So far all of my play posts have included toys or objects…What about playing WITHOUT toys?

With older children we all know how to play Tag, Simon Says, I Spy, or just have a dance party, but what about playing with babies who can barely even hold a toy or sit up? They still want to play with you, but toys don’t work so well.

Of course there’s Patty Cake and Peek-a-boo, but what else do you do with a baby after you rattle toys in their face and show them books…? Good question!

I like to play Follow the Leader. But wait, you say, the baby can’t really imitate any sounds or movements yet! I know, I know. The BABY is the leader. You follow baby.

Follow her eye gaze. Whatever she looks at, you say it. Whatever funny face she makes, you make it. Whatever gurgle or cooing sound she makes, you do the same. Make up songs about her interests. Tell her a story about the ceiling fan that is so mesmerizing. Of course, add in a few tickles, kisses, and cuddles!  Allowing your baby to take the lead in play, or “conversation”, sets the foundation for turn-taking and communication.  Sure, you can talk TO your baby and read TO your baby…but when you let them take the lead and you interact WITH them, it’s so much more meaningful.  Now they aren’t only passive listeners, but active leaders!

Playing Follow the Leader is also great for when toddlers start talking or for even older toddlers who may be hard to understand. (See Toddler Speech for that discussion).  The basic idea is that if you want baby to learn to imitate you then you should start by imitating her.  Have fun playing with NO toys.  Just play with each other!

Use this strategy when play does involve toys and let your child show you how to play with cars, bookspuppets, or any kind of toy that does nothing.


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