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How to Play with a Baby: Milestones & Activities for 3-6 Month Old Babies

Check out these fun and easy to implement activities for 3-6-month-old babies, which are great for development, bonding, and filling awake time with fun!

Are you starting at your little bundle of joy daily and wondering what to do with them all day? Or maybe you tried out some of our favorite activities to do with a newborn but now need something for the next step? You’re not alone! 

Even at that young of an age, you can still have daily activities where you’re interacting and playing with them and even start engaging in reciprocal (back and forth) play. I swear, it’s true!

This post will show you some awesome activity ideas that are perfect for infants starting around the 3 month old mark.

mother playing with 6 month old baby

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As both a parent and someone who studied development and gross motor milestones in grad school, I can attest to the fact that babies were born ready to play. While it might take them a short amount of time to realize that they can actually use their hands for something else rather than sucking on, they’re going to be ready to play and interact in no time at all. 

And when your child is showing that they’re ready to be engaged and active, that’s your cue as a parent to spend your time developing some of their fine motor skills.

Get ready mom and dad, you’re able to have a lot of fun seeing those smiles and hearing those giggle! Here’s an overview of the major developmental milestones and how to both take advantage of these new found skills during play, and how to help encourage development with activities.

How to play with a 3-6 month old baby 

Even though your baby is only 90 days old (sounds like such a short amount of time, right?!), chances are they’re ready to do way more than you think that they’re capable of.

Now, this doesn’t mean that you don’t need to continue being gentle and careful with them as they are still growing and developing, but during this time their mind is also growing and is thirsty for more.

If you’re ready to learn about all the ways that you can easily play and interact with a 3-6 month old baby, it’s important to also answer a few of these simple questions as well. 

Baby sits on bed propped up by pillows.
Photo by Mary Ware

What do 3-month old babies play with?

You! They play with you!

While you can have some rattles and fancy toys if you really need to, they’re going to be engaged and active with anything that you do.

Snapping your fingers, tapping your foot, clapping your hands or singing a silly song will have their eyes locked in on you and wanting more.

The more that you keep performing these actions, you’ll start to see them trying to copy you as well. Not only are you being active and playing with them but you’re also teaching them through stimulation of their surroundings and sounds. 

Toys, items with textures, and things that make sounds are also great for exploring play with a infant. We will get more into ways to do that down below, as well as some suggestions for the best toys and activities.

How can I stimulate my baby’s brain development? 

Even though it might sound difficult, it’s really not.

At 3-6 months old, your baby is really starting to be like a sponge. Not only is their personality growing everyday, but so is their brain.

They’re going to be watching and listening to everything going on, and all of that influences their development.

Take this time to engage with them, read to them, hold them close, and give them love…all of these simple factors are easy and quick ways that you can boost your babies brain development. Check out this post for one of things you MUST do to aid in development in addition to play!

Playing music, exposing your baby to different textures and environments, and communicating with them all offer amazing developmental benefits. 

3-6 Month Old Milestones

Somewhere around the 3 month mark you will start to notice your baby doesn’t seem like a newborn anymore. It is both a sad thing (newborns are so small and adorable) and awesome, because personalities really start to shine through and they become more active and able to interact with you on an entirely new level. 

Now that your baby is a little bit more strong and engaged, you’ll start to notice regular developmental milestones happening throughout the day. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics beginning around 3 months of age babies will start to:

  • Using their eyes to track you as you walk across the room
  • Holding their heads up and steady for longer periods of time, including while laying on their tummy and pushing themselves up with their arms while lying down (making tummy time lots more fun!)
  • Smiling and laughing more often
  • Recognizing their hands and reaching for more objects (and starting to mouth both)
  • Babble and begin to imitate sounds
  • Become more social and imitate others
  • Kick both legs and objects with feet

As they continue to develop babies in the 3 to 6-month range will also likely:

  • Roll from front to back and back to front
  • Sit up with assistance/support and may begin to even sit independently for short periods of time
  • Discover body parts like feet and toes, and bring them to his/her mouth, or touch different parts of the body with a look of amazement

These are just a few of the major movement milestones that they’re going to have during this age range. There are so many more cognitive and social milestones as well!

Easy Activities to Play with Your Infant

Baby holds Sesame Street fabric baby book.
Photo by Mary Ware

These activities are all age-appropriate and can be done easily. Most don’t need anything extra except you! While infant toys are very helpful for entertaining and promoting development, there are lots of simple ways to bring learning to every day, such as these tips for doing Montessori at home for infants. 

Try out new Tummy Time activities

As babies begin to develop strength in their necks, back, and stomach, they are able to lift their head higher while on their tummy. Then they will begin pushing up with their arms and being able to use their arms while supported in a prone (lying) position.

