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100 Games to Play with Baby, Part IV

30 Oct

I mentioned previously that if I were to write a book on Things You Didn’t Know About Parenting that book would be called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.” Sometimes I needed ideas of games and activities to play with Isobel when I had been home with her all day and was feeling uninspired. I combed through the library and scoured the internet for ideas, and also added things that worked well for us. I gave this list to my Mom who watched Isobel when I went back to work and decided to share it here to help other uninspired parents and to keep it somewhere safe for when I need it next. I’m posting this in four installments.

75. Rags: Without realizing it, I taught Isobel that when you spills something on the ground you go over to our little rag cupboard in the kitchen and use a rag to wipe up the spill. Isobel loves playing with the (clean) rags, folding and unfolding, and shoving in and out of the cupboard.

76. Coloring: Start with crayons as soon as you dare, knowing that they will eventually go in the mouth and on the walls. Get safe, nontoxic, wipable crayons made for this purpose and be vigilant. Chalk is fun from an early age but it’s very messy so make sure your kid’s wearing something you’re not attached to. Lastly, I highly recommend a Magnadoodle. We go ours second hand so it was free. It’s been very useful on car trips and perfect for drawing pictures and asking Isobel, “What’s this?”

77. Renew: Make baby’s toys ‘new’ again by only having a third or so of their toys accessible at one time. After a few weeks, exchange those toys (excepting favorites and comfort items, of course) with toys that haven’t been seen for awhile. Before Isobel was mobile I kept a basket of different toys in almost every room of the house so no matter where I had to go she could have something to play with. Also changing rooms sometimes is enough to entertain a very young baby and keep them stimulated.

78. Loves: Teach your toddler how to hug and love their stuffed animals and dolls by embracing their toy and saying “HUUUG!” and “LOOVE!” in a singsong voice. You will be overwhelmed with cuteness when you see your child imitate you. Isobel’s latest thing is to say, “AWWWW!” when she gives a hug because she’s heard us say it so many times.

79. Flickr account: I love my flickr account and it didn’t take long for me to realize that Isobel is fascinated by it, too. Specifically, she loves looking at my contacts’ photos with me—as long as they feature children, babies or animals, of course. It’s fun to show her the photos and talk about what’s going on in them: who’s in the photo, what they are doing, colors, etc. She is getting very good at remembering and even sometimes saying the names of people or pets in the photos. It’s also a great way to familiarize her with people we don’t get to see often.

80. Scarf: I’m always on the lookout for nice vintage scarves. When Isobel was quite little I used to wave the scarf gently over her head, occasionally brushing her face with it, while making silly noises. It always made her giggle. After I’d let her wave it around in her tiny, grippy baby fist.

81. Play: I encouraged Isobel’s fascination with watching me do, well, everything by giving her a spoon (a real one, like the one mommy uses), a plastic cup and bowl, a toothbrush and a hair brush. She likes to pretend to slurp up soup from her bowl and spoon, drink out of her cup, and brush her hair and teeth like Mama.

82. People watch: Even before your child is old enough to play at the park they will probably still love just going to the park. Isobel’s number one favorite thing to do before she was mobile was to people watch. She loved going anywhere she could look at people, but the park was by far her favorite as children are ten times more fascinating than adults. Even now that she is able to walk around and play at the park she still spends much of her time there watching other children play.

83. Book: Since I’m a librarian we definitely have been trying to encourage a love of reading with Isobel from the get go. I remember the first day we brought her home from the hospital I read “Love You Forever” to her while she nursed and I sobbed crazy hormone tears for thinking that someday she won’t be a baby any more. She was already FOUR DAYS OLD, after all. Around the four to five month mark Isobel became fascinated with books, but the kind she liked were realistic picture books, especially if they had cats, dogs, or people in them. She didn’t care for board books so much (unless she wanted to chew on them) but books with photos were captivating. One of her favorite books featured photos of astronauts in space, but her most beloved book, of course, was nothing but cat photos.

84. Buttons: cause and effect never gets old for babies. If there is a button to push with a visible result your baby will find it and amuse themselves with it for months. My bestie’s baby Kingston loves to sit under the ceiling fan and use the remote to turn the light on and off and to switch the fan to different settings. He’s not verbal yet so he sits there with his head tilted up, giggling with the remote in his hand. It’s fucking adorable. Isobel’s favorite is to turn the TV on and off (usually while Mama’s trying to watch her stories) and then she’ll lift up her hands and say, “UH OH!” She loves to turn the light switch on and off too—it makes her kind of drunk with power but hey, it’s stimulates your kid so it’s worth it!

