Playtime is serious business when you’re a baby. But how can you maximize the benefit your child gets from the games they play? We’re glad you asked.
What follows is a list of baby games we’ve searched far and wide to find. And while we say “baby,” we’re not just including games for infants. These games are good for people of any age, whether they are pre-school children learning concepts for the first time or parents reminding themselves of concepts they’ve long forgotten.
Read on to rediscover your sense of play while passing it on to your children.
The Baby Games Bible: Analog and Digital Games Your Child Will Love
We’ve got some unique interactive online games mixed in with the classics you know and love. From games that are pure fun to educational games and games that exercise problem-solving skills, we’re certain this list is full of activities your child will enjoy.
1. Obstacle Course
It’s hard to get more DIY than this.
Set up an obstacle course for your kid to follow. You can do this outside in the yard or right in the comfort of your living room.
Kids love how active this game gets, so the more objects you can set up strategically, the better. Set up your course in a way that encourages them to find different movements to navigate it. Rather than simply running, they may have to roll, jump, or waddle.
This is a great way to teach balance and coordination, and you can refine their gross motor skills as well.
2. Odd One Out
We’re sticking with the manual theme to start. And as you’ll see with many of our IRL suggestions, this game accommodates infinite variations. It’s up to you how creative it gets!
To play odd one out, place a series of objects in front of your child. All of them but one should be nearly identical. The one that isn’t is the odd one out.
So if you’re using purple potatoes, the odd one out could be a giant sweet potato.
You can make the game more sophisticated by choosing objects with slight variations or make the odd one out closer to the “identical” objects while still clearly delineated as different. Cards with shapes can have this same effect.
While it’s a game of pattern recognition, you may be surprised to find how long it can entertain your young children.
When it comes to games for kids, we’d be remiss not to mention the plethora of options that exist online.
Learning the alphabet is typically covered in preschool, but you can give your child a head start with this unique approach to learning letters.
Everyone loves whack-a-mole, and while this doesn’t offer the same satisfaction as hitting solid plastic moles with a soft mallet, we think your kids will still enjoy it. And they’ll be building their literacy skills simultaneously.
There are a couple of paired games on our list, and this is the first pair. There are just some skills that are essential for children to learn, and when there are multiple great ways to learn those skills, it’s hard for us to pick just one game.
This pair tackles the topic of food. There’s plenty of pattern recognition covered in these games, but their real genius is in guiding children to make healthy eating choices now and in the future.
Since nutrition plays as big a part in learning as play, we appreciate the efforts these games make to instilling these important decision-making skills early.
What toddler doesn’t love animals?
This delightful little online game will give an organized approach to teaching your children to recognize and differentiate the different creatures that inhabit our planet. It’s the next best thing to taking your kid on safari.
7. The Hokey Pokey
Did you know there’s a variation of this classic called “Hokey Cokey”?
Whatever you call it, this fun and instructional dance are here to stay. Not only do you get the benefit of subtle musical instruction by playing the hokey pokey with your kids, but you also get to teach them basic anatomy.
Giving a child agency over their body by learning its parts will help them not just in how they identify the world visually. It will help them differentiate between parts of a whole and build their self-esteem as well.
These are skills we could all do with a little brushing up on.
8. Simon Says
We find that Simon Says can be quite divisive. It makes some children competitive and brings out the perfectionist in others. That said, we love it for its flexibility since you can play this game with one child or a group.
In addition to learning how to following instructions and teaching listening skills, this is another great game to teach children the parts of their bodies. You can also add some motor skills and physical learning by adding fun and taxing commands like “dance a silly dance” or “do 20 jumping jacks.”
9. Dolphin Training
Unless you’ve spent time in an improv or acting class, we’ll venture to guess you haven’t heard of this game before.
No matter. It’s a variation on “hot and cold” that synthesizes some of the skills your children learn in the hokey pokey and Simon Says. Consider this graduate school for those two games.
Here’s how it works. You decide on a simple motion you want your child to perform, like touching their nose. Then you have them stand in front of you, like the titular dolphin, and they perform physical tasks. As they do, you give them hints by saying “hot” or “cold.”
In our example, your child touching their ear may be hot, while spinning in a circle would definitely be cold.
You continue guiding with your temperature-based hints until your child correctly performs the action. Then you start over. For extra fun, you can switch and have them choose an action to guide you in performing.
It’s no surprise that kids love playing the dolphin, and this game has surprising longevity.
10. Let’s Play Piano
Your musically inclined child will flip for this game.
You can scale it for the level your kid is at, whether they want to learn the actual notes in a scale and where you play them on a keyboard or if they simply want to bang around.
As long as you can handle the noise, your child will appreciate the chance to learn with their ears. Hearing is a sense we sometimes overlook in the learning process.
These two games combine the learning of the alphabet with shape and color recognition.
We’d say it’s learning two skills at once, but it’s really two topics. The skills are more plentiful than that since you have organizational skills, verbal skills, and visual skills swirling around in the mix as well.
13. Jigsaw Puzzles
Few things beat a good puzzle. One of the best things about playing with puzzles is that the learning is nearly infinitely scalable. If one puzzle is too easy or hard, you can go up or down on the degree of difficulty.
Puzzles teach a combination of skills as well. They learn the physical skills of putting the puzzle together, the cognitive skill of solving it, and the ever-important emotional skill when their patience is tested. It can also help with memory and teach your child about the subject of the puzzle in the picture.
If we had to pick a pinnacle of learning games for toddlers, it would be puzzles.
14. I Spy
Here we’ve got more patience, plus pattern recognition and investigative skills. As many of us know, I Spy is especially good on long car rides, when your child’s field of vision is the primary tool they have to play with.
15. LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary
Of course, there are usually screens on long car rides as well. And we want to guide you in a positive direction when it comes to maximizing your child’s screen time, so we’ve selected a specific app that teaches reading to kids of all ages.
Hosting by LeVar Burton of “Reading Rainbow,” Skybrary brings reading to children in the form of recommendations based on their age and interest. Kids can interact with animations and choose the “Read to Me” or “Read by Myself” option for each book in their library.
LeVar Burton Kids Skybrary is available in the iTunes app store, and while a full subscription offers an ad-free environment, there are in-app purchases available to enhance your child’s reading experience.
It seems the alphabet is a great fit for combination learning. This online game that pairs animals to letter is a great example.
For our last entry, we return to the classics. Hide-and-seek isn’t just fun. It’s a way for your child to explore, to name objects, and to master that patience again.
Go Forth and Play
We hope you’ve added more than a few activities to your repertoire of baby games after reading this guide. There are great options for everyone, no matter your age or preference for URL or IRL learning.