Home icon

Let Baby Play

father and toddler

About this Video

Babies can learn a lot from interacting with their parents and other family members, but they also need time to explore freely with an adult supervising.  In this video clip, 10-month-old Jack uses a variety of large-motor and fine-motor movements to explore his environment while his father watches him. He crawls, pulls himself up to stand, and uses his father’s hand to stabilize himself while he attempts to sit down. He also grasps and releases some toys. We see him picking up a puppet, pulling on its fur, and discarding it in favor of a toy car, which he pushes back and forth on the carpet. During this time, he vocalizes several times, interacts occasionally with his father, and looks in the direction of some other family members who are talking off-camera. The sound in the video is not very clear. The transcript below clarifies what Marty is saying but not what is being said off-camera.

This video shows some strategies Jack’s father, Marty, uses to encourage his son to safely explore.

  • Make a baby-safe zone.
    Jack’s parents have set up one room of their home with a variety of toys, books, and other objects that are safe for Jack. No electrical outlets, cords or other hazards are within the baby’s reach. Furniture and other large objects are placed to form barricades so that he stays in the “safe zone,” although Jack may soon learn that he can push these objects aside to explore outside the zone.
  • Follow the baby’s lead.
    When Jack looks in the direction of his toys, Marty asks him, “What do you think? What’s that?” He initially invites Jack to play a chasing game (“I’m gonna get you!”).  Jack giggles but seems intent on reaching the Lincoln Log container, so Marty does not continue the game. Instead of trying to direct Jack’s attention, he allows the baby to move about and handle a variety of objects. He shows interest in what Jack does in several ways. For example, he responds to Jack’s vocalizations by saying, “Yeah” and joins him in touching the top of the Lincoln Logs container. When he sees that Jack is getting ready to sit down, he extends one hand so Jack can hold it to steady himself.
  • Quietly create surprises or provocations.
    At one point, Marty quickly places a plush puppet where Jack is likely to notice it. When Jack sees the puppet and picks it up, Marty first says, “Is he in the way?” Jack examines the puppet, turning it around in his hands and pulling its fur before turning his attention back to the car.

Interactions such as those shown here are typical for babies and their families, but parents may not be aware of how important they are. Besides helping him to keep the baby safe, observing Jack closely allows Marty to find out more about what interests his son and how he responds to what is around him.

Jack’s family happens to have quite a few baby toys, but any family can set up a play space for a baby without buying a lot of toys. Babies Jack’s age also enjoy and learn from playing with items such as pillows, blankets, pieces of brightly colored cloth, kitchen equipment (pots and pans, plastic or metal spoons and scoops), laundry baskets, and clean “repurposed” materials such as milk cartons, plastic bottles, yogurt containers, boxes, and cereal cartons. It’s a good idea to provide a variety of items and to change some of them every day or two so your baby can combine the objects in new ways as he plays.



Part 1

Marty: What do you think, Jacky? You gonna get Grandma?

Grandma: Want to say hi?

Marty: Are you gonna get her?

Jack turns toward his toys.

Marty: What do you think? What’s that?

Jack crawls toward his toys.

Marty: What are you gonna get? I’m gonna get you!

Jack: Yah! (giggles)

Marty: Yeah!

Jack crawls to a large container of construction logs and begins to stand, holding on to it.

Marty: Is that it, right here? The Lincoln Logs?

Jack vocalizes.

Marty: Yeah.

Jack: A bah-bah.

Marty: Yeah.

Jack turns to look at people who are speaking off-camera. Marty extends one hand toward Jack’s free hand. Jack grasps Marty’s fingers and begins to lower himself to sit on the floor. He moves his feet, releases his father’s hand, and drops the last few inches into a seated position.

Marty: That’s pretty good.

Jack begins to crawl toward a toy structure. Marty places a small plush toy on part of the structure while Jack is looking at a toy car on the floor.

Part 2

Marty is holding the toy car and examining it. Jack moves toward his father and takes hold of the car. Marty lets go of it and Jack sits down with it.

