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Play Time | Infant Play

Infant Play

Every year with a child is truly amazing although the first year is really a year of miracle milestones, from the first smile to the first time the baby can sit, to the first laugh, to the first babbles, to the first tooth, to the first bite of real food, to possibly the first steps. This articles discusses some of the different play ideas for an infant, 0 - 12 months old.


Baby Wearing
I wore my baby in the BabyBjorn (a baby wearer product) every day for the first two months. Wearing my baby was a large part of his play time and my interaction with him for the first few months. It supported the E.A.S.Y. (Eat, Activity, Sleep, You) schedule promoted by Hogg in Secrets of the Baby Whisperer, helped reduce crying, helped my baby with acid reflux, may have increased my baby's mental development, allowed effective bonding between me and my baby, and allowed me to continue on with my daily activities. Please refer to the "About Baby Wearing" article for more information or please refer to The MOMMBY Amazon Store - Routine Care - Products for some baby wearing carriers and slings.

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Music and Books
We discovered early on (the first week home from the hospital) that my son loved music! So I played a lot of music from playtime nursery rhymes and baby classical music during the day to relaxing and soothing music before sleep. If my son was upset for one reason or another I would turn on some fun baby music and start dancing with him. It usually always made him smile.

We also discovered the first week we brought my son home from the hospital that he liked books. My mom read him a story and he stared at her the entire time watching her mouth move.  I believe she read several stories at one sitting and my son seemed fascinated by this.  Thus, we started reading early on. 

As my son got older, around 9 months old, he wasn’t as interested in sitting still and listening to a story during the day except at nap time and bedtime.  Some babies become interested in stories anytime during the day; my friend’s baby loved to listen to stories. Once my son was closer to a year, around 11 months he started enjoying the texture books and he enjoyed turning the pages. Then as he entered his toddler years, he loved books and would sit and even "read" the stories to himself. The article on "Reading" is coming soon.
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Play Mat
My son loved his Baby Einstein plan mat since he was a month old and enjoyed playing on it until he started crawling. My son's play mat was fairly simple, a mat with bright colors on it and it had two cross bars to hang toys.  My son's favorite thing was the sun that came with the mat that would light up and play music. What was nice with the play mat is you could hang any toys from it and buy additional links if you needed to hang the toys. My son liked the plush elephant and monkey that we bought.  The feet of the animals had stripes and other designs so the part that was hanging was interesting for my son to look at.  It was fun to watch him kick and try to grab for the toys.

My son would play on the play mat long enough for me to get a shower. I made sure he was secure and couldn't roll anywhere on the mat, and I'd have a few minutes to shower and get ready for the day. You can also have your baby practice supervised tummy time on a play mat. Some of the mats even have lights on the actual mat to encourage the baby to lay on her belly. My son never really enjoyed tummy time. I tried to do it a little each day.

Please refer to the MOMMBY Amazon Store for some different play mats.
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Bouncer
We received my son's cousins old bouncer chair when my son was a few months old and he loved it. Here is a picture of him still having fun in it when he was 4 months old. This is another nice thing my son liked to bounce in while I made dinner or did dishes.

Please refer to the MOMMBY Amazon Store for some different bouncers.
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Activity Jumper or Activity Center
We used the Baby Einstein Musical Motion Activity Jumper soon as my son was no longer interested in the play mat. He loved standing in it and turning around to play with the different sections.  I think his favorite was the keyboard. The jumper also had a mirror with a frog on one side, toys to turn and pop, and and an open section to set other toys.

Generally, I think most of the research states that using these toys do not help babies learn to walk.  In fact, some of the research says it may hinder them walking as they rely on the toy to hold them up and don’t learn to balance themselves.  My son loved anything that allowed him to stand and letting him play in this gave Mommy some time to fold laundry and put some clothes away while watching him play in his jumper. As my son's legs got stronger he enjoyed jumping in it as well. My son loved his activity jumper until he started walking (while holding onto things) at 9 months at that time he didn't want to be constrained anymore in his activity jumper.

Please refer to the MOMMBY Amazon Store for some different activity jumpers and activity centers.
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Music Table & Push Toys
My son also loved his LeapFrog Learn & Groove Musical table we received from his cousins. Before he could stand on his own he still loved the table. I would prop pillows around him and he was able to balance on the pillows to play with the table. Here is a picture of him enjoying the table when he was standing well at 9 months.

