I mentioned previously that if I were to write a book on Things You Didn’t Know About Parenting that book would be called, “Babies: Not the Most Riveting of Company.” Sometimes I needed ideas of games and activities to play with Isobel when I had been home with her all day and was feeling uninspired. I combed through the library and scoured the internet for ideas, and also added things that worked well for us. I gave this list to my Mom who watched Isobel when I went back to work and decided to share it here to help other uninspired parents and to keep it somewhere safe for when I need it next. I’m posting this in four installments.
75. Rags: Without realizing it, I taught Isobel that when you spills something on the ground you go over to our little rag cupboard in the kitchen and use a rag to wipe up the spill. Isobel loves playing with the (clean) rags, folding and unfolding, and shoving in and out of the cupboard.
76. Coloring: Start with crayons as soon as you dare, knowing that they will eventually go in the mouth and on the walls. Get safe, nontoxic, wipable crayons made for this purpose and be vigilant. Chalk is fun from an early age but it’s very messy so make sure your kid’s wearing something you’re not attached to. Lastly, I highly recommend a Magnadoodle. We go ours second hand so it was free. It’s been very useful on car trips and perfect for drawing pictures and asking Isobel, “What’s this?”
77. Renew: Make baby’s toys ‘new’ again by only having a third or so of their toys accessible at one time. After a few weeks, exchange those toys (excepting favorites and comfort items, of course) with toys that haven’t been seen for awhile. Before Isobel was mobile I kept a basket of different toys in almost every room of the house so no matter where I had to go she could have something to play with. Also changing rooms sometimes is enough to entertain a very young baby and keep them stimulated.
78. Loves: Teach your toddler how to hug and love their stuffed animals and dolls by embracing their toy and saying “HUUUG!” and “LOOVE!” in a singsong voice. You will be overwhelmed with cuteness when you see your child imitate you. Isobel’s latest thing is to say, “AWWWW!” when she gives a hug because she’s heard us say it so many times.
79. Flickr account: I love my flickr account and it didn’t take long for me to realize that Isobel is fascinated by it, too. Specifically, she loves looking at my contacts’ photos with me—as long as they feature children, babies or animals, of course. It’s fun to show her the photos and talk about what’s going on in them: who’s in the photo, what they are doing, colors, etc. She is getting very good at remembering and even sometimes saying the names of people or pets in the photos. It’s also a great way to familiarize her with people we don’t get to see often.
80. Scarf: I’m always on the lookout for nice vintage scarves. When Isobel was quite little I used to wave the scarf gently over her head, occasionally brushing her face with it, while making silly noises. It always made her giggle. After I’d let her wave it around in her tiny, grippy baby fist.
81. Play: I encouraged Isobel’s fascination with watching me do, well, everything by giving her a spoon (a real one, like the one mommy uses), a plastic cup and bowl, a toothbrush and a hair brush. She likes to pretend to slurp up soup from her bowl and spoon, drink out of her cup, and brush her hair and teeth like Mama.
82. People watch: Even before your child is old enough to play at the park they will probably still love just going to the park. Isobel’s number one favorite thing to do before she was mobile was to people watch. She loved going anywhere she could look at people, but the park was by far her favorite as children are ten times more fascinating than adults. Even now that she is able to walk around and play at the park she still spends much of her time there watching other children play.
83. Book: Since I’m a librarian we definitely have been trying to encourage a love of reading with Isobel from the get go. I remember the first day we brought her home from the hospital I read “Love You Forever” to her while she nursed and I sobbed crazy hormone tears for thinking that someday she won’t be a baby any more. She was already FOUR DAYS OLD, after all. Around the four to five month mark Isobel became fascinated with books, but the kind she liked were realistic picture books, especially if they had cats, dogs, or people in them. She didn’t care for board books so much (unless she wanted to chew on them) but books with photos were captivating. One of her favorite books featured photos of astronauts in space, but her most beloved book, of course, was nothing but cat photos.
84. Buttons: cause and effect never gets old for babies. If there is a button to push with a visible result your baby will find it and amuse themselves with it for months. My bestie’s baby Kingston loves to sit under the ceiling fan and use the remote to turn the light on and off and to switch the fan to different settings. He’s not verbal yet so he sits there with his head tilted up, giggling with the remote in his hand. It’s fucking adorable. Isobel’s favorite is to turn the TV on and off (usually while Mama’s trying to watch her stories) and then she’ll lift up her hands and say, “UH OH!” She loves to turn the light switch on and off too—it makes her kind of drunk with power but hey, it’s stimulates your kid so it’s worth it!
85. Talk talk: before you donate or responsibly dispose of your old cell phone, give it a new life with your baby. As early as 9 months Isobel was carrying on babbling “conversations” with Anthony’s old Razr. Her first actual phone conversation when something like this:
“Hello? Okay. Bye.”
It’s so funny to hear your child mimic the speech patterns they hear when you’re on the phone.
86. flash cards: I’ve been meaning to make personalized flash cards for Isobel but haven’t gotten around to it yet. I’m thinking of making cards that have different animals, people she knows, shapes, letters, anything really so we can sit together and I can ask her, “Isobel, what’s this?” For every correct answer I plan on tickling her or giving her a raspberry, because she loves this. Even preverbal babies can recognize pictures on the cards and you can have a (one-sided) conversation about them.
