5 Expert Recommended Games to Play with Your Child to Support Their Development

This blog is for you if you have a child aged 18 months - 6 years and want to help support their development. The majority of a child’s brain develops during the earliest years of life (0-5 years). Therefore, parents must create opportunities for babies and young children to learn the skills necessary to function in life at the right time. The games in the blog will help boost your child’s development. 

You can help build your child’s brain during positive parent-child interactions. During the interactions, if you notice some delays in your child’s development, it could be a sign you need to seek a developmental assessment or evaluation to lead you to proper guidance and support for your child. Interventions provided in the early years of a child’s development can positively change a child’s developmental trajectory.

Here, we share five  fun, interactive games, recommended by our experts. You can play these games with your child at home. Each game focuses on the development of specific skills that are essential for supporting your child in reaching their full potential.

Social/Emotional Skills Games

You can play these fun games with your children (ages 1.5 - 6 years) at home to help them with social-emotional learning. Each of these simple, fun games involves social interaction and emotional response. As a result, your child will learn how to better cope with feelings, get along with peers and family members, and set goals.

Playing these fun games during your daily routine encourages your children to be more active. Further, laughter is a powerful tool that aids the learning process; each of the games below has an element of silliness and foolishness to boost your child’s learning through play.

Here are two fun social/emotional skills games to play at home with your children:

Game 1: “What’s In The Bag?”

About the Game: 

“What’s in the bag?” is an age-neutral, joint attention (also called ‘shared attention’) skill-building game. Joint attention is a social behavior where a parent and child are encouraged to interact through a shared focus on an object, event, person, or concept. Playing “What’s in the bag?” enables parents and children to interact with each other by encouraging initiation and response to joint attention using familiar household objects stored in a bag.

Setting up the Game:

Setting up this game is a breeze. Here’s what’s required to get started:

A non-transparent bag of your choice: Ideally, the bag you select should be big enough to carry 10-15 objects familiar to your child. If you’re doing the game with more than one child, you’ll need a larger-sized bag (preferably a brown sack) to fit more things. As a tip, rather than a standard paper bag, choose a drawstring bag or a brown sack to ensure the objects don’t fall out.

Non-transparent, colorful bag

A selection of household objects/toys familiar to your child: Things you can put inside the bag include a few small household items and some small toys. These can consist of a hairbrush, a cup, a plate, a dog biscuit, a book, a few toy animals, a few toy cars (different sizes), a few balls (various colors), and a small teddy bear (or other stuffed toy).

A selection of toys

Playing “What’s in the bag?”:

Step 1 > Put the objects inside the bag and shake the bag to grab your child’s attention. Then, while holding on to the bag, say out loud, “What’s in the bag?” Give your child some time to respond.

Step 2 > Pull out an item from the bag and name the object. If it’s a toy, encourage your child to play with it. For example, ask your child to roll, throw, or pass the red ball if it’s the red ball.

Child playing with a ball

Step 3 > Give your child an opportunity to hold the bag next. Ask the child, “What’s in the bag?” and wait for them to pull out a toy or other object. Then, using simple language, try to have a back and forth conversation about the ‘object.’ Also, play with it with your child. For example, if it’s a teddy bear, you can comment “teddy bear” and then “brown teddy bear.” You can also ask, “may I hold it?” or “Do you want to give it a hug?”

Step 4 > If your child is confused about playing with a toy or using an object, you can demonstrate how to them.

Step 5 > Give your child a chance to finish playing with the toy before moving on with the game. If it’s just the two of you, you and your child should take turns in holding the bag and asking, “what’s in the bag?”

Step 6 > If you have others joining in, it would elicit even more interaction and add to the existing fun and learning. By taking turns among more people, your child learns to initiate joint attention and respond to it. To enrich this interaction, you should highlight “your

turn,” “mom’s turn,” “my turn,” or ask, “who’s turn is it?”


  • Follow your child’s lead: Each time it’s your turn, reach into that bag with enthusiasm and interest. Keeping the atmosphere positive and happy encourages young children to be engaged. Following your child’s lead also entails responding to their messages and never dominating the interaction. For example, if the child is still pretending to use the hairbrush, keep your interaction focused on the hairbrush until they’re ready to move on.
  • To encourage joint attention, praise your child each time they initiate and respond to joint attention. Be sure to make explicit the reasoning behind your praises. For example, if they push the toy car, say, “amazing job pushing the car so fast!”

Why this game is important:

Children begin to develop joint attention skills soon after birth. By the time they’re three, typically developing children can build upon and maintain joint attention from others. Playing “What’s in the bag?” is an excellent way to establish joint attention, which is crucial for not only developing social-emotional skills but also cognitive and communication skills.

Game 2: “Toy Surprise"

About the Game:

“Toy surprise” is another wonderful, fun game you can play with your child to develop their joint attention skills. In this game, the objective is to do something surprising with a toy so that you and your child can establish eye contact and shared attention through the experience. The skills your child will learn are the value of communicating with others, taking turns, and the meaning of different facial expressions.