In addition my son loved his push toys when he was learning to walk such as his grocery shopping cart shown in the back of the picture above.
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Household Items
There is definitely not a shortage of toys to buy to stimulate an infant although, like most things sometimes the standard household items the baby enjoys as much if not more than the toys you can purchase. When my son was learning to walk he loved to push his diaper boxes around the house. I did have to watch to make sure they wouldn't tip over. This was a favorite activity from 9 months to 11 months since by 11 months he could walk without assistance.

My son loved looking through his special drawer in the kitchen (I did not put a latch on one of the drawers) and I kept safe household products in that drawer for him to discover. I read that it is good to keep at least one drawer open for the baby to explore. The cabinet where I stored my son's baby food was also accessible to him and he loved taking out his baby food jars and stacking them.

Another favorite activity was helping Mommy with the laundry by taking out all of the clothes and then putting all of the clothes back in the basket. My son thought the gallon distilled water jugs were really cool and even though my son has a lot of bath toys his favorite toy was to fill up the old empty baby shampoo bottle and then dump the water out. (He still enjoys this at 2 years old.) I'm sure there are a lot of household products that after you make sure are baby safe, your baby will enjoy as well.
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Soft Blocks & Ring Stack
My son was turning 7 months around Christmas time and one of the things I bought him were the Parents ABC Architecture Blocks. When choosing soft blocks, make sure you are comfortable that your baby will probably put the blocks in her mouth. One of my son's other favorite toys was his Fisher Price Rock A Stack ring stack.

Please refer to the MOMMBY Amazon Store for some infant toys like soft blocks or the ring stack.
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DVD's
The American Academy of Pediatrics "strongly discourages television viewing for children ages two years old or younger, and encourages interactive play." That being said, I did play "educational" baby videos for my child in order to get him to eat his baby food. Due to various issues, my son did not eat baby food well primarily due to his acid reflux unless he was distracted by watching an interactive DVD. Some of my favorite DVD's were the Tiny Love MagIQ and the Baby Einstein videos. I figured since I needed the DVD's to serve as a distraction, at least I would have my son watch "educational" videos. He did learn sign language from the Baby Einstein - My First Signs video and he loved listening to the Baby Einstein - Baby Shakespeare - World of Poetry and the Baby Einstein - Numbers Nursery.

I did worry that my son would never want to eat except in front of the tv, but magically when he turned one, he no longer needed to watch a DVD during meal time. At that time, he was better able to feed himself and he enjoyed being involved in meal time. At two, my son is still an excellent eater, using a fork, spoon, drinking from an adult cup and eating a wide variety of foods. For him, the 6 months of DVD's at meal time didn't seem to hinder him and it allowed me to make sure he received adequate nutrition for the day. Occasionally he will ask to watch tv when he is finished eating, and at this age I really try to limit DVD/ TV time. The articles on "Toddler - Toys" and "Preschool Toys" are coming soon.

Please refer to the MOMMBY Amazon Store for some infant DVD's.
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The MOMMBY Amazon Store
Please refer to the MOMMBY Amazon Store, specifically the Toys - Infants and DVD's - Infants for some products.

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End Note
Remember the most important part of play time with an infant is just being there for her; smiling at her, staring into her beautiful eyes, cuddling with her, just enjoying her company. Everything is so new to your infant that just the day to day new experiences is play time. It is also important to remember to not over stimulate your infant, sometimes they just need some cuddle, relaxation time without all of the bright toys or playful music.

Remember all babies are different and meet milestones at different times, so what my baby enjoyed at certain ages may or may not be what your baby enjoys. Some babies may start to enjoy items listed in the "Toddler Play" article towards the end of their first year while others continue enjoying "Infant Play" items well into their toddler year. Please check with your healthcare professional if you have any questions about what toys are safe for your baby and/or how your baby is developing and meeting milestones. Overall, just love your baby and both of you should have a wonderful play time together.
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Works Cited

American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). "Where We Stand: TV Viewing Time." healthychildren. 11 June
2010. 14 June 2010 <http://www.healthychildren.org>.

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Last updated: September 2010; June 2010