85. Talk talk: before you donate or responsibly dispose of your old cell phone, give it a new life with your baby. As early as 9 months Isobel was carrying on babbling “conversations” with Anthony’s old Razr. Her first actual phone conversation when something like this:
“Hello? Okay. Bye.”
It’s so funny to hear your child mimic the speech patterns they hear when you’re on the phone.

86. flash cards: I’ve been meaning to make personalized flash cards for Isobel but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m thinking of making cards that have different animals, people she knows, shapes, letters, anything really so we can sit together and I can ask her, “Isobel, what’s this?” For every correct answer I plan on tickling her or giving her a raspberry, because she loves this. Even preverbal babies can recognize pictures on the cards and you can have a (one-sided) conversation about them.

87. blanket ‘fort’: I discovered accidentally that even very small children love forts. I bought a large crocheted blanket while thrifted and had just finished hand washing it and wringing it out when I set it on the table to finish air-drying. It was a bedspread large enough for a queen so it covered one whole end of the table and still touched the floor. Isobel immediately grabbed some toys and started playing under it. Even better, the kittens weren’t far behind her.

89. watching interesting weather: to a baby, everything is new. I remember when Isobel was just a little under-3-month-old squirt we had a wind and rainstorm surge through the Valley. The trees were particularly interesting and thrashing about and the water as it poured off the roof made interesting patterns on the windows. Isobel’s buddy Noah, who’s almost a month older than she is, spent an entire afternoon in his bouncy seat, fixedly staring at the storm outside the window with interest.

90. computer:  Have you ever noticed how quickly a baby pounding on a keyboard can completely change or settings or turn off your computer? It’s like they are geniuses at ruining things. When Isobel wanted to play at the computer we took her to this site and let her have at it. She ADORED it. Cause and effect, people. It makes babies drunk with power and they love it. For a special treat, my dear friend Stef let Isobel play on her piano keyboard once and she was HOOKED. Great, now we have to try to afford some PIANO LESSONS, STEFANIE. If you have an old laptop you can try to tempt your baby with it, but there’s no comparing it to the Real Thing.

91. fish tank: My FIL has an impressive salt water fish tank and even as a new born Isobel spent lots of time staring into the glass with wonder. Colors! Shapes! Floaty things! Now that she’s older she excitedly waves to the fishies but she’s always been enthralled by it. We don’t have a fish tank at home, but we always be sure to visit the aquarium section of the pet store when we buy cat food, and Grandpa has even taken her on a trip to the specialty aquarium fish store to gawk at their giant tanks.

92. pinwheel/ chimes: in the spring the dollar store and other discount retailers carry such fun things and pinwheels and patio chimes. Our local grocery store had a display all summer and she had to visit them once before we left on each trip. Make sure the pinwheel is safe for your baby to play with (no sharp edges or pokey parts!) unless you’re there to supervise her. Make sure whatever wind chime you select is sturdy enough to handle a kid whapping on it without danger of it shattering.

93. racetrack: we went to a party for Noah’s first birthday and he had a race track set up with a bunch of hot wheels for the cousins to play with. Isobel loved setting a car at the top of the ramp and watching it race down. You don’t even need to buy a fancy race track for this: a couple of cheap hot wheels and a board for a home made ramp and you’re set. If your neighborhood is safe you can race cars down your drive way.

94. containers: In addition to loving any sort of box to play with Isobel also likes to make a game of climbing into and out of things. This requires constant supervision until their strength and balance has developed, but they will love it. Things Isobel likes to climb into include: the pet carriers, her toy box, her giant bucket, the laundry basket, and pretty much any other large container lying about. Daddy likes to put her in the laundry basket or bucket and give her rides through the house. He’s an excellent father.

95. case study: Take old CDs and DVDs that aren’t near and dear to your heart and let your baby open and close the cases. She’ll have fun figuring out how to do this and how to pull the CD/DVD out of the case and try to put it back in. This is great fun, trust me. The reflective surface if the disc and any pictures on the cases add to the fun.

96. Gamblin’ man: give your baby a bucket or other small container filled with different colored poker chips. They make a fun sound when you run your fingers through them and are interesting to feel and play with. Also, they’re not much of a choking hazard, which is always a plus in my book.