Setting up the Game:

Setting up this game is relatively straightforward. Here’s all that’s required:

A selection of toys familiar to your child: Choose a few of your child’s unbreakable lightweight or small toys that you may consider balancing on top of your head and letting drop. These can include puzzle pieces, blocks, a stuffed animal (or other such object), a toy car, a toy cup (or plate), or other such toy(s).

Playing “Toy surprise”:

Step 1 >  Take one of the toys and put it on top of your head. Then, pretend to sneeze and purposely have it fall off.

Step 2 > Repeat and pause each time to make eye contact with your child to help them anticipate the silly action of the toy falling off.

A child playing with a toy

Step 3 > When your child loses interest in the toy, pick a new toy and begin the process over again.  

Step 4 > You can also use the toys in some other silly, unexpected way. For example, instead of stacking blocks, you could put them end to end, pretending they’re parts of a train.


  • Keep it fun: Your child is more likely to show joint attention skills with you if they have lots of fun during the game or game. It’s essential to keep smiling and have fun yourself. Observing you, your child will remain engaged and have more fun.
  • Point as you talk: Try to model joint attention skills yourself by talking with your child often, commenting on things around you, and using gestures like pointing while talking. For example, when building a train with blocks with your child, point to a block while calling it “block.”
  • Position yourself at your child’s eye level: It’s essential to get at eye level with your child while playing these games. The child should be able to see the toy placed on your head. Alternatively, if you’re playing with a toy along with your child, then it should be on the table or floor. Being at their eye level helps your child shift attention between the toy and you and make more eye contact.

Why this game is important:

Games such as “Toy surprise” develop joint attention (shared attention) skills. According to research, these skills are strongly correlated with advanced levels of spoken language and social skills as a child grows. Learning joint attention is the first step in developing social skills. The child’s social skills include interacting and communicating with others using social initiatives like gestures such as pointing. During the mutual interaction, the child learns to share their interest with others. At the same time, the adult gets the chance to use words to speak about and label their child’s actions at play.

Motor Skills Game

Our next game is a fun game you can play with your children (ages 1.5 - 6 years) at home to help them develop their motor skills. There are two types of motor skills, ‘ fine’ and ‘gross’ motor skills. Our motor skills enable us to do the physical movements and tasks we do daily. For example, children can feed themselves and move from one place to another using their motor skills. 

Fine motor skills refer to the high degree of control and precision in the hands, fingers, wrists, feet, toes, lips, and tongue movements. Fine motor skills are important for tasks such as feeding, dressing, drawing, and writing. 

Gross motor skills involve the body’s large muscles to allow for more significant movements through enhanced balance, coordination, reaction time, and physical strength. In addition, developing gross motor skills allows your child to do more prominent activities such as sitting, crawling, walking, running, and jumping. 

Adding this game to your daily routine is the best way of ensuring motor development happens during your child’s early life. Remember, your child’s physical development is essential for the development of other areas. For example, a child who has learned to walk (gross motor skills) finds it easier to explore the entire physical environment around them, which can promote cognitive as well as social development. 

Here is a fun motor skills game to help your child meet their physical development milestones and progress in other developmental areas too:

Game 3: “Obstacle Course”

About the Game: 

Playing in an “obstacle course” — indoor or outdoor — is an excellent way to develop gross motor skills and other skills. Obstacle courses give children a goal to accomplish. children have to work hard through physical movements using their legs, arms, and torso to achieve the goal. Both indoor and outdoor versions of this game are fun to play.

Setting up the Game:

Each obstacle course comprises specific chosen activities for an engaging and fun experience. You can set up the course quickly and inexpensively. Here’s what’s required to set up both indoor and outdoor obstacle courses focused on gross motor skill building:

Indoor obstacle course: The obstacle course will include activities to develop the child’s balance, strength, and coordination skills. Gather several child-friendly household objects such as select furniture items, table or bed sheets, pillows, yoga mats, toys, indoor riding vehicles, bean bags, string, wool, empty plastic bottles, stuffed animals, softballs, empty leftover containers, paper plates, laundry baskets, and other such things.

Outdoor obstacle course: For the outdoor course, you can use the objects used in the indoor course and additional items. Additional items may include a kiddie pool, plastic ducks, chalk, cardboard boxes, plastic planting containers, buckets, children’s plastic gardening tools, and wheelbarrows.

Playing “Obstacle course”:

To play “obstacle course,” your child would have to conquer all the activities within it— the objects and structures that are the obstacles along a specific path— and reach the end. For an extra challenge, you could have them try to complete the course in a certain amount of time.

Here are some wonderful obstacles you can include in your indoor or outdoor course:

1. Balance beam: 

For the perfect balance beam, a 2 x 4 piece of wood laid flat down on the floor for the outdoor course would do. For indoors, use a rolled-up carpet or a strip of painter’s or masking tape.

2. Tunnels: 

A children’ tunnel is available for purchase, readymade, or you can make one at home. To make it, you can line up your dining room chairs so that your child can crawl through them.


A child crawling through a toy tunnel

3. Sack races: 

This obstacle challenges children to hop across a room or outdoor setting in a pillowcase or brown sack, respectively.