87. blanket ‘fort’: I discovered accidentally that even very small children love forts. I bought a large crocheted blanket while thrifted and had just finished hand washing it and wringing it out when I set it on the table to finish air-drying. It was a bedspread large enough for a queen so it covered one whole end of the table and still touched the floor. Isobel immediately grabbed some toys and started playing under it. Even better, the kittens weren’t far behind her.
89. watching interesting weather: to a baby, everything is new. I remember when Isobel was just a little under-3-month-old squirt we had a wind and rainstorm surge through the Valley. The trees were particularly interesting and thrashing about and the water as it poured off the roof made interesting patterns on the windows. Isobel’s buddy Noah, who’s almost a month older than she is, spent an entire afternoon in his bouncy seat, fixedly staring at the storm outside the window with interest.
90. computer: Have you ever noticed how quickly a baby pounding on a keyboard can completely change or settings or turn off your computer? It’s like they are geniuses at ruining things. When Isobel wanted to play at the computer we took her to this site and let her have at it. She ADORED it. Cause and effect, people. It makes babies drunk with power and they love it. For a special treat, my dear friend Stef let Isobel play on her piano keyboard once and she was HOOKED. Great, now we have to try to afford some PIANO LESSONS, STEFANIE. If you have an old laptop you can try to tempt your baby with it, but there’s no comparing it to the Real Thing.
91. fish tank: My FIL has an impressive salt water fish tank and even as a new born Isobel spent lots of time staring into the glass with wonder. Colors! Shapes! Floaty things! Now that she’s older she excitedly waves to the fishies but she’s always been enthralled by it. We don’t have a fish tank at home, but we always be sure to visit the aquarium section of the pet store when we buy cat food, and Grandpa has even taken her on a trip to the specialty aquarium fish store to gawk at their giant tanks.
92. pinwheel/ chimes: in the spring the dollar store and other discount retailers carry such fun things and pinwheels and patio chimes. Our local grocery store had a display all summer and she had to visit them once before we left on each trip. Make sure the pinwheel is safe for your baby to play with (no sharp edges or pokey parts!) unless you’re there to supervise her. Make sure whatever wind chime you select is sturdy enough to handle a kid whapping on it without danger of it shattering.
93. racetrack: we went to a party for Noah’s first birthday and he had a race track set up with a bunch of hot wheels for the cousins to play with. Isobel loved setting a car at the top of the ramp and watching it race down. You don’t even need to buy a fancy race track for this: a couple of cheap hot wheels and a board for a home made ramp and you’re set. If your neighborhood is safe you can race cars down your drive way.
94. containers: In addition to loving any sort of box to play with Isobel also likes to make a game of climbing into and out of things. This requires constant supervision until their strength and balance has developed, but they will love it. Things Isobel likes to climb into include: the pet carriers, her toy box, her giant bucket, the laundry basket, and pretty much any other large container lying about. Daddy likes to put her in the laundry basket or bucket and give her rides through the house. He’s an excellent father.
95. case study: Take old CDs and DVDs that aren’t near and dear to your heart and let your baby open and close the cases. She’ll have fun figuring out how to do this and how to pull the CD/DVD out of the case and try to put it back in. This is great fun, trust me. The reflective surface if the disc and any pictures on the cases add to the fun.
96. Gamblin’ man: give your baby a bucket or other small container filled with different colored poker chips. They make a fun sound when you run your fingers through them and are interesting to feel and play with. Also, they’re not much of a choking hazard, which is always a plus in my book.
97. So touchy: For very little babies who are just discovering they have arms and legs I liked to increase their awareness by gently blowing in their hands and feet as I named them. You can also kiss their feet, their toes, and their fingers, give them raspberries or make other silly noises when you kiss them. Once your baby learns to smile you’ll know how much she appreciates this game.
98. Refresh: When Isobel was a tiny squirtle she loved toys that could hover above her for her to kick and gurlgle at. Every once in a while I’d take random toys and tie them onto the bar and she would be surprised and entertained by the sudden appearance of the new toy.
99. Push: Babies learning to walk independently often go through a pushing stage. They push the laundry basket around, they push their toys around, they push anything around they can. Isobel loved to push a sturdy chair around the kitchen and it was so cute to see her rolling the yoga ball around the living room. She still quite enjoys pushing her own stroller around but now she’s old enough to know you really should fill it with stuffed animals first.
100. I love technology: I wrote a post on baby-friendly iphone apps and Bab Bab Lite in particular has saved us from dramatic meltdowns in the car so often I’m indebted to the iphone creators for life. If you need a quick distraction in the car, the doctor’s office, or long enough to put some laundry in the drier, I can’t recommend it enough. Even the basic youtube app has brought lots of kitten-related giggles to Isobel’s sweet young life.
This is part two in a four-part series Games to Play with Baby. You can find part one here, part II here, and part III here. Please use common sense. Supervise your child with the appropriate amount of supervision for their developmental age and always watch out for choking hazards, falls, suffocation, or any other danger that might befall a helpless baby. Which I’m sure you already do already, you good parent you.