Playtime Activities with Infants

Make sure your child’s time spent playing is filled with opportunities to learn.

Are you looking for fun activities to do with your infant at home? Our team of early childhood curriculum experts thoughtfully curated these activities from our proprietary Life Essentials® curriculum to help your family Learn On® at home. Whether it’s during mealtime, playtime, clean up time, bath time, or bedtime – our at-home curriculum is built so you can easily integrate learning opportunities in seamless, easy, and fun ways.

Babbling Babies

Level of instruction: Easy

When: Mealtime, Playtime

Time recommendation: 10 minutes

Participants: One-on-one

Learning Domain: Language Development and Communication

Learning Standards: Uses speech sounds to get attention, Shows enthusiasm or rejects something

Materials: N/A

Instructions:

When your child starts to babble, repeat his or her sounds back. Say, Yes, (child’s name), I hear you saying ba, ba, ba. What are you telling me? Ba, ba, ba. What else can you say?

Does your child repeat sounds, or make different sounds? Does he or she look at you while you are conversing?


Ice Cube Painting

Level of instruction: Detailed

When: outdoors, playtime

Time recommendation: 10-15 minutes, but requires some prep time the day before

Participants: One on one, Siblings

Learning Domain: Creative Arts and Sensory

Learning Standards: Explores art materials; Controls hand and fingers to accomplish task

Materials: Various colors of paint (the suggested paint is a thicker, easy wash finger paint, but tempera paint also works), ice cube trays, small popsicle sticks or clothespins, finger paint paper or other paper that is thicker than construction paper, art tray or cookie sheet

Instructions:

The day before this activity, make ice cube paints by pouring different colors of paint into ice cube trays, inserting a popsicle stick (or a clothespin) into the paint, and then placing the ice cube trays in the freezer to set. Before starting this activity take the paints out of the ice cube tray and place them on an art tray or cookie sheet.

This activity can be completed inside or outside. Encourage your child to choose an ice cube and rub it on the paper to make designs. As the paint melts, the designs will change. Encourage your child to mix the paint colors and explore the paints. Talk with your child about how the ice cube paints feel to touch. Use descriptive language as you narrate what your child is doing.

Observe your child to see if he or she attempts to hold the ice cube. Does he or she show interest in exploring the ice cube as it begins to melt?


Bean Bag Toss

Level of instruction: Easy

When: playtime, outdoor

Time recommendation: 10-15 minutes

Participants: One on one, Siblings

Learning Domain: Physical Development     

Learning Standards: Demonstrates hand-eye coordination

Materials: Beanbags, large bucket or clothes basket

Instructions:

Place the beanbags near the bucket in an open space. Show the item to your child. Pick up one of the beanbags and gently toss it in the bucket/basket. Say, I threw the beanbag into the bucket/basket! Yay! You try. Hand a beanbag to your child and encourage him or her to throw it into the bucket/basket. Encourage him or her to toss beanbags into the bucket/basket and dump the bucket/basket back out onto the ground. Play with him or her and praise your child’s attempts.


Picture Page Stories

Level of instruction: Moderate

When: playtime, mealtime, bath time, quiet time

Time recommendation: 5-10 minutes

Participants: One on one

Learning Domain: Language Development and Communication

Learning Standards: Expressive language, receptive language

Materials: Assortment of interesting pictures from old magazines, etc.

Instructions:

Show the pictures one at a time to your child and tell a story about the subject of the photograph or picture. For example: Here is a German Shepherd dog. He is so big! Do you know what sound a dog makes? He says, “woof, woof!” You have a dog at home named Harley. Does Harley say “woof, woof”?

Observe to see how your child responds to the picture. Does he or she try to touch or hold the picture? Did your child look back and forth as you spoke?


Jack-in-the-Box

Level of instruction: Easy

When: playtime, outdoor

Time recommendation: 5-10 minutes

Participants: One on one, Child-led

Learning Domain: Cognitive Development

Learning Standards: Explores cause and effect

Materials: Jack-in-the-Box or another pop-up toy

Instructions:

Place your child on a flat surface with the pop-up toy. Ask your child: Do you know what this toy does? Let’s try it and see! Demonstrate turning the wheel while the Jack-in-the-Box plays music and eventually pops up. Gently guide your child’s hand to show him or her how to turn the handle (or push the button, depending on the toy). When the toy pops, laugh, and praise your child. Continue for as long as he or she is interested.

Observe to see if your child attempts to turn the wheel or push the button?


