Let’s just start this post out by saying, I’m not a professional when it comes to this topic. As far as my background, I went to school for education and spend a handful of years teaching. I’ve taught every age from 3 through high school. So, yes I’m studied on basic pedagogy, but at the end of the day, I’m really just another mom trying to figure it all out.
I spend a lot of time staying home alone with my little one, and so am always looking for activities to do together (for his sake and mine!) I shared a lot of these on Instagram but wanted to put them together in a post.
I sort of organized them by age, splitting the first 6 months from the second 6 months. But, honestly, many span between the two age ranges.
Also, many of these are shared in my Baby Play Story Highlight on Instagram if you want to see more videos and descriptions!
- These activities are not designed for babies to do independently or alone. Please observe your little one while they do them.
- If a baby doesn’t show interest in something right away, try modeling how to use it a few times. Let them watch you use the item, then offer it back to them.
Crinkly paper is always a huge hit. Babies love the sound and texture of it. I’d say interest in this starts around 2 months and goes well past 6 months. You can buy baby paper, which is basically a cloth with a crinkle paper inside. We had a little strip from our Lovevery Play Gym that we NEVER left the house without for the first 6 months. Packing paper from your Amazon packages works just fine too though.
I loved painting with Miles as young as 3 months. I actually found that around 3-6 months he had the most interest in it as a sensory activity. And, bonus, I have some fun art he created hanging in my house now. Before things all went in his mouth, I used non-toxic finger paint. But, once hands went into his mouth a DIY edible baby paint is a better idea.
Bonus: you can buy packs of cheap canvas boards for super affordable and it makes the art a little more “special.” Works great as a mother’s day gift.
Touching different textures is great for a tummy time activity. Find household items with different textures for your little one to explore. I love this easy DIY texture board from this post on Sweet Mommyhood.
High Contrast Photos/Book
High contrast anything is where it is at, especially the first 8-12 weeks. Part of our Lovevery Play Gym (which I highly recommend and you can read my full review here) has a little stand that could hold photos. It came with a series of pictures, some being high contrast black and white designs. Miles loved this thing and would really inspect and interact with it much more than other things in the first weeks.
There are also a lot of great high-contrast board books out there, too.
High Contrast Sensory Bags
Creating other high contrast play items is a big win. I love the idea of these High Contrast Sensory Bags from Everday Chaos and Calm. Bags are a little easier for young babies to interact with than the usual sensory bottles. They are much lighter and flat. Babies can hold them or use them during tummy time.
Little feet start kicking pretty quickly (it’s how they always Houdini their socks off!) So give them some different things to kick so they can connect their action to a reaction (sound/feeling). Try setting them up so their feet can kick at some tissue paper, a cooking tray, or newspaper. You can also buy musical kick pads that are great for this, too.
Not exactly a brand new concept, but tummy time is great for little ones. However, I know many moms struggle with it especially when they have babies who don’t like being on their tummy. My tip is to remember tummy time doesn’t have to just be on the floor, they can lay on their tummy on top of you when you lay on the floor or recline in a chair – many babies prefer this. Or, offer a boppy to support them. This useful tummy time post might help.
Babies are vain. They love to look at themselves. I mean, you can’t blame them, they are adorable. Any mirror that props up is great like this stand-up mirror, or we used the one that came with our Lovevery Play Gym. When Miles got older and could grasp toys, he loved having a handheld mirror and it would keep him entertained through many diaper changes!
Baby massage is something I did with Miles every day at first. Little ones love mom’s touch and it’s a great way to bond. Plus, many studies show that it can positively affect an infant’s hormones and stress levels, improve sleep and gas pains, and other benefits. I suggest you watch a video with tips on baby massage first.
Water on a Cooking Tray
This is a great tummy time activity if you prop your little one on a pillow. Place a small amount of water on a cooking tray with a toy or two and let your baby splash about!
Take a Walk Around the House
Miles loved being walked around the house (or backyard). I’d point out different items and tell him what they were and what they did. We’d look at art on the walls or things in the cabinets.
Other things 0-6 month olds love:
- Being worn. I used the Lille Baby 6-in-1 carrier non-stop. I wore Miles for walks, to do chores, to calm him down. It’s a miracle worker.
- Being talked to
- Watching you do everyday tasks. Prop them in a swing or chair (I like this one for a save option and this one for a splurge) so they can see you wash the dishes, brush your hair, put on your makeup, etc. Washing machines are also always big hits.
I feel like everyone talks about sensory bottles but that’s probably because they are basically baby crack. IDK what it is, but babies LOVE sensory bottles. You can do something as basic as just rice or water in a bottle. Or, do some Googling and get fancy, here are some nice rainbow sensory bottle DIYs.
Doing the same idea of a sensory bottle but in a bag works well and can sometimes be better for little hands. I used rice and beans in ours and double bagged them to be safe.
