Playing at 0-6 months

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How Babies Play
Playing at 0 - 6 months
Play is essential for your baby - it's one of the ways she will learn about her environment, it teaches her physical and social skills - and of course, it's fun!

0-3 months
Your newborn looks too tiny to do anything, let alone something as boisterous as playing. But, say experts, play is important for your baby as it helps her learn about the world. It's also good for you, as it helps you bond. By play we mean gentle stimulation - sights and sounds that will make her interested in her world.

Sounds good
One of the easiest ways to stimulate baby is to give her something musical to listen to. At this age her hearing is already good and she'll love you talking to her. She likes high sounds best (which is why you automatically raise your voice for her) and loves toys with tinkling bells and high-pitched rattles.

Funny faces
Faces are intriguing to babies as they are programmed to want to look at faces and features, particularly eyes.
At this stage she can see contrasts of light and dark better than colours, which is why she'll particularly notice people with dark hair or glasses. Hold your face near your baby when you look at her, as she focuses best at 20-25cm - and nod your head too, as she notices moving objects more than stationary ones.

Looks good
She's fascinated with movement so she will love mobiles - especially featuring the strongly contrasting colours she sees best, like black and white. As well as movement and contrast, she can see light - she won't like bright lights but will enjoy soft lights, especially if they move. She also reacts to toys featuring patterns, especially if they are shaped like faces.

In touch
Other toys your baby may react to are ones she can touch. By six weeks she'll probably be kicking or waving her arms when she's happy and if there's a toy nearby for her to hit with her hands and feet, so much the better. She won't be able to aim for anything yet but when she does hit something by chance she'll find it very exciting. And this will help her to begin to understand about cause and effect and that her little hand and feet belong to her and she can control them.

Hands up
At around 10 weeks your baby will have discovered her hands. For her they will have been things that come into view from time to time. And once she's worked out that they belong to her they'll become her favourite plaything, as she grasps and tugs her fingers.

3 - 6 months
By now your baby will have her hands open most of the time, instead of holding them in tiny fists. She's also discovered that her hands belong to her, and that she can use them to swipe at objects or hold them. These developments - the beginning of hand-eye coordination - open up a whole new world of play possibilities.

Handy toys
By three months, your baby can hold and shake a rattle or toy - the noise of a rattle holds her attention and helps her concentration to develop. She can turn her head to follow the movement of a mobile and will try to swipe at it. You are still her favourite toy and she will probably start grabbing at your face and hair at around four months.

In her mouth
She's beginning to explore the rest of her environment too and automatically puts everything in her mouth, where sensitive nerve endings can explore the size, shape and texture of objects. She can enjoy toys she can safely suck and chew which have different textures, such as teething rings and rubber toys.

Exploring her world

By six months your baby uses her hands more to touch and explore different textures and shapes and will try to manipulate objects. She'll love an activity centre and a baby gym which she can play with lying on her back. This will feed her budding concentration and hand-eye coordination and encourage large body movements such as half rolling or rolling.

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