Tips for playing with your child

Children love to play. Free play is very important to them. Read some tips to help you and your child get the most from playing.

A little bit of play goes a long way

Playing can seriously boost your baby’s brainpower, so even just a few minutes playing with you is like gold dust to your child. You are their first teacher and they learn so much about life when they are with you, so every moment together is precious.

Water games

Sink or float

When you give your baby a bath, see what objects sink or float in water. If something floats, say ‘Look! It floats!’ Do the same with things that sink. Swap the objects – ‘sink’, ‘float’, ‘sink’, ‘float.’

Let your baby pick up the objects and explore what they do when they’re in the water. It all helps to develop problem-solving skills and might make them smile too.

Kitchen sink

Water play encourages your child's development. A washing up bowl filled with water can give you and your baby lots of fun. With plastic cups and beakers, you’ll both have a splashing good time. Make ripples and bubbles with a whisk, pour water from a great height and let your cup overflow. Your baby will be fascinated.

Bubble trouble

Whatever age you are, bubbles are brilliant. With your toddler, make your own bubbles in a washing up bowl with water and washing up liquid. To make them even more exciting, add food colouring. Use a bubble wand or experiment with different items around the house. You can blow bubbles through potato mashers, slotted spoons and straws. Watch them go high in the sky, or try catching them to pop.

Around the house

Paper hats

Play pretend with a fun newspaper hat.  To make a hat:

  • fold a sheet of paper horizontally in the middle
  • with the folded crease at the top, fold the top corners into the centre of the page, making diagonal creases
  • fold up the bottom edge – the top layer only – to cover the edge of your diagonal creases
  • turn the paper over and fold the two bottom outside edges part way to the centre of the paper
  • check if it fits your child's head, and adjust to fit
  • fold the bottom edge and put it on their head

Use your imagination when you both decorate the hat, for example with flowers or a pirate skull.

Mirror mirror

Babies are amazed by mirrors – because looking in them helps them work out who they are. Look into the mirror with your baby and make faces. Happy, sad, surprised – it’s amazing how many faces you can make – and how many funny ones there are.

This game helps your child understand different emotions and it might make them giggle too.

Re-using plastic bottles

Some of the best play ideas are free. You can use an empty plastic bottle to make:

  • a space rocket headed for the moon
  • a shaker when you add dry rice or pasta

Leaf prints

You can use all the colourful autumn leaves you collected. Get a large sheet of paper or some newspaper and some paint. Brush the paint on the leaves and wipe off any extra with a piece of kitchen roll. Help your child to press down on the paper to make leaf prints. You can make some pretty patterns

Tidy tag team

If you’ve ever stood on a small toy in your bare feet, you’ll know the value of tidying up. A quick tidy-up can bring a game to a finish for naptime or quiet time and create a calm atmosphere. Your toddler will love being your little helper. With praise and hugs and kisses, you can soon get the job done together.

Quiet times

At other times, you might both need peace and quiet. For example, if you are doing something together that needs concentration or if you're reading a calming story before bed.

Make and build

Toddlers love to be busy and can enjoy making something with you. Whether it's baking, cooking or building, you can both feel proud when you make something new.

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