Babies are, undeniably, adorable. On the other hand, they can also be very boring—and you are in charge of virtually all of their entertainment. Fortunately, the world is brand new to them, so the “entertainment” possibilities are all around you. However, you are exhausted and want to create maximum joy with minimal effort. Here’s how to entertain your baby with very little work on your part.
Do not hand your baby a balloon—they will put it in their mouth. However, if you have leftover helium balloons from a party (or are desperate enough to go out and buy a couple), you can loosely tie one or two to your baby’s ankles, as demonstrated in this video, and revel in the joy that is your child bouncing the balloon up and down as they kick their legs. This delightful game helps your baby practice tracking objects and develop their gross motor skills.
When they’re a little older, the go-to game with non-helium balloons is “keepy-uppy,” which is exactly what it sounds like. Use one balloon or many, but tell them they must not let it touch the ground. Or, just blow up a bunch of balloons, turn on some music, and have a little party for absolutely no reason.
Put it in, take it out
The “pincer grasp” is one of the most important developmental milestones—but helping them develop this fine motor skill is challenging when you don’t want your baby to put everything in their mouth. The amount of concentration it takes for your six- to 12-month-old to master this skill is likely to keep them entertained for longer than the average plastic toy, though.
For babies who are old enough for solids, you can encourage them to try putting small, age-appropriate foods like soft fruits or Cheerios into bowls, Tupperware containers, muffin tins, or empty egg cartons (and then taking them back out). If you’re watching closely or don’t have a particularly mouthy kid, you can also do this with pom-poms—you could even set up this simple pom-pom drop activity with a toilet paper tube and some tape to keep them riveted for many minutes.
For babies who aren’t patient enough for the pincer or who like the element of surprise, fill an empty tissue box with scarves, small toys, or blocks and let your baby take them out one by one. Then encourage them to put the objects back in. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
Go for the garbage
My friends lovingly referred to their first born as a “garbage baby” because, in a house full of toys gifted by doting grandparents and friends, he would regularly crawl to the recycling bin and play with empty boxes and milk cartons. Lean into this free activity.
Step one: Put your kid in a box. Step two: Give your kid some crayons, markers, stickers, etc. Step three: Let your kid decorate all over the inside of the box and themselves. If your baby isn’t quite old enough for reclaimed art, clean out some yogurt containers, milk jugs, or other recyclables and let them play with the containers in the bathtub, or outside in the yard on a nice day.
Make a mess
Messy sensory play is annoying—but it’s really good for sensory integration, and babies and toddlers love it. If you can minimize the clean-up, it is one of the easiest ways to entertain your baby.
Put some food dye in yogurt and smear it on their high-chair tray table. Strip them down to their diaper and let them paint themselves and the table. Or use kid-safe finger paint and make a masterpiece on some big, rolled-out paper.
If they’re not going to eat it, let them play with allergy-safe shaving cream in an empty bathtub. It’s fun to squish between their hands, and it washes right off. Or invest in some bath paints and crayons that will rinse off the tub and tile. Make mud pies on a hot day, and then crawl through the sprinklers before bath time.
We had childless friends over and were eating dinner in the yard recently when we realized our friend was casually throwing a ball for our crawler, who was dutifully bringing it back each time. They were playing fetch. We all got to eat a meal without interruption; the friend only had to take quick one-arm breaks to congratulate the child on bringing the ball back and throw it again, and the child was thrilled. We later did an indoor round inside in our hallway. My child laughed so hard he threw up.
One of the best parts about entertaining a baby is the chance to be entertained yourself.
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