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From 8 Months

Really Big Buttons
Babies have always loved small, shiny objects. And picking up colourful trinkets is the perfect way to satisfy that magpie instinct (and fine-tune physical coordination to boot). Although small shirt and blouse buttons pose a choking hazard and should be kept away from your baby, material shops sell extra-large buttons (buy the biggest you can find, a minimum of 2 inches across) that make safe and satisfying playthings.

Appropriate for: 8 months to 1 year
Skills developed: Fine motor, hand-eye coordination
What you'll need: At least eight very large (minimum 2-inch-diameter) buttons; a small cloth bag or pouch

Choose eight buttons in matching pairs of two, and try for a widely varying selection of colours and textures. Put them in a small cloth bag or pouch or paper bag, and let your baby take them out and put them back in, Eeyore-like, over and over. Put her in your lap and spread the buttons out in front of her, then help her match them up two by two, or make a pattern of alternating colours. This bagful of buttons is perfect to tuck in your purse or diaper bag to pull out when you're away from home and your baby is getting bored.
Tube Tunnel
The pincer grasp – being able to hold a small object between the thumb and index finger – is one of the fine motor milestones, and once your baby can do it, he'll want to do it all the time. This activity is perfect for babies who have learned to manipulate with their fingers.

Appropriate for: 8 months to 1 year
Skills developed: Fine motor, sense of cause and effect
What you'll need: One or more long cardboard tubes, such as those inside wrapping paper or paper towels; balls

Cut the tubes in half lengthwise to make a trough. You can use strong tape to join two troughs together to make one longer one, if you like.

Sit on the floor with your baby, and show him how to hold the trough at an angle to the floor. Then start placing balls at the high end of the trough and let your baby watch them roll down. Let him put the balls onto the trough himself, and help him tilt the trough more or less to make the ball roll faster or slower.

Once he gets the hang of rolling the ball down the slide, you can play games such as marking where each ball finishes and seeing which ball rolls the longest distance. Your baby won't care much about this, of course, but it may make the game more fun for you!

Safety note: Don't use any balls that are small enough for your baby to swallow or choke on. (A good rule of thumb is to avoid anything small enough to fit through a toilet-paper roll.)
Bubble Surprise
The surprise of "now you see it, now you don't" is especially fun with glittery bubbles. Your baby will love watching the bubbles – and even popping a few.

Appropriate for: 8 months to 1 year
Skills developed: Understanding of object permanence, hand-eye coordination
What you'll need: Bubbles for blowing

Place your baby in his highchair. Duck down below the tray so that he can't see you, then blow clouds of bubbles, letting them cascade down on him. Pause for occasional intervals, then blow some more. Each surprise soapy shower will elicit fits of giggles – somehow, not being able to see you but knowing you're right there producing the bubbles is endlessly funny to babies.

Once he's on to you, try changing locations (move behind the chair or over to one side) so the bubbles suddenly come from a new direction – guaranteed to get the giggles going all over again. You may want to try this activity right before bath time, as your baby will probably get soapy!