97. So touchy: For very little babies who are just discovering they have arms and legs I liked to increase their awareness by gently blowing in their hands and feet as I named them. You can also kiss their feet, their toes, and their fingers, give them raspberries or make other silly noises when you kiss them. Once your baby learns to smile you’ll know how much she appreciates this game.

98. Refresh: When Isobel was a tiny squirtle she loved toys that could hover above her for her to kick and gurlgle at. Every once in a while I’d take random toys and tie them onto the bar and she would be surprised and entertained by the sudden appearance of the new toy.

99. Push: Babies learning to walk independently often go through a pushing stage. They push the laundry basket around, they push their toys around, they push anything around they can. Isobel loved to push a sturdy chair around the kitchen and it was so cute to see her rolling the yoga ball around the living room. She still quite enjoys pushing her own stroller around but now she’s old enough to know you really should fill it with stuffed animals first.

100. I love technology: I wrote a post on baby-friendly iphone apps and Bab Bab Lite in particular has saved us from dramatic meltdowns in the car so often I’m indebted to the iphone creators for life. If you need a quick distraction in the car, the doctor’s office, or long enough to put some laundry in the drier, I can’t recommend it enough. Even the basic youtube app has brought lots of kitten-related giggles to Isobel’s sweet young life.

This is part two in a four-part series Games to Play with Baby. You can find part one here, part II here, and part III here.  Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.

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100 Games to Play with Baby, Part III

25 Oct

I mentioned previously that if I were to write a book on Things You Didn’t Know About Parenting that book would be called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.” Sometimes I needed ideas of games and activities to play with Isobel when I had been home with her all day and was feeling uninspired. I combed through the library and scoured the internet for ideas, and also added things that worked well for us. I gave this list to my Mom who watched Isobel when I went back to work and decided to share it here to help other uninspired parents and to keep it somewhere safe for when I need it next. I’m posting this in four installments.

51. Blanket outside: if you have nice weather, take your baby outside (appropriately dressed) and set them on a blanket outside. Make sure your baby is protected from the sun. Often I sat Isobel outside on her Bumbo while I watered plants. She was content to watch me and got a thrill whenever the breeze ruffled her hair. I am fortunate to live in a place with mild winters, however, and I know not everyone can do this.

52. Get crafty: Pom-pom play; star garlands: many crafty doo-dads from big box craft stores can be used to entertain baby. A box full of different colored, different-sized pompoms can be a fun thing for a baby. Use common sense about what’s safe and appropriate for your child’s age and development.

53. Empty cardboard boxes: empty paper bags and boxes of all sizes and shapes always attract cats and children. If we have a box around they are usually squabbling with each other to get in first.

54. Stickers: these were not a long term source of entertainment by any means, but Isobel certainly enjoyed the sheet of realistic cat stickers we bought her. We found cats stuck to things for days after that experience.

55. Horses/Cars: If you have plastic horses or other four-legged animals you can teach your baby to make them “run” on the ground or other hard surface. I like to make horses “run” up her arm while singing the theme to Bonanza. Driving cars across baby’s feet is fun, too.

56. Electro shock therapy: This is one of her favorite games. We take two blocks and hit them together while making a ZZZZT! noise, as if they have an electrical charge. We do that a few times to “charge” them up before sticking the blocks in her armpits and tickling her with them while sustaining the ZZZZZZZZZZZT! noise. She thinks this is the funniest thing EVAR and asks us to do it over and over and over again.

57. Burrito baby: Isobel loves it when we lay her on a blanket and wrap her up and pretend she’s a newborn baby, or, even better – a burrito! The best part about wrapping her up like a burrito is pretending to eat her at the end.

58. Move it: Before Isobel could even sit up on her own she would erupt into a fit of giggles if anyone moved in unexpected ways around her, such as jumping up and down, kicking or punching your arms and legs, or, in the case of my sister, doing yoga. Isobel loved watching (and climbing on) auntie doing yoga.

59. Get Silly: Anything unexpected can make baby laugh. Often while I’m folding laundry (especially diapers) with her I’ll put a diaper on my head and one on her head and it will start a whole entertaining game of Putting Things On Our Heads And Laughing.

