Magical playtime tips for babies

May 1, 2012 at 5:50 a.m. ET

Make playtime magical for your baby by choosing the right toys and games. Follow these tips and tricks to enjoy fun (and educational) play with your little one.

baby playing on mat

Magic with mirrors

Babies love faces -- and with mirrors they get to see their own. Mirrors are magical to little ones as they aren't sure who that baby in the reflection is at first. Incorporate a mirror into your baby's playtime. Sit on the floor with your baby on your lap as he or she gazes into a mirror on the wall. Introduce your baby to his or her face and body as you touch and name the parts from head to toe. Though he or she can't speak yet, this is the very beginning of your little one's learning how to name facial features and body parts. You can also use a mirror during tummy time to encourage your baby to lift and turn his or her head and mount an unbreakable mirror on her crib for entertainment.

Read these top tummy time tips >>

Peek-a-boo and other baby games

Peek-a-boo and other baby games can teach your child about the "magic" of object permanency. In addition to traditional peek-a-boo, you can play games where you get down on the floor with your baby and hide toys and other objects under a blanket. This is a fun game for babies and their faces really light up when they realize where the toy is.

Make books come alive

You can encourage a love for reading from a very young age. Read to your baby from the time he or she is born and allow your little one to explore cloth and board books on his or her own. Make the characters in your favorite storybooks come alive by supplementing playtime with stuffed animals, other toys and songs that depict that characters featured in your baby's favorite books.

Find out why you should read to your baby >>

Offer a variety of toys

You don't need to invest in elaborate or expensive toys for your baby, but you should offer a variety of toys that encourage exploration and imagination. For infants, of course rattles and teethers are must-haves. Also, include the aforementioned books along with dolls and plush toys that encourage imaginary play and teach your baby about different textures. Basic puzzles are also great for learning about textures, as well as for problem solving, patience and fine motor skills. Blocks are also essential for motor planning. Babies love tunnels -- which you can make out of empty cardboard boxes or pillows. Plus as we all know, babies and toddlers all love any colorful toy that moves, talks, squeezes or plays music.

Keep in mind

The most important thing that your baby needs during play is you. Playtime isn't just for learning and fun, it's also a magical time to bond with your little one.

More about playtime

Signs your baby is ready to play
Play developmental games with your baby
The importance of play