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How to play with your child

Here are ways you can play with your baby and toddler to help their development as they grow:

0 to 3 months

You can play with your baby by:

  • cuddling, touching, singing and talking to them
  • taking off their nappy - so they can kick their legs and develop their muscles
  • putting them on the floor for 'tummy time' - this will encourage them to move
  • having a colourful toy in the cot such as a 'cot mobile' - when your baby wakes they will see bright colours and moving toys

Playing with a newborn baby - HSE

3 to 6 months

You can play with your baby by:

  • increasing tummy time for a little longer each day
  • having toys in a variety of colours, textures and shapes, including bath toys
  • bouncing them on your knee
  • singing to them
  • talking and reading to them

Playing with a baby at 6 months - HSE (video)

6 to 12 months

You can play with your baby by:

  • using exciting toys such as blocks or toys with wheels or mirrors
  • talking and reading to them
  • drawing
  • making and listening to music
  • dancing to educational songs - for example, songs that name body parts
  • praising them and giving them attention
  • making faces - your child will try to copy you
  • guiding them to a standing position
  • guiding and moving them to a seated position

1 to 1 and a half years

If your child is not walking, you can encourage them by:

  • helping them to stand supported by you
  • helping them take steps around furniture supported by you
  • holding their hands while they take steps

If your child is walking or crawling, you can play with them by:

  • playing hide and seek, or hiding an object for them - like a treasure hunt
  • gently rolling or throwing a soft ball towards them
  • chasing them
  • building things together
  • doing activities that help keep them steady on their feet

Children usually play by themselves more often at this age. It's good to let them play alone sometimes and watch them from a safe distance.

1 and a half to 2 years

You can play with your child by:

  • teaching them simple sports like football - this will help them learn to balance
  • pushing them on a tricycle
  • encouraging them to pedal their tricycle or push off their feet
  • making a game out of everyday activities like washing and drying their hands

You can stop your child becoming overstimulated or bored by only giving them a few toys at a time. Keeping toys in different boxes can also be useful.

Learning through play

How your child develops through play

Page last reviewed: 15 September 2022
Next review due: 15 September 2025