Tag Archives: play


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The motor skill of nesting or stacking objects, such as cups, can be developed through baby play with simple household objects as well as baby toys. Nesting refers to objects that fit one inside of the other.  For example, measuring cups in your kitchen are nested on inside of the other so they fit tightly in one stack.  However, they have to be placed in the stack in an orderly manner from the smallest size on top to the largest size on the bottom.  Play with a stack of cups may be easier for a baby because they can be stacked without the additional skill of determining the order by the object size.  Although the skill of nesting objects usually emerges after babies turn one year old and are technically “toddlers,” they will enjoy the “unstacking” part of the skill before they reach their first birthday.  Try adding some stacking bath toys to bath time. The skill of nesting demands coordination as they use one hand to hold one object steady while the other hand places another object on top of or inside of the object they are holding.


Babies can play for long periods of time with kitchen items.  A set of nested measuring cups (with the connecting ring removed for safety) or a set of nested mixing bowls are great for baby play.  In the above video from MaryAnn MamaSmilesblog’s youtube channel, a baby explores how many plastic cups could fit tightly together, one inside of the next.  She also discovers how many pieces (cups) are in the stack of cups by separating each cup out of the stack or nest.  At the end of the video she picks up the entire stack as one piece.  Through her play she has explored how one “object” can become many separate pieces.  She also explores how the relationship between these pieces changes.  This stack of plastic cups is an inexpensive toy that provides excellent play and exploration.  Always supervise baby play because plastic cups can break, exposing sharp corners.


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As babies become more skilled with their movements, we can begin to teach them concepts regarding spatial orientation.  These concepts are more easily learned when taught in context with their opposites.  For example, it is easier to grasp the meaning of “up” when it is learned with “down,” or “inside” when learned with “outside,” and “hot” when learned with “cold.”  When the differences between two words (what they represent) is enormous, it is easier to understand.  The nursery rhyme “Roly Poly” is a classic song for teaching babies and toddlers the concepts of a few “opposites.”


“Roly Poly” is also an excellent song for speech development in babies because most of the words repeat in patterns of three, making it easier for baby to try and grasp the pronunciation.  These words are short, “Up,” “Down,” “In,” “Out,” and “Clap.”   Watch the above video from Mother Goose Club’s youtube channel.  The young girl demonstrates arm movements along with the rhyme, and you can try these movements with baby’s arms.  You may want to avoid trying to put her hands behind her back, though.  She also demonstrates very clear articulation of the words by exaggerating them with her mouth and lips.  This helps baby learn how to speak.  Try exaggerating the movements of your mouth as you speak the rhyme with baby.  Your face will be close to hers as you move her arms, so she can see how you are creating these interesting sounds.


Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Up, Up, Up

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Down, Down, Down

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

In, In, In

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Out, Out, Out

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Clap, Clap, Clap

Roly Poly, Roly Poly

Hands Behind Your Back.


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Baby songs often involve hand gestures, which babies love!  The song “Wind The Bobbin Up” is a fantastic rhyme to sing to baby while teaching her to bring her hands in front of her.  If your baby makes the airplane movement in tummy time (where she puts her arms straight out to the side and lifts them off of the ground), try this game with her.  You might try playing this game with baby when she is in the high chair.  The first few lines of the song are the most important, so you can want to just focus on those lines to begin.  The above video from Daviddesu’s youtube channel shows the hand and arm movements very clearly.  As baby plays with her hands and arms in front of her she will find it easier to bring them in front of her when she is in tummy time.  The pattern of bringing the hands toward each other will be more familiar to her as she plays this game.  For older babies and toddlers, this is a great rhyme for them to learn to do some of the gestures on their own as they join in to the song.  They can follow your lead.


According to wikipedia, this rhyme can be traced back to the 1890′s in Yorkshire.  Here are the lyrics for you to learn:

Wind the bobbin up, Wind the bobbin up,

Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap.

Wind it back again, Wind it back again,

Pull, pull, clap, clap, clap.

Point to the ceiling, Point to the floor,

Point to the window, Point to the door.

Clap your hands together, 1, 2, 3,

Do a roly-poly, put your hands upon your knee.


My baby is now six months old and has really got the hang of rolling from back to belly.  She does it a lot.  Once she is on her belly she has a tendency to go into airplane mode (legs in the air, arms out to the sides slightly behind her) and can get very frustrated.  She knows how to roll back, she just doesn’t want to, and resists my attempts to help her.  If she whinges (cries) a lot I pick her up, but she often reaches to go straight back down again, so he’s obviously trying to do something with it.  I think she’s trying to move forwards, but doesn’t know how to get going.  -From a mother in Scotland


In the airplane movement baby lifts both arms and legs off of the ground at the same time, with the arms straight out to the side.  This happens when baby is in tummy time.  To teach baby to keep her hands on the floor, and even learn to push up with them, you can try a few exercise with her.  Start with her on her back and try bending and extending one arm several times. Move her hand toward the ceiling to extend (straighten) it and bend the arm by bringing the elbow down toward the floor.  As you extend her hand toward the ceiling, gradually move her hand so it is more over the middle of her body (her breast bone).  She is familiar with the pattern of reaching her arms straight out to the sides as she does in the airplane action on her stomach.  This exercise is giving her the experience of moving her arms more toward her center, a less familiar place.  As she gets familiar with this place in space it will be easier for her to find it when she is on her stomach.