Jack: Uh buh bah.

Marty: Yeah?

Jack: Buh bah.

Marty: Okay.

Jack notices the plush toy and picks it up, dropping the car.

Marty: Is he in the way?

Jack holds the plush toy in both hands, pulling on its fur. He then picks up the car with one hand while still holding the plush toy in the other. He releases the plush toy so that he holds the car with both hands and pushes the car on the carpet.

Illinois Early Learning Guidelines for Children Birth to Age Three and How They Were Met

This table shows how Jack’s actions in the video relate to some standards in the birth-to-three guidelines.

Self-Regulation: Foundation of Development
Attention Regulation
Children demonstrate the emerging ability to process stimuli, focus and sustain attention, and maintain engagement in accordance with social and cultural contexts.

  • Indicators for children (7–18 months): Focuses on one object or activity for a brief period of time, even with other objects close in proximity; still easily distracted
  • Action: Jack noticed something he would like to explore and crawled to get close to it. He stayed in the same general area for several minutes.

Developmental Domain 1: Social & Emotional Development
Relationship with Adults
Children demonstrate the desire and develop the ability to engage, interact, and build relationships with familiar adults.

  • Indicators for children (7–18 months):
    • Engages with adults during play, e.g., bangs on a toy drum and repeats action after an adult completes the same action
    • Uses key adults as a “secure base” when exploring the environment
    • Draws a familiar adult into an interaction, e.g., hands a book or toy to engage in together
  • Action: Jack said “Yah” and crawled away when his father said “get you.” Jack used his dad as a secure base, leaning on him and reaching toward him while working on sitting down. Jack handed his father the toy vehicle, then reached for it and took it back after a few moments.

Developmental Domain 2: Physical Development & Health
Gross Motor
Children demonstrate strength, coordination, and controlled use of large muscles.

  • Indicators for children (7–18 months):
    • Crawls from one point to another
    • Pulls to a stand using help from furniture or caregiver
    • Moves objects with large muscles, e.g., pushes a toy car with legs, rolls a ball
  • Action: Jack crawled to explore the object that caught his attention. He pulled himself to stand, then sat back down, using his father for support. He held a toy car and moved it back and forth with his arm.

Developmental Domain 2: Physical Development & Health
Fine Motor
Children demonstrate the ability to coordinate their small muscles in order to move and control objects.

  • Indicators for children (7–18 months):
    • Picks up objects
    • Uses hands in a purposeful manner, e.g., turns the pages of a board book, drops objects into a bucket
  • Action: Jack took the small car from his dad and then examined it. He then grasped a small plush toy before he picked up the car again.

Developmental Domain 3: Language Development, Communication, & Literacy
Expressive Communication
Children demonstrate the ability to understand and convey thoughts through both nonverbal and verbal expression.

  • Indicators for children (7–18 months): Babbles using the sounds of the home language
  • Action: Jack said “Yah” and giggled when his father said he would “get” him.

Developmental Domain 4: Cognitive Development
Logic & Reasoning
Children demonstrate the ability to use knowledge, previous experiences, and trial and error to make sense of and impact their world.

  • Indicators for children (7–18 months): Attempts different ways to move an object to see what happens, e.g., rolls a ball gently at first and then hard to see how fast and far it will move
  • Action: Jack handled a toy car in several different ways: removing it from a toy structure, holding it in both hands, releasing it, taking it from his father’s hand, dropping it, and pushing it on the carpet.

Approaches to Learning
Curiosity & Initiative
Children demonstrate interest and eagerness in learning about their world.

  • Indicators for children (7–18 months):
    • Demonstrates an interest in new objects by manipulating and turning the object
    • Moves toward a new activity by crawling or walking
  • Action: Jack handled the toy car and the stuffed toy, looking at them, turning them, pulling on them, and dropping them when no longer interested. He crawled from sitting by his father to a different area of the room, pulled himself to stand, and began to touch objects and look around. He sat down again, then crawled toward the toy structure.