Incorporating Play in Daily Routines

​Look at life from your baby's point of view. Everything is discovery and excitement when it is new.

Remember, you have many roles: you are the tour guide, the interpreter, and the play partner.


Use games such as "Open the garage, here comes the car!" …to encourage eating by making it playful. Your baby learns that cars and airplanes have places to go and sounds: cars go "Beep" and airplanes go "Zoom." This sound play is natural and it encourages listening!

Babies will initiate play at eating time, too, although a baby's idea of play may be different than yours.

  • Your baby may find the sight of the bowl of spaghetti hitting the ground very satisfying, and the sight of someone cleaning it up even more entertaining.
  • Remember to be the tour guide and interpreter!
    • You may not feel like using language such as "Uh-oh, fall," and "Mommy will clean it up" at such a time… But your baby is paying attention, so take advantage of the opportunity.


Every parent-child interaction, from "Peek-a-boo" to "Pat-a-Cake," from knee bouncing to lullabies, comes from a love of communication games, face to face time, and enjoying one another.

These games let you call your baby's attention to meaningful sounds, like your voice. For example, you pull the blanket over your face, wait a moment and then start calling, "Bailey….Bailey....Peek-a-Boo!" As this game becomes familiar your baby will alert when she hears her name. Later she will pull the blanket when she hears the familiar pattern of "Peek-a-Boo." Her reward for listening is your smiling face and chances to keep playing the game.

A finger play – like Pat-a-Cake – has a special pattern or rhythm that your baby will start to recognize after you play the game many times. Try asking your baby, "do you want to play Pat-a-Cake?"

  • Wait a moment and see if the baby responds by showing excitement or moving her arms.
  • Babies begin to show they understand around 10 to 12 months of age.
  • If you are signing with your little one, play these games and learn the signs that signal what will happen: "Want to play bounce?" "Let's play Pat-a-Cake."


Loving contact between you and your baby is just as important as loving words. Beyond the soothing skin-to-skin contact, touch is a relaxing and nonverbal way for you to socialize with your baby.

  • The vibration of your body when you sing or speak supports your baby's understanding of sound, either by complementing what she hears from her hearing aids or cochlear implant, or by feeling your voice.
  • The safety in your arms makes your baby feel secure, while looking around at other people and things, and knowing that you will be there.
  • Deaf mothers and fathers of deaf children often use touch to connect and communicate with their infants

Play is Riding

  • Bouncing on a knee, riding piggy back on shoulders, traveling safely strapped into a wagon, a stroller, a shopping cart or a car seat lets your baby see new parts of the world.
  • Moving from place to place is the beginning of "Where?" and "Let's go to the…?" and "Go again!"
  • Think of all the places that you can name.
  • If you are encouraging your baby to listen with new hearing aids or cochlear implants, try using riding games. Here is an example:​

Trot to Boston game

Use Music or Sound to Enhance Play 

Babies love the changing motor actions that go with this rhyme.  

  • They will anticipate getting to "fall back" and they listen for the exaggerated pitch change in "INNNNNN."  
  • You can hesitate a moment before the final line and final action to help your baby listen and anticipate what is next. 

Horsy back rides can be adapted to encourage listening.  

  • You can be in position for a bouncy ride and wait expectantly for a moment.  
  • Then tell your baby, "Let's go!" Make fun sounds like a horse or say "whee."  
  • When the action stops, stop the sound.  
  • Your baby will begin to notice that sound starts and stops.  
  • She will notice that the fun begins when we hear the sound.   

Play Is Watching and Helping 

  • Mama is washing dishes. Dad is folding laundry. Big sister is putting away groceries.  
  • The distance between watching an interesting activity and wanting to help isn't very big.  
  • Pretty soon, the baby who watches from an infant seat will be the toddler who applies a plastic screwdriver to a cupboard hinge, sweeps the floor with a tiny broom, and stacks the toilet paper in the linen closet.  

Be sure to talk about what you are doing, and the little one will begin picking up the language for these interesting ideas. 

All those objects and actions have names and qualities. 

  • The floor is dirty. The hinge is broken. The clothes are clean. I am washing the car. Let's feed the fish

Play Is Exploring and Cruising 

When your baby can move independently, play becomes discovery of anything within reach. Your job and your language are those of a play partner and of a policeman.  

  • The language of limits as well as the language of discovery is important.  
  • "No, no. Don't touch" are part of learning, but they will probably not be enough.  
  • So now is the time for you to learn about the language of distraction:  
  • "Look at that!" or "Here is something new" or "Let's play with this" 
  • Redirecting the infant or toddler to a new idea or game can help her forget about the TV knob or the plant dirt (at least until the next time it gets her attention!) 

Play is Bath Time 

First, your baby loves to just splash. Later you can introduce the floating toys. Finally, cups, sieves and bottles for filling up and pouring out make bath time fun. Water goes in and out. Cups are full and then empty.  

Your baby pours, and the water splashes. What a lot of concepts you have to label when water is the toy! 

  • "You are wet. Cup's empty. The water is all gone. Fill it up. Pour."  
  • Bath time is a special time for babies and parents.  
  • If you are communicating through spoken language, keep talking naturally, and use animated expressions and gestures as you talk about the feel of the water, the splashes, and the rubber ducky, and what fun you are having.   
  • If you are signing with your baby, practice signing phrases that communicate bath-time concepts so that you will be ready to enjoy bath time!   
  • If you are communicating with Cued Speech, practice cueing those phrases that are important for bath time. 

Play Is Settling Down To Sleep 

Sharing books, experiencing lullabies with familiar melodies, rocking and closeness are "play" elements at bedtime. Establishing comforting bedtime routines is important for building vocabulary and language. 

  • Requesting a favorite stuffed animal and giggling when it comes flying down to tickle and cuddle.  
  • Crooning and gesturing to a special crib friend after the overhead light is off and parents are gone.