For babies and young children, playing is a learning experience. If you want to contribute to your child’s positive development, make sure you get him to play as often as you can. Games and interactive imagination exercises can enhance your child’s cognitive abilities, as well as boost a wide variety of motor and social skills.
This article features a fun list of 10 development boosting games that you can easily play with your child anytime! These game and activity ideas are one way to get started. Have any go-to advice of your own? Let us know what works for you in the comments.
Something important to be aware of as you plan your activity time: children, babies especially, have a very short attention span. They might be bored with something quickly and their interest could be captivated by something else in no time. In addition, they might not understand the dynamics of the game immediately. Repetition is essential. Don’t feel awkward about repeating the same thing all over again, the way your child experiences repetition is different than the way you do.
You may even want to keep an activity journal listing the activity completed, how long the activity held your child’s interest and what skills you worked on or that needed improvement. Online apps like Evernote and Google Keep can be a terrific way to collect this information. We’ve also included a downloadable journal that can get you started. CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE JOURNAL
“Repetition is the mother of learning, the father of action, which makes it the architect of accomplishment.” — Zig Ziglar
Dancing and Movement
Dancing and moving is a great way to stimulate your kid’s gross motor skills. Balance, strength, coordination, and proprioception aka knowing where your body is within a space – these are all skills children need to learn and develop over time.
Turn on your favorite music and have a living room dance party. Or, play a fun game where everyone makes up an unfamiliar dance move and has to teach everyone else. It’s not very hard to come up with ways to break out in dance – just do it whenever the music moves you!
Dancing at the Whitney Museum
Touching and Feeling Different Objects
Your kid will learn so much from moving, feeling and experimenting with different objects. Sensory development can be vital for some many kids in every stage of development. If you Pinterest “sensory games” it will provide you with hundreds of ideas. To avoid information overload, just start by collecting a few safe items that are soft, scratchy, sticky, wet, warm, cold – anything with an interesting texture.
Also, be aware of these senses when you’re out and about with your kids. “Doesn’t this dog feel soft?” “This fabric is very smooth, what else is smooth like this fabric?” Guiding your kids through these thoughts will help them distinguish between different kinds of textures and shapes. If your child is challenged by sensory activities, ask for help in determining how to best work within your child’s needs.
Kids are always entertained and mesmerized by objects dangling over their heads! In the first few months of your baby’s development, she’ll start swiping at objects dangling above her. Older kids like this too. In the book “Growing Artists: Teaching the Arts to Young Children” by Joan Bouza Koster, she offers a number of imaginative examples of how to use pantomime and props to encourage artistic expression.
Singing is a wonderful way to spend time with your baby and foster a connection. For older kids, learning through song is a powerful way to repeat and practice many needed skills. In addition to artistic skills, song can help children learn languages and mathematics – and can even help reinforce social and sporting behaviors. Use Spotify, Amazon Music or other online programs to create playlists for your kids. Incorporate music and singing into their studying and reading activities (Daniel Tiger does this well by coming up with learning songs for younger kids).
For older kids, help them create their own playlist for music that helps them focus while studying. Or, make up songs to remember their spelling or math homework.
Playing at the NYC Guitar School
Cause and Effect
Babies seem to love witnessing cause and effect. Put a toy upright on the floor and gently punch it down. Your kid will imitate you and probably be entertained by this simple thing for a long time. FatBrain Toys has an entire segment of toys perfect for kids learning cause and effect. Cause and effect games create small discoveries and enhance your child’s fine motor skills.
“From the very beginning of his education, the child should experience the joy of discovery.” — Alfred North Whitehead
Such timeless games can help kids develop self-awareness and strengthen the parental bond. As a child ages, their object permanence develops. In early stages, babies have no sense of object permanence or the understanding that objects or people exist even if they can’t be seen. Playing peek-a-boo, “hiding” and then reappearing and encouraging your older infants to hid their own eyes and “pop” out are important ways to develop this cognitive skill.
Jean Piaget, one of the first psychologists to study this phenomenon in infants believed this skill is one of an infant’s most significant first accomplishments, and that from birth to two-years-old this development of perception depends greatly on a child’s motor development.
Tracking movements of people or objects will help babies boost their spatial awareness and focus. Point at objects, things outside your window or anything else trying to attract your baby’s attention. Playing with shadows can be a lot of fun, and it can help your kids develop cognitive skills. Use your hand or even a sock to create a shadow on the wall.
Babies love to react to their image! The experience is also fun for coordination and self-awareness development.
Fun with Boxes
Developing babies love putting things in and out of boxes or containers. This game helps develop logical thinking and focus. As your child grows older, the game can be played with shape and color sorters. You can make these yourself with common household items or find toys specifically geared toward this kind of development.
Sorting helps your child with problem solving and fine motor skills. The trial and error, matching and remembering involved helps develop his cognitive and motor manipulation skills. Working with your child to call out colors or shapes can also help with language and cognitive skills. “Can you find the blue block?” This provides a terrific platform for vocabulary growth.
Throwing and Catching
Similar to tracking objects and cause and effect, throwing a catching is a fantastic way to develop fine motor skills. We love to visit Box of Ideas to come up with some different ways to engage our kids, at every level, in these brain-building behaviors.
Even if your baby is too young to understand anything you read to him or her, listening to a parent’s soothing voice is still extremely beneficial to many areas of a child’s development. Even if your kids can’t understand what you are saying, poems and rhymes can help develop communication and cognitive abilities.