Infants learn by playing and they play as they learn. Play is spontaneous, experimental and fun. During their first year, children play by manipulating objects in their world. As your baby’s body and brain grow, so does his capacity for playing and learning.
• Before Three Months: His reflexes drive most of what your baby does, so his play focuses on his body. He waves his hands around in front of his eyes and face, and twiddles with his fingers.
• By Four Months: His vision is improving and so are his fine motor movements; your baby now has the ability to grasp. Anything that’s in his reach becomes fair game for grabbing, manipulating and examining.
• By Six Months: He can coordinate the movement of his two hands and he’s amazed by this feat. He can spend hours passing blocks back and forth from hand to hand, listening to the sounds they make when clanked and learning that they are solid.
• By Seven Months: He has developed a powerful memory and he now learns that objects do not disappear when he cannot see them. Armed with this newfound insight, peek-a-boo and pop-up toys zoom to the top of the chart as favorite play activities, and dropping toys off his high chair becomes a source of never-ending delight.
• Remainder of the First Year: With improving memory and reasoning skills, your baby begins to focus on what-if games. What happens if I push this train on the rug, or on the couch or on the hardwood floors? What happens if I drop my block into the cup of milk? Over these few months, your baby learns by playing scientist. He can use more than one item in his games now, and likes to hold, carry and drop things.
In the end, each of these actions learned at these ages has taught the child a lesson, providing invaluable experience about his environment and how to control both himself and the things in it.