Play it again!

Even though it will be years before you can break out the board games, it's not too early to begin family game night with classic games like these.

Learning Stages

Even though it will be years before you can break out the board games, it's not too early to begin the family game night tradition! Playtime is essential to a baby's development. Baby games provide opportunities for bonding, learning new skills and developing a sense of humor. They get your baby stretching his muscles, using his senses and working out problems.

These classic baby games can be replayed over and over, and they can take as much or as little time as you want. When your baby becomes distracted, try to re-engage him once or twice, but let him decide when it's time to stop. Babies need breaks to process all they are learning.

3-6 months

Peek-a-Boo!

The game peek-a-boo is a timeless baby favorite. Why do babies love peek-a-boo? "Peek-a-boo engages and entertains babies while teaching them about the world," says Linda Platas, Ph.D., an early childhood researcher at the Institute of Human Development at UC Berkeley. "Your baby learns to predict a regular pattern—that you’ll come back!"

Funny Face

Your baby has been captivated by the sight of your face ever since he was born. Give him something to smile at by showing him funny faces. Show him your surprised face, your goofy face, your happy face. Stick out your tongue and see if he copies you.

When you show your happy face or surprised face during your regular interactions, your baby gains experience with interpreting facial expressions, which helps him connect meaning with these expressions.

6-9 months

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

At this stage, babies are fascinated by the world around them. Some babies can sit up, which frees up their hands to explore. "This age is perfect for starting finger plays to develop baby's fine motor skills," says Dr. Platas. "Your child will be fascinated by your singing and movements—and soon learn to imitate them."

Do the fingerplays with Itsy Bitsy Spider and Twinkle Twinkle Little Star and see if your baby imitates you.

What Is It?

Your baby is fascinated by toys and other objects he can hold because they help him learn how things work and that objects have different shapes, colors and textures.

Give your baby objects of different sizes and textures (square, round, hard, soft, fuzzy, long, short, sticky), and ask lots of questions: What is it? Is it soft? Yes, it's soft and squishy! Help your baby play with these objects. Show him how to hold them and make them move.

9-12 months

Monkey See, Monkey Do

"From about nine to twelve months, babies begin to purposefully imitate and replicate sounds, increasingly using repeated syllables in their babbling," says Dr. Platas. "These can (happily!) include 'mama' and 'dada' as well as nonsense words such as 'bababa' and 'nanana.'"

Call out sounds like la-la-la or ba-ba-ba. Encourage your baby to repeat the sounds. If he makes the sounds, echo him. This will get your baby ready for saying real words.

Where's Your Nose?

You can play games to increase your baby's body awareness and vocabulary. Have your baby point to his nose, eyes and ears. Ask where his toes and fingers are. You can help your baby learn where these are by example. For instance, when you ask where his fingers and toes are, wiggle them with your fingers.