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Mother and Baby on Floor

PLAY

Find out more about the role of play in learning and development in the Early Years

baby playing with colourful blocks on the floor

Baby

0-6 months

What your baby can do at 0-3 months: 

Listen, observe, begin to recognise people, objects and places, smile and coo, kick, wriggle, turn head and try to roll.

The best toys for a 3 month old:

Colourful, tinkling mobiles to watch and listen to; baby gym in the cot; pictures or postcards in the cot or pram to look at; music boxes; music on the radio or TV, mirrors, a rug to kick on, jangly toys to touch with the hands or feet.

What you can do with your 0-3 month old:

Carry your baby around; talking to them about their surroundings or anything else; sing to your baby; lie them where they can see things happening – trees, people, moving objects, other children.

Give them exercise sessions with no clothes or nappy and let them simply kick and move freely for a while.

The best toys for 3-6 month olds:

Rattles and safe objects she can chew on. Toys with different textures – rubber and plastic items, clothes with different textures – furry teddy bears, woolly blankets, cotton squares. Always make sure items are safe for a baby to put in their mouth as that’s where most things will end up. Different shapes – balls, boards cubes, rubbery toys that can change shape.

 

What you can do with your 3-6 month old:

Let them sit with a tray of different objects in front of them. Vary the toys, add a new one and take another away. Put items just out of reach so they have to wriggle and reach for them. Find some safe household items for them to bang or chew – safe wooden and plastic utensils, crinkly kitchen (baking) paper (not foil or plastic).

What a 3-6 month old can do:

Reach, begin to grasp, chew, put things in her mouth, roll, squirm, follow objects with her eyes.

6-12 months

They can wriggle and crawl, pull themself up, reach, grasp and pick up small objects passing them from one hand to the other. They can give and take objects and has increased hand control and eye/hand coordination. They understand the use of different items.

The best toys for a 6-12 month old:

Other people are her favourite playthings, but they will also loves teddies, dolls, soft cuddly animals and simple games such as peek-a-boo.

Safe, stable furniture to hold onto, warm rugs and carpets to move about on; push along toys. 

They’ll probably enjoy games where they can put things together or put things into and out of (stacking beakers, plastic boxes, saucepans, bricks). They’ll enjoy simple ball rolling games, colourful books with bright images or photographs of things and people they recognise.

What you can do with your 6-12 month old:

Talk and listen to your baby; take them out and about where they can see other people (shops, toddler groups, friend’s houses).Play games with your baby. If you can’t always be there to supervise you may consider a playpen which is fine as long as they recognise it as a play area and not a punishment area where they are deposited so they can’t get up to mischief.

 

Your baby will be learning every day through exploring so allow them to make mess and don’t just use baby talk with them.Tell them about their surroundings, talk them through your everyday routines and respond to their baby noises as though you are having a conversation. Babies can get frustrated that they can’t speak the words they know in their minds.

Toddler playing with abacus at table

Toddler

12-18 months

Kicking and throwing a ball with them. Reading books, talking about the pictures, letting them turn pages, and pointing to things. Having them repeat words you say during playing. Naming objects during play so they know what they're called.

18-24 months

Toddlers usually walk on their own by 18 months and begin to run. Your toddler will probably walk up and down stairs or climb furniture with your help.

 

Throwing and kicking a ball, scribbling with pencils or crayons, and building small towers of blocks might be some of your toddler's favourite things.

Pre-schoolers playing football on the grass

Pre-school

2-3 years old

Between 2 and 3, your toddler will use their growing thinking skills to play pretend. With props, like a doll and toy bottle, she will act out steps of a familiar routine - feeding, rocking, and putting a doll to sleep.

 

As your toddler learns to use symbols, imaginary play skills will grow more complex.

 

3-5 years

Associative play is when children play together, but have different ideas and goals. For example, talking to each other and playing with the same toys, but doing different things. This usually happens between 3 and 5 years old. You can encourage associative play by taking your child to a playgroup.

Explore more in the Chat, Play, Read Sections below:

Mother and Child

CHAT

Find out more about learning to talk from birth to 5 years

Happy Girl with Dad

FAMILY HUB APP

Discover the Family Hub App for tips and activities to do at home

Baby reading a picture book on a bed

READ

More about the importance of reading and storytelling for babies and children

You might also find the following pages useful:

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SUPPORTING YOUNG PEOPLE

Explore the services available for young people locally

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SUPPORTING COMMUNITIES

Find out more about how we are supporting our local communities

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SUPPORTING FAMILIES

What we do to support families across Northumberland

Child Reading in the Grass

FIS DIRECTORY

Access the Families Information Service (FIS) in Northumberland 

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