60. Baller: use larger bouncy balls that don’t pose a choking hazard and throw maybe four or five at a time in a safe area. Your baby will love watching the balls bounce all over the place and ricochet off things. Just be sure your baby’s at a safe viewing spot out of the way of flying balls.

61. Splashy: Most babies love to put their hands in water and even just a little water can satify their urge to splash. Fill a basin or bowl with a small amount of water and let them have at it. Add a little measuring cup or bath toys for interest. Monitor your baby very closely around any water-related activity because children can drown in very, very small amounts of water.

62. Noodle Arms: Pool noodles or pipe insulation: Isobel loved the feeling of swinging around pool noodles or strips of pipe insulation around. She also loved the feeling of biting it. Just be careful they don’t try to eat them.

63. Cat Fancy: Cat magazine/ calendar Zoo: name the animal specie (helpful along with books or TV) Isobel always looks forward to my mom coming over because Ama (aka Mom Mom) would always bring an old cat calendar or her copy of Cat Fancy magazine. (What can I say? My family is HARDCORE.) Isobel has a great time talking and petting the kitties on the page.

64. Watch and Learn: When they are very little babies are sometimes quite entertained just watching you do things like mowing the lawn, clearing the dishwasher, cooking, punching a heavy bag, practicing kicks, or jump roping. Isobel used to be fascinated by me brushing my teeth.

65. Toymania: It’s frustrating to buy an expensive toy that your child is interested in the store that then turns boring once you’re home. Some thrifty ideas of getting toys or making them new include: 1. thrift stores 2. yard sales 3. hand me downs from older children 4. toy swaps with friends about the same age: choose a few toys you’d be willing to let go for a few weeks and trade with another family. At the end of two weeks, toys go back to their original owners.

66. Achoo: buy an inexpensive box of plain Kleenex just for your child to destroy I mean play with. Once all the tissues are out of the box you can teach your baby to stuff them back in and begin again. When that’s over, you have a neat box to play with. A roll of toilet paper is also pretty amusing, if you’re up for some clean up later. This has been a lifesaver for me during car rides, as well.

67. That’s how we roll: Roll a ball to your baby and see if they will roll it back. Demonstrate with an older child or another adult so they know what to expect from you. Start with a smallish, soft ball, but as your baby’s skill grow include many different sizes of balls. For a long time Isobel’s favorite ball was the yoga ball.

68.  Where is it? Get three bowls or cups plus a small toy that fits underneath. Like that classic gambling game, cover the object with one of the cups or bowls and line up the others next to it. Shift them around to see if baby follows the one with the object and can find it.

69. Mimic: copy the noises your baby makes and see if you can get your baby to copy sounds you make. Start with animal noises like, “Moo” or “quack” after they’ve mastered vowel sounds.

70. Drop it: I’ll admit it—this is not my favorite game to play. But sometimes, Isobel just loves it, so what are you going to do. When your baby is in the right mood the most entertaining thing of all will be dropping something and picking it back up to be dropped again. This is most entertaining, of course, if baby is doing the dropping and you are doing the picking up.

71. Blocks: Build a small tower or stack of blocks and let your baby knock it over. This is fun for very young babies and is still fun with a toddler. Now she tries to build her own towers of blocks. When she’s even older we can sort the blocks: by color, by number, by letter, etc.

72. Trippy: Megan Boley’s young baby B loves watching iTunes visualizer effect. I wish I had tried this when Isobel was teeny.

73. Beans: along the same lines as playing with birdseed, you might encourage your kid to play with dried beans. Watch for choking hazards.

74. Hats: Wear a hat for your baby and say, “hat!” while pointing to it over and over. Have other hats on for your baby to wear or to put on her dolls and animals.

This is part three in a four-part series Games to Play with Baby. You can find part one here and part two here.  Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.

100 Games to Play with Baby, Part II

19 Oct

I mentioned previously that if I were to write a book on Things You Didn’t Know About Parenting that book would be called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.” Sometimes I needed ideas of games and activities to play with Isobel when I had been home with her all day and was feeling uninspired. I combed through the library and scoured the internet for ideas, and also added things that worked well for us. I gave this list to my Mom who watched Isobel when I went back to work and decided to share it here to help other uninspired parents and to keep it somewhere safe for when I need it next. I’m posting this in four installments.

