Children don't just play for the fun of it - play is essential for their development.
Here are some of the benefits of play
• Playing reinforces self-confidence.
• Playing with your parents establishes a bond and a contact.
• Social skills are developed during play.
• Play contributes to language development.
• Play stimulates creativity and fantasy.
• Basic and more advanced motor skills are developed during play.
• Play helps a child to express and understand their feelings, like happiness, anger and fear, and discover how these feelings affect others.
11 game ideas for babies and young children
It is possible to play games with very young children. Children are good at demonstrating what they need, like or are scared of. Learn and get a feel for what your child likes, soon you will find a wonderful and sometimes vital world of playtime together.
• Play with soft materials
Gather together materials that are soft and lovely to touch. Lay your baby on their back in a secure spot. Then stroke their bare tummy with the soft material. Let your baby feel the material with their hands, look at it and perhaps pop it in their mouth if it's completely safe.
• Play with different smells
Sit your baby on your knee and place various natural smells under their nose, like spices and fruits. Pay attention. If your baby turns its nose up, the smell might be a bit too strong. But it might also be an exciting experience, in small doses.
• Copy facial expressions and movements
Babies learn to copy people's facial expressions when they're just a few weeks old. This is an exciting game for a little baby, and it also strengthens the bond between you, and develops their recognition skills.
• Dancing games
When your baby is really tiny, you can dance about with them in your arms. Make sure you protect and support their neck and head. You can also lie down with your baby on your tummy, carefully swaying to the music.
• Where's the sound?
Rattle something and let your child turn their head towards the sound. Praise your child when they find it with their eyes.
• Fun sounds
Rustle some paper, whistle, rattle a rattle, drum on something hollow. Show them that different exciting new sounds are fun.
• Sounds from the mouth
Make kissing, farting and other sounds with your mouth. Experiment with what feels right for you. Perhaps you'll be rewarded with a smile or a laugh.
Every young child's favourite game. All you have to do is make eye contact, duck behind something for a really brief moment and then pop up again, saying peekaboo in a happy, calm voice.
• Grip and let go
Give your baby something to hold. When he or she lets go, you pick it up and give it back to them. After a while your child will understand and it'll be into a fun game you can do together, again and again and again.
Sing to your child or play nursery rhymes. Music makes almost all children happy. It's exciting to watch and learn which music your child likes. Perhaps they have the same taste in music as you, perhaps it's completely different.
• Body awareness, language and games
Lift your child up onto your lap and touch the different bits of their body and tell them what they're called.
Point at your baby's nose and then your own. Take your baby's hand and point it at your own nose and then at your baby's nose. Plant a kiss on the different bits of their body and tell them what they're called.
More articles on playing and friendship
Indoor games ideas
The route to friendship
Fun and games together