Learning through play: 12 months and up

By Published On: January 28th, 2010

playingbabyPlaying games isn’t all for fun—it’s also the best way for your baby to learn and develop social, cognitive and motor skills. Read on for playtime tips for babies of all ages, as well as ways to expand your baby’s learning potential and a few of our favorite all-star baby toys!
Sensory stimulation
Sight. Your baby is learning to recognize familiar faces in photos. This is a great memory activity and good practice for the family reunion: “Where’s Grandma? Where’s Uncle Jared?” He is also ready to learn animal noises—tie in the picture with the noise for a cross-sensory experience.
Sound. Musical instrument toys help your baby find his own rhythm. Miniature drums, xylophones, maracas and pianos are a fun introduction to musical creation through play. Sing with your baby and introduce him to the “Alphabet Song” along with other baby classics and your own family favorites.
Touch. Your baby now relies on his hands more than his mouth when it comes to tactile exploration. Books with touch-and-feel or lift-the-flap actions provide fun learning by involving the senses of sight and touch with your baby’s developing fine motor skills.
Fine motor maturation. At 15 months, your baby can control his wrist movement without moving his entire arm; this allows for much more precise actions and more variety in play. Practice scooping and pouring in the bathtub and the sandbox; your baby is discovering gravity! Create “art” with non-toxic crayons and finger paints. Shape sorters and puzzles teach color and shape recognition and precision in placement.
Gross motor milestones. Rolling “walker” toys help an unsteady walker stay on his feet. Look for the modern variety; the old traditional walkers are out of production for safety reasons. Push and pull toys are appropriate at this age as greater balance comes into play. As your baby grows older and more coordinated, the neighborhood playground is a great place to gain confidence and master new skills: climbing, balancing and jumping. At 18 months, your baby will be able to throw a ball.
Intellectual improvement. Your baby wants nothing more than to be like you. Encourage his or her social awareness and desire to “play house” with toy lawnmowers, tools, kitchen sets, jewelry and other plasticized imitators. Let your baby’s imagination grow with dress-up clothes and make-believe puppet shows. Allow him to explore his own creativity in a safe environment. When you look at books together, let your baby “read” to you by pointing out the pictures and telling the story, whether with babble or words. Respond and agree to let him know you’re listening.