Young children love engaging with their caregivers! Simple, interactive games and activities make this even more enjoyable, especially for infants who are less mobile, since they can be played while spending time in their caregiver’s arms, lying on their backs, or practicing tummy time. In addition to being fun, these activities create opportunities to help young children learn new skills.
Below we share some of our favorite simple activities that require no extra materials or prep time. Young children love repetition, and these activities can be done over and over. Try them out with children in your care, and let parents know which activities are their child’s favorites so they can play them at home.
According to Child Psychologist, Dr. Kimberley O’Brien, peek-a-boo is the perfect first learning game, with several positive benefits for toddlers. In an article for The Essential Baby, Dr. O’Brien notes that the best way for infants “to learn and absorb new information is through fun play. Peek-a-boo is often one of the first games that babies will learn to play.”
She notes that the game is best played with infants between 6 and 12 months because as children approach their first year they begin to develop a skill called “object permanence.” Object Permanence refers to an understanding that people and things still exist, even when they are out of sight. Prior to developing this skill, young children believe that when they can no longer see someone’s face, they actually are completely gone, which is why the game is so enjoyable for young children. Peek-a-boo also allows children to start practicing social skills as they laugh and engage in a back-and-forth activity with their caregivers.
This Little Piggy
This little piggy went to market.
This little piggy stayed home.
This little piggy had roast beef.
But this little piggy had none.
And this little piggy went
“Wee, wee, wee”
All the way home!
“This Little Piggy” is a fun and classic nursery rhyme that can help children to recognize their own body parts, increase attention span, and learn order and sequence. This game can also serve as a fun way to distract children’s attention during challenging diaper changes or getting dressed. BabyCenter recommends playing this game with infants between 4 and 6 months old so that they will be able to engage and follow along with the rhyme.
Itsy Bitsy Spider
The itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the water spout.
Down came the rain,
And washed the spider out.
Out came the sun
And dried up all the rain.
And the itsy-bitsy spider
Climbed up the spout again.
The Itsy Bitsy Spider is a song and an activity, all in one! It allows infants to hear a familiar song, and sing along when they are toddlers. As young children learn the words and hand motions, they will be able to do them along with you, helping them to practice fine motor skills in their hands and fingers.
This is best introduced to children when they are about 6 months old. At that age, they will be able to enjoy the song and observe the hand motions. Children will be able to join in the song and motions after their first birthday, at around 14 months.
Looking for more ideas for games to play with little ones? Check out the BabyCenter’s video with more ideas.