This is the perfect time to introduce new items to play with during tummy time (especially before they start crawling around and moving themselves out of tummy time).

  • Sensory Trays with ice and/or water makes for a fun (albeit wet) time splashing, which also helps them forget they are getting a full-body workout at the same time (I think we all need a little distraction when exercising). Water-filled or musical mats are also very good for keeping their attention. 
  • Try placing colorful or interesting objects in front of your child during tummy time, and move the object as well. This is good for visual tracking, as well as encouraging then to look different directions and to turn their head while in the front down position (you can also do this while they are laying on their back for further play and development opportunity). 
  • If you haven’t already, bring out a yoga/exercise ball and lay your baby across the top. Holding onto them, gently rock the ball back and forth for a new tummy time experience. 
  • Place toys slightly out of reach to encourage your baby to stretch and reach for objects, and ensure that everything is baby-friendly as their new skill of bringing their hands to their mouths mean everything could end up in there!

Read and act out books

Now is the time to break out the books and read, read, read. Even more than that, have fun while reading.

  • Get up and move about and change your voices for the parts. You’ll find that your baby pays very close attention to all the little details that you’re doing. Both the pictures and your actions will get some well-earned giggles out of her!
  • Bring out books with textures and that crinkle and guide your baby’s hands over the different elements. Describe what is happening on each page and talk about different things you see, in addition to any words that may be on the page. The Baby Touch and Feel series books are some of our favorites and there is a board book for every interest and topic!

Related: Be sure to check out this post on why reading is vital to an infant’s development.

Put those Fancy Feet to Work

Now that they have discovered their feet, show them how to use and have fun with them! While the thought of walking or running isn’t anywhere on their radar (or yours!), it’s fun to introduce them to a new part of their body that they are just learning about.

  • Grab their feet and tickle them or tap their toes to the beat.
  • Hold them barefoot over different surfaces, including hardwood, carpet, grass, and sand, and watch as they begin to push back against the firm surface and bear some weight on their legs.

Kicking Development

  • Place different materials at their feet while they are lying on their front or back for them to try to kick
  • Tie helium balloons to their ankles and watch them squeal with delight as the balloon bounce and bob around when the kick.
  • Put foot and wrist rattles on to provide immediate sensory feedback and exciting visual appeal for your baby. Lay them on their back and watch them delight in seeing the high contrast designs and hear the rattle as they move their arms and legs. We had these for Ensley and she loved them!

Get them Giggling & Share the Noise

The very best thing to hear is the sounds of baby giggles, and that’s one of the best developmental milestones of this age! The time for being quiet is gone and giving your baby even slightly noisy toys at this age is an awesome way to play with them. The sounds will teach them listening skills and they’ll be able to understand how certain noises belong to certain toys.

  • Try out different rattles and balls that make noise (we absolutely love the Winkel Rattle & Sensory Teether Toy from Manhattan Toys for this age as it is so easy to grasp and bring to their mouths to explore).
  • Blow Raspberries on their feet and bellies, the combination of noise and feeling is enough to make them burst into giggles every time!
  • Demonstrate toys that make sounds, or slightly hide these toys under a blanket for your baby to easily find when they hear it. This is great for doing while you have them in a supported seated position as they are going to use their arms to reach forward and hold themselves up, and reaching out will help develop core and upper body strength.

Go outside and swing

This might happen later on in the 3-6 month age range of your child, but if they are holding up their heads and showing strength, putting them carefully into a baby swing and letting them swing for a short amount of time is so much fun (and I think that they’re going to agree with me as well!)

Talk to your baby about anything and everything

Yes, talking to them is actually an activity! During this age, it’s important to fill their minds with words so that they’ll start to process and understand. Even if you don’t have anything interesting to say, tell it to your baby!

Talk about your day, your work, what you’re going to make for dinner…all of it. You’ll notice that the sound of your voice is very soothing to them and they’ll also understand words more quickly as they age. 

Simple engagement isn’t bad engagement and shouldn’t be viewed that way. Since your baby is still so very young, you don’t need to go overboard on having the “latest and greatest” gadgets. Keeping it simple during this time and using your bond as an activity is a perfectly acceptable way to interact. 

The bottom line is really to understand that as long as you’re engaging with them in some way, you’re going to be providing them the opportunity to grow.

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Happy baby playing on mom with text how to play towards milestones with your 3-6 month old

Do you have any other activities that you liked to play with your 3-6 month old baby? 

baby playing with toy hanging above it with text the best developmental activities for babies 3-6 months
Check out these other helpful posts:

baby smiling while laying on a play mat with text 10 easy activities to play with a newborn
Mom reading a book to a baby with text one thing you must do to promote brain development in infants
Pinnable image of postpartum essentials for new moms.

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