Once your little one starts eating solids, it can be a full activity in itself. Pour some mashed potatoes or purees on the highchair table and let them have at it. It’s gonna get messy, so I suggest you strip down to the diaper if it’s warm enough and put the high chair on a hard surface.
Puppets are fun for newborns, too. It’s a fun way to sing and talk with them.
Stuff the Oball
The Oball is a great baby toy on its own, but get more use out of it but stuffing it full of strips of paper, tissue, or fabric. Little hands will have tons of fun pulling them out.
Babies love music. There’s a reason pretty much every library does a music time (and definitely check your local library for that once quarantine is over) But you can do it at home too. You can easily make music at home by filling a bottle with rice or beans or banging a spoon on a plastic plate. Check out this baby music bin for inspiration. It doesn’t matter how bad you sing, your child LOVES your voice. Sing together!
Ok, this is more of a toy, but it gave us SO MUCH entertainment I have to mention it. Once your little one is walker, a push walker is such a good idea. Miles loved this one, which also had a spot to store toys. He’d push it back and forth ENDLESSLY and put all his toys in the bin. We even took it out on the grass in the backyard and he’d play with the toys on the front.
Empty Kleenex Box
I’m not sure what it is about an empty Kleenex box but it’s magic. It’s especially great if you put a toy or ball inside. Little hands will have a field day shaking it, taking the ball out, trying to put the ball in. Trust me, it’s a sure-fire winner.
Little rubber animals and figurines are great as early as 2 months or so. But, Miles particularly liked them around 6-9 months. He’d chew on them (obviously), but also like inspecting them, putting them in and out of boxes, practicing passing them from hand to hand, etc.
Bubble Wrap/Packing Paper
Don’t throw away the packing paper or bubble wrap that comes with your online orders. They are lead to tons of entertainment! If your little one isn’t interested in it at first, show them how to rip the paper – they usually think it’s hilarious and then want to try.
Paper towels and toilet paper works too.
Treasure baskets are a Montessori concept. It’s basically a basket or box that you fill with different items. Sometimes it’s items of a certain type like from nature, sometimes it’s items all of one color, or different textures. This post has a helpful video about them, and this one rounds up different treasure basket ideas.
Bubbles are magic. Miles used to go crazy for them. He’d scream with delight when we used them, and they are a great indoor activity too.
Magnets on a Cooking Tray
We bought some magnetic letters but when we moved, our new house had a stainless steel fridge and the magnets wouldn’t stick to them. So, I put them on a cooking tray instead. It worked great and it is portable for backyard play, too.
Tape on a Cooking Tray
Another fun way to use a cooking tray is to place strips of tape across it and then place shallow toys underneath. They have to use fine motor skills to pull the toys out. Check out my baby play highlight to see this in action if my description doesn’t make sense.
I don’t know what voodoo the outdoor has, but it almost instantly calms Miles. He’s happier outdoors. Probably because there are fewer rules. Plus, I’m convinced fresh air helps them sleep better. Throw a big blanket down in the grass (I like this one because it keeps out moisture) and place some toys out for them to play with and explore.
Large Muslin for Peek-a-boo
Don’t put away the muslins when your little one stops spitting up. The larger ones are amazing for playing peek-a-boo. Throw the muslin up and let it lightly land on their head. Ask “where’s -insert baby’s name” and then pull it down and say “there he/she is!” As they get older they will pull the muslin off themselves. The Little Unicorn muslins were my favorite.
Put Toys Between the Crib Grates
Miles loved pulling toys out through the grates of his crib. I’d start with small easy toys then add in some harder ones that required him to turn the object.
Little hands love board books. I highly suggest sensory ones (with things to touch and feel) as well as the mini “pocket-sized” ones which are perfect for their little fingers.
Large Cardboard Box
If you shop on Amazon you probably have an oversized box laying around somewhere and it’s SUPER fun to crawl in and out of. Make it extra fun by hanging ribbons from the front and lay them under it for tummy time.
Wallet with Credit Cards
There’s something about wallets that are too much fun. Little hands love to pull credit cards in and out. I saved old expired cards and gift cards and put them in an old wallet. Miles loved it. I carried it in the diaper bag and whipped it out when I needed him entertained for a few minutes when I was running errands.
There’s something about the texture of a brush and the easy to hold handle that babies love. I had a small travel brush Miles used to always play with.
You can buy these $4 ones on Amazon, or just give them some Solo cups you have laying around the house (I suggest you limit it to 2-4 cups for this age). They will love trying to master putting the cups inside one another.
Other things for 6-12 months old
- As they start pulling themselves up and standing, I highly suggest a table that’s their height (like this) or sensory table. It gives them a chance to do some standing activities.
- Babywearing is still clutch at this age even though your little one is bigger. Works great for getting chores done or calming them when they are clingy and fussy.
I hope this helps! If you try any, make sure to share them with be on Instagram. I LOVE seeing your babies use my ideas!