Your six to nine month old is ready to play! What are some developmentally appropriate games and toys for baby?
One of the biggest jobs your baby has right now is developing language. A six month old begins to use the sounds of her native language(s) to babble. She likes to have conversations, even before she has any words.
Reading is essential for strong language development. You can read the Wall Street Journal to baby and get good language input, but infants like bright colors, strong contrasts, and rhyming, repetitive sounds.
Choose board books so you don’t have to worry about torn pages. Research from the UK shows that holding your baby on your lap while you read is particularly good for developing reading skills later on.
Nursery rhymes and songs are practically perfect language input. They have strong rhymes and rhythms, and often have physical movements that go along with them. Here are a few to get you started:
Peekaboo is a perfect game for babies at this age. Look at baby. Cover your face with your hands. Uncover your face and say “Peekaboo!” This is a pretty simple game, but that’s the point. Babies at this age like simple games. Peekaboo connects a super simple game with a specific word.
Linguists call this kind of word a “performative.” By the simple fact of saying “Peekaboo!” you have played peekaboo. It’s like greeting someone, apologizing, offering or accepting something — basic social interactions we create with language. Peekaboo is your baby’s introduction to communication with words. It also helps him understand that things don’t actually disappear when he doesn’t see them any more.
Sometime soon your baby will be ready to sit up on her own. This is important for eating solid foods and having hands free to explore the world. You can help her strengthen those muscles and improve her balance with these fun games.
Dandling is an old-fashioned term for those games where you put a baby on your knee and bounce the baby. They give baby a chance to practice supported sitting, they often include rhymes, and they’re super fun.
Here are a few traditional rhymes:
How many miles to Babylon?
Four score miles and ten!
Will we be there by candlelight?
Yes, and back again!
Ride away, ride away, baby shall ride
And she shall have kitty cat tied to one side
And she shall have puppy dog tied to the other
And she shall ride off to see her grandmother!
This is the way the lady rides: niminy, niminy, nim
This is the way the gentleman rides: piminy, piminy, pim
And this is the way the farmer rides: gallopy, gallopy, down into the ditch!
These rhymes have some strange words, it’s true. But nursery rhymes last for centuries, and babies don’t mind.
Shakers encourage baby to sit up and play. Once your baby is able to pick up a rattle, help him discover how shaking that rattle makes awesome noises. At first, he may get so involved with the shaker that he tips over, so stay nearby to offer support. Shaking a rattle will be fun enough to encourage him to practice sitting till he can sit strongly. Then offer different kinds of rattles and shakers that make different sounds.
Clapping games are another type of game played sitting up. Start with baby sitting supported on your lap facing you. Take her hands and clap in rhythm. As she gets closer to 9 months, she’ll be able to clap on her own. You can clap while you count or sing, or recite a rhyme. The best clapping rhymes have a big finish — stretch out baby’s arms and end with a big clap.
Here are some traditional rhymes:
Patty cake, patty cake, baker’s man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can
Roll it and pat it and POP it in the pan!
Jack be nimble, Jack be quick,
Jack jump over the candlestick!
A sailor went to sea, sea, sea (point to baby’s eye)
To see what he could see, see, see,
But all that he could see, see, see,
Was the bottom of the deep blue sea, sea, sea!
This is the time when your baby is learning how to move from one place to another. You can help by playing physical skills games.
Bicycle games aren’t about bicycles, but they help your baby figure out the movements involved in crawling. Some experts say that movements involving alternate movements on the left and right sides of the body help baby’s brain coordinate right and left hemispheres of the brain.
The play Bicycle, lay your baby on his back and grab his feet. Rotate in a bicycle motion. We like to talk about all the places we’re going, saying, “Bicycle, bicycle, to the park! Bicycle, bicycle to the grocery store!” Sometimes we use the names of towns as we imagine our bike trip across the country.
Ball games can start earlier than you think! Get a big, soft ball and put it out of baby’s reach. This can encourage her to crawl to reach it.
You can also hold a ball near her feet so she can kick it, put it in front of her when she’s sitting so she can push it away or pound on it, and hold her on top of an exercise ball so she can enjoy tipping and rolling as you hold her.
Once baby is sitting strongly, he’ll enjoy playing with toys that stack, pushing over block towers, and putting small things into bigger things. Your kitchen cabinets probably contain plastic bowls and wooden spoons for this kind of play, or choose stacking and nesting toys.