26. Play with Pets: Isobel is old enough at 17 months to grab string or ribbons and play with the cats. She loves nothing better than to run down the hall, trailing a ribbon, with the cats in hot pursuit. When she was really little, however, she used to explode in a fit of giggles when we played with the cats while she watched. String, ribbons, laser pointers—anything that made the cats go nuts was highly entertaining for her.

27. Balloons make me happy: Babies of all ages love balloons in my experience. All sorts of balloons: regular air-filled balloons, helium balloons, Mylar, any and all are worth at least 20 minutes worth of happy distraction. Isobel loves it when Anthony and I pretend to play volleyball with one.

28. Mirror, mirror: Isobel is attracted to any sort of mirror or reflective surface. We have a large mirror in our bedroom that she loves to kiss and talk to, but she’s just as entertained by small hand mirrors. Unless it’s a baby toy, practice common sense and don’t leave baby unsupervised with a breakable mirror.

29. Hide the Toy: Around 5 months or so Isobel loved it when I took a favorite toy and covered it with a blanket or diaper. She’d always grin when she pulled the blanket off like, TA DA! I KNEW IT WAS THERE ALL ALONG!

31. Game Face: Very early on we started naming Isobel’s eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hair. Then we’d name our eyes, ears, nose, mouth and hair. Then we’d find a doll and name the doll’s features, etc. She loved this game and will sometimes play it by herself when she’s on a car ride. She especially loves to stick her finger up my nose and say, “NOSE!”

32. Glow Baby Glow: activate a glowstick and put it in a fabric or other opaque bag. The mysterious glow will fascinate her. Be vigilant with teethers, though—the last thing you want is your baby to bite through the glow stick and ingest gross stuff.

33. Cups: Gather plastic cups of various sizes and put them into shoe box. Pull them out one by one in front of baby and eventually she’ll want to pull the cups out of the box, too. She’ll probably want to inspect them. Show her how to band them against each other to make noise.

34. Photographs: Isobel loves looking at photos on the fridge. Change them up. Help your baby say people’s names or put up animals or other things she recognizes. I took this idea a step further and made a book for Isobel to learn our friends’ names. I’m currently working on one that has all of our family members in it.

35. More mirrors: to combine looking at a mirror with naming facial features you can name your baby’s facial features while looking in the mirror.

36. Talk to yourself: Various books I read suggested holding a constant dialog with your baby, narrating their life for them. It’s supposed to build vocabulary and promote awareness for the world around them. This was really hard for me because when no one but Isobel was around I felt distinctly odd to be talking out loud and it felt very forced. After she became more expressive it got a lot easier, because then it felt more like I was having a conversation, and less like a voiceover on The Wonder Years. The important things these books recommend you point out are adjectives and nouns (see the fluffy kitty! he’s a big boy!), sensations (it sure is windy today), and colors (the grass is so green).

37. Listen: Babies, especially young babies, know the world through their five senses. Whenever I’m outside with Isobel she’ll inevitably shout “Chucho! Chucho!” and when I stop and listen, sure enough I’ll hear a dog barking that had tuned out. It’s nothing for me but to Isobel that sound means there’s a puppy somewhere. And she loves that. Listening to sounds is more of an ongoing game: whenever there’s an unexpected sound I try to name it (do you hear the birds chirping? Or the ice cream man going by?). We often play this game on walks or at the park where there’s lots of activity. Not so fun if you’re at home (hey! I’m hearing the dryer again!).

38. Taste: this sense has to wait until your baby is on solids, of course, but a fun game I love is called food squish. Only play this game before a scheduled bath, strip baby down to her skivvies and bib, and prepare yourself for destruction. I like to give her foods just for the purpose of squishing it and feeling the texture. Cooked pasta, peas, bananas, etc. are great to put on the plate for your baby to enjoy. If she eats some, so much the better. Isobel also really loves lemons and limes. She’ll take a huge bite, make a sourpuss face and then demand more. While she’s playing with her food it’s good to ask things like, “does that feel squishy? Does that feel smooth?”

39. Feelings: a much less messy version of the touch game is to collect several objects with different textures: soft, smooth, sticky, rough, etc, and let your baby feel them while explaining the sensation. I liked to give Isobel scraps of fabric, for example, that had many different textures. I felt confident about letting her play with fabric and putting it in her mouth. Faux fur, or thrifted snippets of real fur, are fun for baby to explore, too.

