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Preemie parents spend a lot of time monitoring the health and medical condition of our preemies, but it's important to have fun too. Children learn and grow through games and exploration. Try a few of our ideas and enjoy how delightful your preemie is while helping them navigate their world.  Your doctor or therapist is also a great source for fun and game ideas. Preemies Today members have used therapy sessions to come up with some great activity ideas!

Young Babies


  • Change the texture of the cloth you put on your shoulder or that you rest the baby on (smooth, soft, or silky)
  • Have sheets and toys with lots of visual contrast (black and white)
  • Shake a rattle from different positions around the baby
  • Put a ribbon, colorful band, or bright socks on your baby’s hands or feet
  • Imitate your baby’s babbling sounds
  • Hold your baby in front of a mirror so they can see you and themselves

Older Babies


  • Let the baby play with small plastic cups and toys in a pan of water in the high chair or outside
  • Play peek a boo
  • Let the baby knock down towers you make with blocks or other objects
  • Hide a squeaky toy while the baby is watching and ask them to find it
  • Lie on the ground and let your baby exercise as they climb over you.
  • Tie a ribbon on to one of the baby’s toys and let them pull it around
  • Use an empty cereal box or a pot as a drum, or a box to put things in, or something to imagine with…
  • Help your baby sit on a small rocking horse to feel the motions and get a sense of balance
  • Have a basket or special drawer that the baby is allowed to pull things out of and put things back into
  • Bounce your child on a large therapy ball while holding them securely

Toddlers and Preschoolers


  •  Make a family album using a small plastic album or laminated pictures so your child can get to know the whole family
  • When you hear a sound in the environment, ask your child “what is it?”
  • Let your child toddler turn the light switch on and off to see what happens
  • Play chase or hide and seek with your child and tell them where you are going: under the table, behind the door, over the toy, etc.
  • Make an obstacle course using household objects, then let your child walk in between the items, over them, and around them
  • Sort things by color, by texture, by size,
  • Give the child a bag or purse to fill up with their favorite things
  • Make pretend mail by letting your child scribble on paper, then let them deliver it like the postman to you and your family
  • Use pillows to make a silly playground; your child can jump from pillow to pillow, make a fort, or bury you in pillows
  • Use finger paints on an easel outside or use water to paint art books that turn colors with water
  • Have your child run through sprinklers or try putting their hands or feet in water from a hose
  • Make a “train” out of chairs place in a row, then have stuffed animals or people be the train riders
  • Use a cardboard box attached to a string to make a train or wagon for your child’s stuffed animals
  • Find ways for your child to say “no!” by asking silly questions where the right answer is noLet your child direct you where to go around the house as they follow (up the stairs, change rooms, etc.) so they can feel in control
  • Save hats, scarves, and other dress up items for a dress up box
  • Have your child pretend to do chores mommy and daddy do using dolls or child size items (brooms, keys, dishes)
  • Blow bubbles with your toddler and let them try to blow them, break them, and catch them
  • Pour dry beans in a bowl and let them sift their hands through the beans and try to scoop them with a hand or cup
  • Play in the grass, in the sand, in the mud, so they can feel different textures
  • Walk on curbs and railroad ties to practice balance beam walking while you hold your toddler’s hand
  • Roll balls across the floor to each other or use large therapy balls to bounce your child on
  • Sing finger play songs (e.g., Patty Cake, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Hokey Pokey) that have your child use their bodies, hands, and fingers to act out the song lyrics

Additional Ideas and Resources

Our members have also found the following websites with information on activities and developmental milestones useful.

Supporting You and Your Preemie: Milestone Guidelines for Premature Babies
(http://www.nann.org/pdf/Preemie.pdf) provides a good summary of developmental milestones.  It was developed by the National Association of Neonatal Nurses, the March of Dimes, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the Preemie Health Coalition.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides information on Developmental Milestones (http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/milestones/index.html) from 2 months to 5 years.