Infants and toddlers experience significant developmental changes during the first years of life. Though they grow quickly, little ones need playtime activities appropriate for their age in order to learn from their environment. Parents can engage their small children in simple activities to develop language, social and cognitive skills.
Birth to 6 Months
Infants from birth to 6 months grow quickly, and parents can almost immediately start them on the path to healthy development. Newborns cry to communicate a need while infants at 6 months begin to imitate language. Parents can repeat the cooing sounds their baby makes to establish communication skills, according to Parents. They can help their babies understand cause and effect by placing their baby on his back within kicking distance of a rattle or shaker. Babies enjoy the sound that the rattle makes when their feet make contact with it. To develop strength and flexibility, babies from birth to 6 months should engage in parent-supervised tummy time.
6 Months to 1 Year
Children from 6 months to 1 year begin to crawl, cruise and walk. These little movers begin to develop a sense of self-awareness and may enjoy looking at their reflection in a mirror while their parents name facial features, according to Zero to Three. Infants of this age love to play peekaboo and hide-and-seek with their parents and may enjoy dumping objects onto the floor. Children approaching 1 can follow simple directions, such as "wave bye-bye." They enjoy the sounds made by musical instruments and their motor development will enable them to hold rattles or mallets for a drum or xylophone. Babies in this age group also enjoy dancing to music.
12 Months to 18 Months
As language continues to develop, young children become more interested in books. Though reading is appropriate for babies of any age, children from 12 to 18 months can engage in story time and point to objects on the book's page, according to Parents. For a baby who can stand and walk, parents can place favorite objects or toys on chairs or low tables so that she can practice reaching and balancing while standing. Children at this age love to sort objects and take things apart and will enjoy nesting and stacking blocks of different colors.
18 Months to 3 Years
From 18 months to 3 years, children are capable of greater physical feats than before. Rolling a ball can develop counting skills as well as gross motor skills. Jumping and kicking a ball are other ways to strengthen a child's gross motor skills. Building a tower with colored blocks and striking a peg board with a toy hammer encourage little ones to develop eye-hand coordination and improve their grasping skills. They love to drop items on the floor while strengthening their grip, and parents can play along by picking the objects up and handing them back to the toddler. Easy puzzles can help toddlers learn about colors. Children this age are capable of engaging in pretend play, which can provide little ones some stress relief when coping with an unfamiliar circumstance. Older toddlers can use safety scissors and get dressed, manipulating buttons and zippers, to strengthen their fine motor abilities. Sand and water play help toddlers explore the limits of their world and crayons and modeling clay can encourage creativity, according to Zero to Three.