Creative Collages

Level of instruction: Moderate

When: clean-up time, playtime

Time recommendation: 10-15 minutes

Participants: One on one, Siblings

Learning Domain: Creative Arts and Sensory

Learning Standards: Uses a palmar grasp (whole-hand grasp), grasp reflex, explores a variety of simple art materials

Materials: A variety of collage materials, including fabric scraps, tissue paper pieces, wrapping paper pieces, pieces of yarn or string, etc.; glue sticks; a variety of paper; tape

Instructions:

Place your child in a low chair or his or her highchair. Give your child a piece of paper. The paper can be taped to the tray of the chair, if easier for your child. Invite your child to choose some collage materials to glue on the paper. Assist your child with using the glue stick by using the hand-over-hand technique to properly to glue down the collage materials.

For an infant 4-8 months: Observe if your child is interested in sitting in the chair and exploring the collage materials.

For an infant 8-12 months: Observe if your child is interested in making a collage? Does he or she explore the materials? Does he or she attempt to place them on the paper?


Wave, Wave, Wave

Level of instruction: Easy

Time recommendation: 5 minutes

Participants: One on one, Siblings

Learning Domain: Social and Emotional Development

Learning Standards: Displays social gestures, imitates actions

Materials: none

Instructions:

Sit facing your child and recite the poem “Wave, Wave, Wave”:

Clap, clap, clap (clap each time you say “clap”)
Wave, wave, wave (wave your hand each time you say “wave”)
Stomp, stomp, stomp (stomp your foot each time you say “stomp”)
Wave, wave, wave (wave your hand each time you say “wave”)
Smile, smile, smile (point to your own smile)
Wave, wave, wave (wave your hand each time you say “wave”)

Follow the hand gestures and encourage your child to gesture along with you. That’s it, you’re waving! Wave, wave, wave!

Observe to see if your child waves along with you? Does your child smile?


Black and White

Level of instruction: Moderate

Time recommendation: 5-10 minutes

Participants: One on one

Learning Domain: Cognitive Development

Learning Standards: Uses senses to explore different shapes, sizes, and textures.

Materials: Black marker, several pieces of white paper or card stock

Instructions:

Use the marker to draw simple shapes and patterns, such as lines or a bullseye, on the pieces card stock. Sit with your child on your lap and show him or her one pattern at a time. Be sure to hold the card between 8 and 12 inches from your child’s eyes

Trace the shapes or pattern with your finger and say, for example, I’m touching the circle. Can you see the circle? Watch your child’s eyes to observe if they move to the pattern. If so, say, Yes, there is the circle. You found it! Hug and praise your child and continue to show the shapes and patterns.

After this activity, consider setting out the cards for your child to observe during tummy time.

Observe to see if your child moves his or her eyes to the black shapes or patterns. Does he or she follow your finger?


Ribbon Tickles

Level of instruction: Moderate

When: getting ready for the day, bedtime, diapering, playtime, outdoor

Time recommendation: 5-10 minutes

Participants: One on one

Learning Domain: Physical Development

Learning Standards: Uses an ulnar grasp (closes fingers of the hand against palm).

Materials: Pieces of ribbon (make sure the ribbon is not long enough to accidentally get wrapped around the child’s neck)

Instructions:

Dangle the pieces of ribbon/yarn in front of your child. Use the ribbon to tickle your child’s nose and hands. Move the position of the ribbon as he or she becomes interested. Dangle the ribbon so that it tickles the back of your child’s hands and encourage him or her to grasp the ribbon.

As your child grasps the ribbon in his or her fist you can say “You did it! You grabbed the ribbon with your hands. The ribbon is soft. Can you hold the ribbon over here?” Gently pull the ribbon from his or her grasp and tickle the other hand to continue to encourage your child to close his or her fingers around the ribbon.

Observe to see if your child watches the ribbon move. Does your child reach for and grab the ribbon? Is he or she closing her hand around the ribbon?


Frolicking Finger Walk

Level of instruction: Easy

When: getting ready for the day, bedtime, diapering

Time recommendation: 5 minutes

Participants: One on one

Learning Domain: Language Development and Communication

Learning Standards: Understands and responds to verbal and nonverbal communication, receptive language

Materials: N/A

Instructions:

Sit with your child in your lap or play with your child while he or she is laying down. Start at your child’s feet, and “walk” your fingers up his or her body. Talk to your child as you go: My fingers are walking up your legs. Now they are walking across your belly. Now they are coming up your arm.

Observe Does your child gurgle or squeal? Does he or she look toward you as you speak? Does he or she try to look in the direction where he feels the touch?

Looking for more activities for you and your infant?

  • Getting Ready for the Day: Turn routine activities at the beginning of your child’s day into learning moments.
  • Outside Time: The great outdoors can be the best classroom of all.
  • Bedtime: End your child’s day by integrating learning into their bedtime routine.

Or return to the Life Essentials® At Home page to find activities to explore with other age groups.