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Developmental Play Ideas

for Children from Birth to 6 Years

Birth to 3 Months   3-6 Months   6-9 Months   9-12 Months   12-18 Months   18-24 Months
2-3 Years   3-4 Years   4-5 Years   5-6 Years

Birth to 3 Months:
Learning to: Coordinate eyes (1-2 months) 
Turn head toward sound
Lift head to look
Smile for pleasure
Likes to: Listen
Watch bright objects or moving objects
Enjoys: Sounds:  human voice, rattles, and squeaky toys
Colorful wall decorations:  large colored free form paper pieces, large bright pictures
Mobiles:  birds or butterflies hung over crib from ceiling
3 to 6 Months
Learning to: Reach and grasp objects in hands (2-4 months)
Roll from front to back (6 months)
Sit with support
Pick up and recognize objects
Transfer objects from one hand to other
Likes to: Bang, touch, bite, pickup, drop, grasp, shake, bounce
Enjoys: Playing on floor, rattles, teething rings, bracelets, toys to squeeze
Large beads and spools, strung together
Floating bath toys
Jolly Jumper of bounce chair
6 to 9 Months
Learning to: Sit alone
Pull self up
Creep and crawl
Respond to noise, odor, etc.
Drink from a cup
Likes to: Play with reflection in mirror
Taste and chew
Drop and bang
Babble, squeal and listen to their own voice
Enjoys: Playing "Peek-a-Boo" 
Pots, pans and lids
Colorful light weight blocks
Stuffed animals
Empty reels, from cellophane or adhesive tape or fishing lines, etc.
Wooden spools
Aluminum pie plates
Juice cans strung together 
Riding horse on someone's knee
Cloth books - Texture books
9 to 12 Months
Learning to: Imitate actions and sounds
Stand with support
Pull self to standing position
Stand alone
walk with support
Manipulate objects
Hold spoon while eating
Feed self with fingers
Likes to: Wave "bye-bye"
Imitate syllables:  "Dada, Mama"
Play "Pat-a-cake", "This Little Pig"
Throw, push, pull, cuddle, tear, pour
Enjoys: Taking off shoes or clothing
Big balls
Push or pull toys
Nests of cans and stacking toys
Stuffed animals and dolls
Paper to crinkle and tear
Wastebasket of discarded letters to empty
Floating bath toys
Interesting textures to grasp or chew (try lying scraps of material to play pen or stroller)
12 to 18 Months
Learning to: Develop a sense of possession
Walk by self
Know what he wants and go after it
Remember an article when it is our ot sight
Crawl up and over things
Follow simple directions
Feed himself with help
Mimic sounds, motions and facial expressions
Climb stairs
Likes to: Look at picture books (say names of objects so he can point or pat picture)
Help turn book pages
Examine and handle objects
Throw things
Enjoys: Filling and emptying boxes of small things
Rummaging through pots and pans
Emptying wastebaskets and bottles
Pushing and pulling wheeled toys especially those that make sounds
Low bench to climb on or over
Sand box, sand toys, digging toys
18 - 24 Months
Learning to: Feed himself passably well 
Run simple errands from room to room
Extend his reach toward desired objects, i.e. by moving chairs, etc.
Look at picture books by himself
Likes to: Crawl up, over and under things
Get encouragement for his activities
Rough and tumble play
Play near other children rather than with them
Hear pattern sounds of rhythm and rhymes
Enjoys: Imitating the games of other older children
Imitating parents activities, i.e. use of telephone
Poems, nursery rhymes, TV commercials, radio or records
Stacking blocks
Sand boxes, and box toys
Peg boards and mallet
Push and pull toys
Water play
Indoor and outdoor swing
2 to 3 Years
Learning to: Know the world around him, smell, taste, feel touch
Developing likes an dislikes
Talk fluently
Start dressing and undressing self, pants, shoes, socks
Likes to: Feel texture - water, dough, clay, fur, hard things, runny things, round things, etc.
Fit boxes or cans or blocks into each other
Use toys which require them to use their whole body
Go for walks or picnics with time to dawdle and explore
Go for trips to zoo, circus, etc.
Climb slide
Enjoys: Large stuffed animals, cushions
Blank paper and large crayons or paint and brush
Large blocks or cartons for imaginative play
Water play, bubble blowing
Sand boxes
Beads and plastic string
Simple 6-8 piece puzzles
3 to 4 Years
Learning to: make choices in small matters
Understand time in relation to today, yesterday, tomorrow, soon, later
Conform and obey to please
Ask "Why"
Control temper and tears
Develop a sense of humor
Likes to: Use tricycles, swings, slides, teeter-totter
Play quiet
Make mud pies, use clay or plasticine, play dough, finger paint, play house, play with dolls in a motherly way
Dance to music
Talk to himself while playing (imitating 2 people)
Play with other children
Enjoys: A tea party, especially if she or he is host
Inflated balls, dolls or bag to punch
Visiting with other people
Dressing up
Simple riddles and guessing games
Blunt scissors and paper
Trains, trucks, boats, planes
Musical instruments
4 to 5 Years
Learning to: Develop real friendships
Boast or brag
Feel independent of his parents
Play better with one child of same sex
begin to realize cause and effect
Follow through a simple piece of logic
Likes to: Dramatize his play (using real experience)
Skip, jump, hop, climb
talk to anybody and anything
Make "jokes" particularly jokes using puns or alliteration
building something in order to see it complete
Enjoys: Swings, slides, tricycles, sleds, wagons, toboggans
Somersaults, simple dance routines and action games
Painting, cutting out, hammering, ball playing, pasting, sorting, matching
Stories, rhymes, may try to make up own
Going on little errands alone
Finger puppets
Small pets, goldfish, turtle, canary
5 to 6 Years
Learning to: Develop more complicated skills
Concentrate on one activity for longer periods of time
Reason and think without interference from imagination
Distinguish between truth and falsehood
Make comparisons, big, bigger, biggest
Remember special events with accuracy
Likes to: Memorize rhymes or songs
Run errands which involve remembering or calculating
Think in abstract ideas
Enjoys: Toys which help him duplicate the work of his mother, father, teacher, milkman, postman, etc.
Simple picture, letter and number games
Puzzles, 8-12 pieces
Live animals, dogs, cats, hamster, canary, fish, turtle, etc.
Swing, climbing bars, rope ladder, gym sets, small sports equipment, rubber horse shoes, bean bags

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