Book Review: Baby Play and Learn: Games and Learning Activities

Baby Play & Lean by Penny Warner offers 160 homebrew games for your child from birth to 3-years-old.

Cover of the book Baby Play and Learn
Activities are organized by developmental stage,  presented one to a page, in an easy template format that is much like using a recipe book: introduction, materials list, instructions, variations for the activity and safety concerns. The learning skills involved are also listed, such as fine motor development, problem solving, or cause and effect.

With a few exceptions, each activity requires common household items or items likely to be in a home that has a young child.

Twenty games are listed for each age range. Here are a few examples:

  • Birth to 3 months: Exploration in front of a mirror (recognition of self image, learning body parts, etc.)
  • 3 to 6 months: Parent puts on hats, child removes hats (facial recognition, object constancy, etc.)
  • 6 to 9 months: Crawl through a cardboard tunnel (depth perception, cognitive skills, problem solving)
  • 9 to 12 months: Nest plastic kitchen bowls together, then introduce a square pan (seriation, gross and fine motor development, etc.)
  • 12 to 18 months: Box car fun using decorated cardboard box moved around Flintstones-style (gross motor development, imagination, etc.)
  • 18 to 24 months: Baby basketball with a clothes basket (eye-hand coordination, social interaction, etc.)
  • 24 to 30 months: Dress-up parade (gender identification, dressing, etc.)
  • 30 to 36 months: Organizing laundry by color, type, etc. (classification and sorting, etc.)

The book was published in 1999 and contains timeless tips, except for one or two activities that involve a portable cassette recorder, rather than a trendier gadget.

My wife bought this book when my daughter was 8-months-old and a couple months later we lost it in our maze of baby stuff. Last week, I found it stuffed away in a closet.

I’m pleased to discover that we naturally hit upon many of the activities in the book through out own experimentation. Many parents may feel the same way, that the ideas in the book are not ground breaking; they seem intuitive. If that’s true for you, the book serves as a reminder on how to get the most out of play.

But, if you’re a parent who relies on buying toys marked "educational," then this book will open your eyes to a world of free or low cost non-commercial educational opportunities in every day life.

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