40. Scent: Isobel eagerly sniffs any plant in the area after first declaring it a ‘flower.’ Other things your baby can smell are fruit: cut lemon, cut (mild) onions, cut herbs, or just things around the house like baby powder, shampoo, soap, things like that. Monitor your baby very carefully, though. Babies have been known to suffer from seasonal allergies, and I read in What to Expect (I believe) that some babies react very negatively towards strong chemical scents. Some babies won’t breastfeed if the mother wears lots of perfume. What I like to do is name any particularly strong odor in the area, just like I might describe what made a sudden, loud sound.

41. Kiss the cook: It didn’t take long before Isobel began exploring our kitchen cupboards and drawers. We baby proofed the most dangerous drawers and cupboards, but I wanted her to have a place to explore so I put baby-safe kitchen items in bins for her to discover. Her favorite items include: measuring cups, a whisk, measuring spoons, cookie cutters (dull edges), sealed plastic containers of sprinkles, and other kitchen ephemera. She also loves to bang on pots and pans and make all sorts of noise. Classic baby play.

42. Paper towel tubes / TP Tubes: babies make even the most mundane object a toy and paper towel or toilet paper tubes are no exception. She always liked playing with them but now that she’s a bit older I taught her how to make noise into them like it’s some sort of horn. Hilarious. For younger babies you can take the tubes and put some small toys inside. See if they will try to get them out. Make that process easier or harder depending on the skill of the child.

43. Magnets: one of Isobel’s first toys were plastic letter magnets for the fridge. She looooves magnets. She loves that she can move them around and attach them to the fridge. When she visits Ama and Papa (my parents) her favorite toys are also magnets. She has a special kitty magnet and a frog magnet that she loves to play with.

44. For the birds: I mentioned before that Isobel loves to feel the texture of birdseed. She loves to scoop it out and pour it through her fingers. Occasionally she’ll put a seed in her mouth but she doesn’t like the taste or texture and spits it back out immediately. When we play outside she almost always wants to play with birdseed. It’s the cleaner version of the sandbox, really, and when we’re done I just brush her off and sweep the excess onto the grass—where I was going to put it for feeding the birds, anyway. If your baby is really young and is insistent about putting the seeds in their mouth I might wait on this activity. Since the seeds I use are millet the grains are very small and not a danger.

45. Feathers: I found out how handy feathers were as a baby toy because they were attached to so many cat toys. A collection of soft feathers, such as those found on a clean feather duster or boa, is fun for a baby. You can stroke it on their feet and tell them it’s soft, you can show them how the feathers move when you blow on them, and you can tickle them on the nose with them. Closely monitor your baby if you use a boa, though, as I’m sure it’s a strangulation hazard.

46. Music: From a very early age babies can appreciate musical instruments, especially maracas, shakers, bongos, and jinglebells. Isobel liked playing with them with or without music to play them to, but I think she preferred them with music. Be sure any jingle bells you use are secure so as not to pose a choking threat.

47. More textures: a clean and safe way to introduce more textures to your baby is to get some sturdy old socks and fill them with sand in one (in a plastic bag first ), rice in another, and small pebbles in another. That way baby can squish and shake and feel the textures through the safety of the old sock. Be careful you don’t accidentally make a sap.

48. Beaded Necklaces: My mother in law Olivia gave Isobel a collection of mardi gras beaded necklaces and from very early on Isobel loved them. They were colorful, fun to feel, easy to shake and wave. Now that she’s older she loves to wear them and put them on her dolls. Beware the strangulation hazard.

49. Ribbons: tie different colored, shaped, and textured ribbons to a ring or a stick and work on naming the colors and sensations as you feel them.

50. Music: play music for your baby. I’m not touting any Mozart effect or anything (which has been discredited as an IQ booster for babies) but play different genres and types of music and see how your baby responds. She will prefer different music at different stages of development. When Isobel was very small, she loved very melodic songs. Now she tends to prefer very percussive songs.

This is part two in a four-part series called 100 Games to Play with Baby. You can find part one here.  Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.

100 Games to Play with Baby, Part I

18 Oct

Babies are cute, and lovable, and cuddly. And you know what else? Babies can be really boring company. It’s true! No one told me this when I wanted to become a parent. It’s completely worth it of course: the hard parts, the boring parts, and the urine-soaked parts are all outweighed by the snuggles and kisses and laughs.

But nobody bought me the book called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.”

(Probably because I just made it up.)