Try put her in tummy time and give her a toy that she will want to explore with both hands.  This will bring both hands more toward the midline as keep them there for awhile as she plays with the toy.  When she does have her hands on the floor you can lightly brush the tops of her hands with your fingers and gently press the palm of her hand down to cue her to push that part of her hand into the floor.  This is “grounding the airplane,” helping baby connect to the floor.  Baby will learn that the floor is helpful for her, for example, the more she leans on it the higher she can lift her head.


How do we ground the legs?  When she is on her back try brushing the legs with your fingers from the top of the hip to the tips of her toes.  Make long brushing strokes with your fingers so she develops clear proprioception of the legs.  When she is on her tummy repeat this brushing of the legs so she becomes aware that she is lifting them off of the ground.  Then gently press her pelvis down into the floor so she feels the contact there.  Then try gently moving one leg further away from the floor a few times to go with the pattern she is activating.   Then bring her thigh a little closer to the floor and gently press it into the floor so she has the sensation of it leaning on the floor.  Repeat this a few times.  You are giving her the experience of feeling what it feels like to move the leg further away from the floor and to lean on the floor.  Her system will soon choose the more efficient pattern, which is leaning on the floor.


Take a moment and ask yourself if you occasionally hold baby up toward the sky like and airplane.  If so, observe how her arms go straight out to the sides and her legs go up.  This activity can trigger the startle reflex.  She may be learning this airplane pattern in this activity.  Take a break from this activity for awhile and try some other developmental games suggested in this post.



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Motor boating, also known as blowing raspberries, is a very playful and developmental activity for babies.  The funny sound intrigues their curiosity and they are inclined to try and imitate you.  Motor boating gives a strong sensation to their lips, enhancing  awareness and facilitating speech development.  For speech development, babies benefit from activities which increase their ability to move their lips and tongue.  You can help baby learn to create this sound by repeating it a few times with your face close enough to baby’s so she can clearly see how you are moving your lips to make the sound.  Do not be surprised if she wants to reach out and touch your lips as you make that sound.  Let her feel what you are doing.  You can also make the sound on the back of her hand to give her yet another sensation of the sound and movement.

Watch the baby in the above video from Jen McBrayer’s youtube channel.  She makes a very clear motor boating sound and confidently can repeat it over and over again  This shows that she has developed the skill very well.  In our Stellar Caterpillar classes we guide babies through motor skill development so they develop their skills in such a way that they can repeat them confidently and whenever they desire.  This is different from a skill that happens occasionally or is just half-way developed.  As your baby begins to make the motor boating sound, repeat it back to her.  This is called mirroring.  As you mirror what she does it helps her to be clearer herself about what she is doing.  Babies learn this skill at various ages.  Some babies learn to motor boat quite young and others learn it a bit older.  What is common is that they really enjoy it once they learn it!

The mother in the above video is also demonstrating a method of feeding baby so she does not throw food on the floor.  She puts just enough in front of her for one bite.  After she eats that bite her mother puts another bite in front of her.  They continue this pattern of eating until baby is finished eating.  Baby continues entertaining herself by motor boating in between bites.


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One of our favorite songs for babies is “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes.”  This is a fun song to introduce to babies around the age of 10 months or older.  Toddlers enjoy this song as well.  Babies learn the names of these body parts as you sing the song and gently place your hands on baby as you sing.  Watch the above video from Muffin Song’s youtube channel.  It is an easy song to learn because the lyrics are very simple, just the names of the body parts:

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Knees and Toes

Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes

Knees and Toes

Eyes and Ears and Mouth and Nose,

Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes

Knees and Toes !


Sing this song for a fun developmental activity for baby.  Touch their hair with both palms of your hands as you sing “Head,” touch both of their shoulders as you sing “Shoulders,” squeeze both of their knees as you sing ‘Knees,” and tickle their toes as you sing “Toes.”  Take the tips of your fingers and touch near their eyebrows as you sing “Eyes,” touch their ears on the word “Ears,” take one finger and touch the lips on “Mouth,” and then touch the nose on “Nose.”  When you touch a part of their body at the same time that you sing the name of it, they pay attention to the place and learn the word associated with the body part.


Once baby is familiar with the song, introduce some variations to continue to engage baby’s curiosity and provide learning opportunities.  One way to change the song a bit is to vary the tempo, or speed.  At first, sing the song fairly slowly so they can follow what you are doing.  Eventually play with the tempo because they will enjoy the song at a fast tempo as well.  Next, after more practice, take a doll and place it in front of baby and place baby’s hands on the doll’s “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes,” as you sing.  This reinforces the learning of the body parts.  Each small change you make in how you play with the song will engage baby’s attention more deeply and facilitate the learning.  Songs also help cheer up baby when she is not feeling well.  Recently one of our stellar caterpillars was not feeling well due to a virus.  Her mother told me that the only thing that seemed to help during that week was “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.”