first games

One of the best parts of having a baby is playing like one. Here'’s how.

Playing with your baby is a perfect opportunity to see the world through his eyes. Besides having fun, you’ll be teaching your little one important lessons in language, rhythm and pitch. But how to begin? You might feel self-conscious, especially if you can’t remember the words to nursery rhymes or the best games to play with a baby, but put aside any shyness. Belt out your favorite songs, chant nursery rhymes and give dramatic readings of poems. Also try the games and activities featured here.

When you play these games, be sure to vary your baby’s position to strengthen his various muscle groups. Also, since babies should spend their sleeping time on their backs, experts advise some “tummy time” while baby is awake. Joining your infant on the floor and placing him on his stomach will help develop his crawling muscles.

Each game involves you as much as your child for special moments together. So get ready for some time-tested favorites sure to please even the fussiest audience. It’s playtime!

–3 months:

for your reclining baby

Hickory, Dickory, Dock

Place your baby on his back or belly on the floor or bed and lie down next to him; then chant:

Hickory, dickory, dock!

The mouse ran up the clock. (Run your fingers from your baby’s feet up and across his belly or back.)

The clock struck one, (Make a bell sound and pause as your eyes and mouth widen in surprise.)

The mouse ran down, (Run your fingers down his body.)

Hickory, dickory, dock! (Give him a kiss.)

4–7 months:

for your baby who is holding up his head

There Was a Duke of York

Lie on your back, holding your baby on your chest as you chant this rhyme. Every time you say “up,” raise him up; every time you say “down,” lower him back down to your chest. Open your mouth in amazement each time you raise him and each time he lands on your chest. Bounce him to the rhythm throughout, but pause each time you bring your baby up or down.

There was a Duke of York

He had ten thousand men

He marched them up the hill

And then he marched them down again.

When you’re up, you’re up.

And when you’re down, you’re down.

And when you’re only halfway up,

You’re neither up nor down.

8–12 months:

for your sitting baby

story time

What could be better than curling up with your baby and a good book?

But don’t just read — interact. Make up stories, pantomime, let your imagination go wild. Pat the Bunny (Golden Books), the first interactive book — originally published in 1940 — is a wonderful tool. You and your baby can pat the bunny’s soft fur, look into the mirror, and feel

Daddy’s coarse sandpaper beard.

12 months:

for your standing baby

the itsy bitsy spider

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout. (Climb your fingers up through

the air like a spider.)

Down came the rain and washed the spider out. (Wiggle your fingers as you move your hand down, then straighten them to your sides.)

Out came the sun (Make an arc above your head.) and dried up all the rain.

And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again. (Climb your fingers up again.)

12–18 months:

for your walking baby

Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Touch your head, shoulders, etc.,as you sing. If your baby likes it, touch her as you name each part, too.Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes.Eyes and ears and mouth and nose! (Blink your eyes, pull gently on your ears, open your mouth, and wiggle and “beep” your nose ... then give your baby’s nose a beep, too.)Head and shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. (Finish by tickling your baby.)

1 1/2–2 years:

for your running toddler

A Lion

A lion looking for her food

Is walking through the grass.

She sees her dinner up ahead And then runs very fast. (Speed up the rhythm as you say this and walk toward your child.)

Roar! Yum yum yum,

What a tasty treat! (Put up your “paws,” then pat your belly.)

Roar! Yum, yum, yum, I’ll catch my little sweet! (If your child doesn’t like to be chased, run in a circle as you say this; you can also use puppets.)