They can’t hold a conversation and love to eat their own feet. Cute and all, but after day 35 of staring at their hands I tend to get bored out of my skull. If your baby is somewhere between 3 months and a year, you know what I’m saying. They aren’t old enough to entertain themselves yet so it falls on you to not only cater to their every need but to stimulate and play with them constantly, too. Now I love my baby, and I love being a Mom, but before summer vacation was over I was scouring the library for books on How To Amuse My Baby For Long Periods of Time Without Harming Myself or Others.

(I also suffered through a gripping case of PPD at the time, so that definitely colored my experience.)

I scoured the library and the internet for a list of baby-approved activities that appeal to their sense of object permanence, their natural curiosity, and their infatuation with cause and effect. When work started back up for me I printed up this list, punched some holes in it and put it in a binder for my Mom who watched Isobel several days a week. In addition to all the toys, books, and cats this list managed to keep her entertained all winter long while the weather kept her from her beloved “outside.”

Isobel is, without a doubt, so much more fun to take care of now. She is old enough to do activities, participate in (limited) conversation, and her own personality is clearly coming through. I sometimes miss my little Baby Blob who contentedly sat on my lap throughout dinner and didn’t mind the constant snuggles. But Isobel 2.0 is so much better.

It occurs to me that there are probably parents out there right now who are pulling their hair out trying to find ways to entertain their 4-month-old. Or, their 8-month-old. Or their 15 month old. The best part about most of these activities that I found is that they are appropriate for more than one age level and they will appreciate it in different ways depending on their stage of development. Playing with bubbles at one age is completely different than doing the same activity just two short months later. Babies must age in dog years, but like really, really smart dog years.

It’s amazing and so rewarding to see your kid change from a tiny baby into an actual tiny person.  Amazing. Anthony and I try to do enriching, educational things with our daughter, but honestly we can’t teach her to be human. We can’t teach her the things she needs to know. No one can. All we can do is assist her while she learns how to be human by herself.

Every game isn’t appropriate for every age level but I found it was worth it to keep trying them at different stages because something your baby ignored at one stage might be captivating the next. Then they might get bored of it but in a few months, it might be entertaining again in a whole new way.

I’m also listing them here for selfish reasons: sooner or later, I’m going to have another baby, and the fun (and mommy-brain memory loss!) will start all over. I came up with 100 games for the list but I’m separating the posts into four parts so I’ll post 25 ideas at a time.

Sing-song type games are great to introduce to baby because you’re displaying language, social skills, rhythm and melody, anticipation, and if you incorporate motions and engage your baby, it becomes a bonding activity as well. Even before your baby can speak you’ll notice that they recognize certain songs and they will begin to anticipate things, like the POP! In Pop Goes the Weasel.

My mom had books on finger plays and rhyming games that she’d bring with her when she babysat and we received a book on nursery rhymes at a shower. I had forgotten most of them so it was great to have the book to turn to for inspiration. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Itsy Bitsy Spider: doing the hand motions, even before your baby can reciprocate, is great because she will watch you with interest and eventually try to mimic you.

2. Twinkle Twinkle: I made up hand motions to go with this but most often when I sing it I just grab both of her hands and swing them back and forth. When we’re done she usually says, “MAS!” which means “more!” in Spanish. She reminds me of the baby dinosaur from the TV show Dinosaurs sometimes.

3. Ring Around the Rosie: adding an interactive element always makes it more interesting for baby. I like to pick her up and swing her down when I get to the line “we all fall down.”

4. Pop! Goes the weasel: I clap at the POP!

5. Row your boat: I make swimming motions with our arms.

6. Frere Jacques / Brother John: I just sing this, no hand motions except for the “ding ding dong” at the end when I poke her belly button.

7. Patty Cake: it’s never too early to patty cake.

8. Peek a Boo: Ditto. You’ll be surprised how early your kid will try to play Peek-a-Boo back with you.

9. Happy and You Know it: Basically anything that takes advantage of your baby’s urge to clap is a favorite.

10. This Little Piggy: if your baby is like Isobel then she loves to take her socks and shoes off and inspect her toes. When I was little my mom always made up funny variations of the places the piggies were going and what they were doing. My mom, a Weight Watchers enthusiast, usually said at least one of the piggies was going to Weight Watchers. This made my sister and I collapse in a fit of giggles every time.

11. How much is that doggy in the window: If I don’t make the proper accompanying barking noises when I sing this one, she lets me know I’m doing it wrong.

