Infant Play Skills with play and interaction

August 20, 2017

If you are an expectant and new parent play skills is one of the first developments to start early.  Play skills follow a developmental scale, much like walking and talking. It might be hard to believe but just as babies are taking so much in from the minute they are born, they are also individuals who naturally want to engage in play. Play combines a variety of skill sets: physical, socio-emotional, problem solving, interpersonal, as well as developing curiosity + turn taking.

Here are a few tips on infant play and interactions:

Tummy Time

Tummy time is when an awake/alert baby is placed on their stomach to develop their neck, trunk, shoulder and eye muscle strength.  It leads to interacting, rolling, crawling and later playing. It is an integral part of overall physical development.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, babies can begin with VERY brief intervals of tummy time on the day they return home. Technically, this is your baby’s first workout!


  • Initially lay your baby across your lap for a few minutes 2 – 3 times/day
  • Once your baby is a few months old, place a blanket on a solid floor for ongoing tummy time. Babies 3 to 4 months old can spend up to 20 minutes per day on their stomachs (break this up throughout the day)
  • Remember this may be challenging for infants initially. Do not give up when they cry or fuss; keep at it briefly each day
  • Place interesting toys around your baby to look at/reach for when they can sustain being on their stomachs for longer intervals
  • As always, if you are unsure or concerned about tummy time, speak to your pediatrician at your wellness visits.

Try this mirror and activity set. 

Physical development and turn taking

Around 4 to 6 months, babies usually begin reaching out and holding items. Around 8 to 9 months, they are a bit more coordinated and may begin sitting upright. It is often a time of great physical growth. Encourage your child’s seated posture (supported or unsupported) and add a simple turn taking routine. Start with a game of peek a boo or step it up and try this noisy toy


  • Use the rain stick to encourage use of grasping with both hands. Hold the toy right in the middle, just in front of your baby then wait. Give them time to reach forward and hang on.
  • Build a routine with the rain stick: sing a song and tap out the same beat with the stick.  Songs such as twinkle-twinkle or row your boat, where you and your child tap or shake out the twinkle-twinkle or row-row-row parts together would be a great start.
  • Let your child explore the toy and problem solve: taste, shake, bang, tap or look at the rain stick. All of these actions plus the time allowed for your baby to be curious + seek out information are key to developing play skills.

Body awareness and social skills

Try to read books with your children daily. Much like flossing for adults, this does not happen as prescribed.  Build a reading routine to encourage a variety of skills: from literacy awareness to social interactions.

Did you know that newborns could see about 8 to 12 inches in front of them?  And newborns can imitate facial expressions from as early as 36 hours old?  Around 7 to 10 months, full color vision develops + distance vision matures.  Use those developing eyes and take a peek at these books. 

Black & White by Tana Hoban

Baby Faces

This book encourages noticing facial expressions in others and imitating skills as well.


 Ÿ Present the black and white books to younger babies (0 – 6 months), as their color vision has not fully developed.

            Ÿ  Be sure to hold the books about 8 – 12 inches away from the baby’s face

ŸWith facial expressions begin with smiling and showing a happy face. Try other expressions such as surprised or sad. Then see if your baby can stick out their tongue in response to yours. The focus here is on imitation and social awareness. Try to pause and give your baby plenty of time when waiting for them to imitate.

ŸAlso keep in mind the baby’s state: if they are tired, hungry or irritated in any way, help the baby get balanced and present the book at a calmer time (or the next day even).

Hope this post helped you become more informed about your infant’s growth. Here’s to many playful moments together.


Vanessa D’Auria is a licensed speech-language pathologist providing home-based services in Brooklyn, Queens and Manhattan. For more information about Vanessa, visit or to ask speech/language questions, email directly at