As we’ve discussed before, play is a powerful part of childhood development. But it can sometimes be difficult to come up with ways to play with babies. We’ve looked at play ideas for 0-3 month olds and 3-6 month olds; today we’ll go through some play ideas for 6-9 month olds. But first, let’s take a look at what milestones your baby is working on during this time.
Developmental Milestones for 6-9 Month Olds
- Eats solid foods
- Sits unassisted
- Begins to crawl
- Uses pincer grip (index finger and thumb) to pick up small objects
- Transfers an object between hands
- Babbles with combined syllables
- May use gestures or sounds to express needs
- Understands object permanence
- Drops things intentionally to explore effects
- Recognizes familiar people
- May begin to experience stranger anxiety
Play Ideas for 6-9 Month Olds
- Tug of War – Give your baby a blanket to hold and gently pull on one end. Go back and forth between you and your baby tugging the blanket. This back and forth motion is important for your baby to experience and also helps develop your baby’s upper body strength.
- Hide and Seek – Try this fun game with your crawler to exercise his auditory tracking skills. Hide a noise making object such as a music box or radio somewhere that will be possible for your baby to find. Encourage your baby to find the sound and celebrate when he does.
- Auditory Peek a Boo – Another auditory game that doesn’t require crawling is this fun twist on peekaboo. Move out of your baby’s visual range such as behind your baby. Call out, “Where’s Mommy” or “Where’s (whoever you are)” and wait for your baby to turn and find you. Once she finds you, move to a different location and play again.
- Scrunchy Scarf – Stuff a lightweight scarf (or other piece of fabric) into a paper towel tube. Encourage your baby to tug the scarf to remove it from the tube. This activity engages your baby’s developing understanding of object permanence.
- Tower Tumble – Though your baby isn’t quite old enough to build towers out of blocks, she is old enough to know them down! Stack blocks up high and watch as your little one delights in knocking it down. This activity models object stacking and develops cause and effect.
- Sponge Bath – Give your baby a few sponges (bonus if they’re multi colored or multi textured) to liven up water play. Your baby will love squeezing out the water, developing his hand strength and understanding of cause and effect. You don’t have to wait until bath time for this activity. So long as you don’t mind things getting a little wet. Give your baby a small pan of water and he can play with the sponges any time of day! (I like to use a heavy baking pan that is difficult for my baby to lift. This minimizes big spills)
- Shake Shake Shake! – Invite your baby to explore different sounds. Give your baby “big kid” rattles by putting different objects in tupperware containers (eliminate choking hazards by securely closing the container, possible even taping it closed). Some ideas to place inside the containers: rice, pasta, jingle bells, pompoms, small toys, etc.
- Hats Off To You – As you’ve probably already discovered, your baby loves looking at his own image. Mirrors are powerful tools for the developing concept of self-recognition. Encourage development of this concept by playing with hats in front of the mirror. Have your baby try on different hats and notice his image. As the hats change and his face remains the same, his recognition of self will develop.
- Hiding in Plain Sight – As your baby’s ability to find hidden objects increases, challenge your baby’s perception by “hiding” something under a transparent object, such as a clear container or transparent scarf.
- Hi! Bye! – In a few months your baby will soon verbalize a few words. ‘Hi’ and ‘bye’ are a few common first words because they are used frequently, especially with young children. Increase your child’s exposure to these words by popping in and saying “Hi!” then leaving and saying “Bye!” It’s like a verbal peekaboo!
- Treasure Baskets – During this age, babies become fascinated with grabbing and dropping objects. Let you child explore this topic by creating baskets filled with interesting, grab-able (and safe!) objects for your child to investigate. The Train Driver’s Wife has a great post on ideas for setting up these baskets.
- Story Time – Reading truly is one of the most timeless activities for any child. If you’re wondering why it’s so important, check out our post on why you should read to your baby.
- Movie Star – Your baby is beginning to understand that he is a separate person (a concept that fully develops between 12-15 months). Invite exploration of this concept by recording your baby (video or just audio), then playing the recording back to him. He’ll love hearing himself!
- Magic Show – As your baby develops the concept of object permanence, play with the concept through hiding games. A great example is to roll balls through a cardboard tube. As your baby follows the ball from entering the tube, disappearing, then reappearing on the other side of the tube, she’ll be delighted and intrigued.
- Fill ‘er Up! – Give your baby a container with an extra wide mouth along with some small, age-appropriate toys. Show your baby how to fill the container up with toys (a transparent container is best because then she can track the object) and encourage her to try. This activity develops the concept of spatial relations (“How much stuff fits in here?”). After your baby has figured out how to put the toys in, show her how to take them out, which encourages problem solving.
- Nature Walk – Nature is full of so many textures. Don’t be afraid to plop your amazing sitter down on the ground and take in all the outdoor textures. Yes, she might get a little dirty, but that’s why we have washing machines and bathtubs, right? Encourage your baby to feel grass, leaves, sticks, rocks, etc. Just make sure anything that winds up in her mouth is safe to be there!
- Pots and Pans – One of the most chiche baby activities is sitting on the kitchen floor playing with pots and pans. But this activity is cliche for a reason–it’s fun! Let your baby explore sounds by offering spoons (wooden and metal) to play with your pots and pans.
- Let There Be Light – Let your baby turn the lights on and off when you enter and leave the room by using the light switch. This activity encourages your baby to be a helpful and explore cause and effect. Depending on the type of switches in your home, it can also develop fine motor skills.
- Three Hands? – Give your baby a toy for each hand. Once both hands are occupied, offer your baby a third toy. Does your baby try to hold the toy with her full hands? Does she drop everything? This activity encourages problem solving. Over time, your baby will put down one toy before grasping another.
- Obstacle Course – Once your baby has mastered crawling, set up obstacle courses for him to try out! Obstacles could be made of piles of blankets, small cushions, or sheets draped over chairs to make tunnels. Crawling has so many vital benefits for your child. Mama OT has a great post about why crawling matters.
I hope this list gives you ideas on how to savor the moments with your little one and play! For more ideas check out the book 1001 Fun Ways to Play. Happy playing!