12. Yellow Submarine: she loves it when I sing this one to her, or when I make her animals sing it to her or each other. I don’t add hand motions but I usually sing it in different voices and sometimes we march to it. At 17 months, she’s VERY into marching. (I was a band geek, so it’s probably genetic.)

13. Old Mac Donald: not my favorite song, but hearing your baby make animal noises is so cute it’s worth it. Plus animal noises are a great way to teach basic phonics and rudimentary vowel sounds.

14. B-I-N-G-O: one time Isobel had a meltdown in the car when we were about two minutes away from home. The only thing that stopped the screaming was Anthony and I singing “BINGO” over and over. Except we got bored so we started changing “Bingo” to names like, “Ringo”, “Dingo”, “Lingo”, “Gringo”, and most notably “Disco.”

15. So Big: My sister really liked SO BIG. And very early on babies can participate in this one by holding their arms up. Even littler babies can participate if you move their arms for them. Usually they find that hilarious.

16. Where is Thumbkin?: our friend Justy bought Isobel finger puppets so I like to do this while wearing them. We usually don’t get very far into this game before she pulls the finger puppet off my finger, but that’s okay.

17. Headbutt, Little Goat: Anthony’s family taught Isobel to play this game and there’s an anglo version called “Ah Boom!” but, um hello, “Headbutt, Little Goat” is way cooler. (We say the phrase in Spanish but I have no idea how to spell it so I’m not going to try. Except for the “little goat” part: ‘chavito.’” Basically we say “headbutt, little goat!” as we lean in and gently headbutt her. At first she just laughed and laughed but very early on she learned to anticipate the game and when you started it she’d lean in to headbutt you, too. That was amazing to me. She loves this game, just remember to be gentle.

18. Here’s where I flaunt my 1970s roots: call me a dirty Californian hippie but I grew up listening to Marlo Thomas’ Free To Be on vinyl from a young age thanks to my awesome mother. Can’t recommend it enough, along with the Muppet Show and vintage Sesame Street. That’s right, I’m recommending judicious doses of TV along with music. Hate away, haters. Baby Picard Jesus loves me unconditionally. When Isobel was young I only let her watch a few minutes via Youtube while she was on my lap. We kept up the all-important parent-child interaction that way and her screen time was very limited. Now that she’s older she’s very into Yo Gabba Gabba and she gets a half hour a day. I know, I’m a terrible, terrible person.

19. Bubbles: Isobel went through bubble-indifferent phases, bubble-curious phases, and bubble-infatuation phases. She’s currently infatuated with bubbles. She love to watch them float around, she loves to pop them, she loves to try to blow them. She requests bubble time on a daily basis. If your baby likes to pop bubbles a fun thing to do is to get a bubble gun and make a huge pile on the ground and let your baby go to town popping them.

20. Make Some Noise: When Isobel found out she could make different noises by blowing raspberries, sticking her tongue out, clicking and doing things with her mouth, it was a revelation. Even very young babies will mimic you if you stick your tongue out. And they love it when you repeat their nonsense words with them. I like to this of this as one of Isobel’s first conversations.

21. Signs: My mom started Isobel on sign language very early. I was amazed when she started signing. I don’t remember how old she was but she was very young. It will take lots of repetition before your child attempts it, but it’s worth it.

22. Gimme Five!: start prompting how to give five very early and give examples of you giving five to other people. Adding a word such as “POW!” or “HIGH FIVE!” each time reinforces it. High Five is great for us because Isobel will eagerly high five people she is too shy to wave to.

23. Tupperware Party: we learned how much babies love Tupperware (or other plastic container) when we watched my cousin Victoria. They like stacking, sorting, putting things in the containers and taking them out. She can’t manage opening the lids yet, though, so don’t seal them unless you want to give your baby rage issues.

24. Zippy bags: Isobel also enjoyed putting things in zippy bags and taking them out again. The clear aspect of the bag makes it very interesting. The object is inside but you can still see it. Fascinating!

25. Crinkles: Little babies are fascinated by crinkly sounds from newspaper, tissue paper, wrapping paper, crumpled paper, and if they are strong enough, bubble wrap. Isobel particularly loved playing with an unopened package of ramen. Satisfying crinkles, weird-textured noodles, crunchable bits! Fascinating.

This is part one in a four-part series Games to Play with Baby. Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.