way he crawls over to you is fine, whether he crawls over, under, or around your course—the key is that he is moving and having fun.

  1. Puppet theater. Entertain your little one with a finger puppet show. To make puppets, you can cut the fingers off a pair of old gloves and draw faces on the fingers with a marker or hot-glue googly eyes. You can also make finger puppets using construction paper or felt. Your baby will love watching the show unfold.
  2. Mirroring. Use a mirror to play a game with your little one. Hold it up to him so he can see himself. He may even laugh or giggle at himself. Encourage him to make faces by making faces yourself in the mirror.
  3. Kickball. Obviously your baby is too young to play sports, but it’s never too early to inspire the interest. With this game, you sit with your baby on the floor or on the ground if you are outside, and hold him under his arms. Have a ball ready to go in front of him. Then gently swing your baby so he kicks the ball forward. Eventually your baby will get the hang of the game, and love it.
  4. Peek-a-boo. It’s one of the easiest and most fun-filled games to play with your baby. All you need to do is cover and uncover your eyes or face and say peek-a-boo. Your baby will laugh and giggle as if it were the best thing on earth. And you can vary the game in different way: for example, after changing his diaper, you can play peek-a-boo through his legs, or you can hide and then uncover your face with a piece of clothing, or perhaps you can pull different faces and make funny sounds each time you show your face.Mom playing with baby girl
  5. Hide and seek. There are a few different ways you can vary this game so that it’s suitable for your baby—it ends up being like playing peek-a-boo with your whole body. Try hiding behind a door or a big chair, or use a large sheet or blanket to hide behind, and quickly reveal yourself to your astonished baby.
  6. Stacking towers. Gather some empty, clean containers such as shoe boxes, milk cartons, and cereal boxes—anything that is light and rectangular in shape can work well as a fun, stackable toy. Build a tower or a fort with your baby, and then let him knock it all down. Your baby will love the destruction just as much as the building.
  7. Sing along. Singing a song or reciting a rhyme like “Pat-a-Cake,” ”The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” or “Pop Goes the Weasel” is a wonderful, easy way to interact with your baby. As you say or sing the words, you can add fingerplay, acting out the words with your hands. In time, your baby one will learn the words and you can sing along together.
  8. Packing up. At around this age, babies love to explore and empty out drawers, shelves, baskets, and other storage areas. Because of this, always secure any furniture that might topple over to the wall, and remove any unsafe objects from low shelves or baskets that are in reach. To make this form of play and exploration safe, give your baby a box or basket filled with safe toys such as blocks, stuffed animals, rattles, stacking cups, etc. Let your baby explore the items and pull them out one by one (or dump out the contents of the container yourself); then, have your little one return the items to the container. Not only does this help introduce the idea of chores and tidying up, it’s also fun as your baby gets to touch and play with various objects and choose how long he spends with each. Use the opportunity to describe when the container is empty or full, and describe each item as he drops it in.


The Bottom Line

Playing with your baby can be a fun activity, a bonding moment, an educational experience, and a developmental opportunity for her. No matter which game you choose, your baby will love the time spent together, and you may find that playing together becomes a highlight of your day too!


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