4. Ball tossing: 

A ball pit can be one of the obstacles in the obstacle course. To set it up, you can line up laundry baskets into which the child can aim to throw the balls while you’ve set the timer for, say, 60 seconds. Give points for every ball that enters a basket within the set time limit. This tossing game helps develop hand-eye coordination skills.

A child tossing objects into a laundry basket

5. Hot lava: 

In this obstacle, the floor is like hot lava. children have to outsmart the hot lava flow. In an indoor setting, line up pillows over the rug. children should hop from one pillow to the next while ensuring their feet don’t touch the rug beneath (which is the lava). In the case of an outdoor setting, you can set up yoga blocks or sheets of paper — children should hop, avoiding the grass beneath (which is the lava).

6. Tape trails: 

Every good obstacle course has a path, dotted lines, and even arrows for direction. You may use painter or masking tape for marking all sorts of silly directions (straight, circular, etc.) in the course. Doing so helps make the whole experience fun and builds motor planning skills.

7. Mazes: 

Mazes add to the excitement of obstacle courses. To set them up indoors, you can stack books to act as the walls. As for the outdoor option, you can use cardboard boxes and make tunnels. children can run through the mazes while simultaneously pushing their toy cars, trucks, or balls through them.

8. Wet summer obstacles: 

If you’ve got warm weather to your advantage, the outdoor course can make use of sprinklers, a kiddie pool, or water balloons that children have to navigate through. You can also have objects (waterproof toys like rubber ducks) in the kiddie pool, which the child would be required to scoop out within a set time limit.

A child playing in a kiddie pool

9. Chalk or tape course: 

An outdoor obstacle course can be chalk drawn or tape marked on your sidewalk or other safe cemented area. Your child can follow the course path as per the words, numbers, arrows, and shapes drawn on it.


  • While setting up the obstacle course, keep safety in check by incorporating padding where you can. Use pillows (or cushions), cloth sheets, and yoga mats wherever required to safeguard children from getting injured. Also, ensure all sharp corners and breakable items are moved away during the game.
  • There are various possibilities in creating obstacle courses. A good starting point is to think about your child’s preferences and what materials you have available at home. Further, once your child has experienced several courses, you can allow them to design their own, or you can pick a theme and ask them to help you with the setup. Potential themes include — birthday, bubbles, summer (kiddie pool, garden sprinklers), winter (snow tunnels), circus, or vehicles.

Why this game is important:

The gross motor skills developed through playing in an obstacle course help the child walk, run, jump, push, pull, throw and climb. These vital motor skills benefit children for a lifetime. Besides building on gross motor skills, the obstacle courses in this game also encourage problem-solving, language-building skills, imagination, and creativity skills. For example, language-building gets promoted when you call out directions. Examples of these directions include “go under the chair,” “climb over the pillows,” or “crawl through the box/tunnel.”

Further, creativity and imagination skills get a boost through your questions and statements during the play. Examples of these include:

  • “How are you going to get from here to there?”
  •  “Oh, no, you have to cross hot lava!”
  • “Be very careful as you walk across that shaky, creaky bridge ahead.”

Cognitive Skills Game 

Our next game targets your child’s cognitive development (ages 1.5 - 6 years). Cognitive development includes how a child thinks, learns, explores, and interacts with the world around them. This particular game has to do with the concept of sorting. When your child learns to sort and match objects by size, shape, or color, it helps them achieve their developmental milestones in cognition. This includes the development of visual perceptual, memory, and problem-solving skills. 

Here is a fun cognitive skills game to play at home with your children:

Game 4: “Sorting Objects” & “Sorting Laundry”

About the Game: 

The two activities in this section are called “sorting objects” (toys or household objects) and “sorting laundry,” respectively. Each of these activities is simple to set up and fun to do along with your child. As per research, sorting skills are among the several critical skills that play a vital role in strengthening a child’s ultimate math, reading, and reasoning skills. For example, you could help your child sort toys and other household items by size, color, shape, and function. Likewise, you can help your child sort the clothes into lights, darks, and colors if you’re doing the laundry game.

Setting up the Game:

Sorting toys, household objects, or laundry are activities that are easy to set up and get started with your child. These activities are the usual household chores that you now need to involve your child in for their cognitive development.

Here’s how you can get started right away:

Sorting Toys/Objects

A variety of toys displayed

Get the toys and objects ready: Gather together a bunch of your child’s toys. These could include blocks (different sizes, colors, shapes), wooden toys, and pieces from puzzles. If you wish to engage them with other objects, you may include playing cards, colored bowls, plates, and various cutlery items, etc.                                  

Get the storage baskets and toy boxes ready: Have different empty storage containers aligned in a row. These can include original toy boxes, toy baskets, or general storage boxes or baskets for the other objects.

Sorting Laundry

Laundry basket with clothes

Get the laundry items ready: Have a laundry basket full of dirty clothes.

Have different baskets: To sort the laundry by various attributes, you’ll need multiple empty baskets.

Playing “Sorting objects” or “Sorting laundry”:

Sorting Objects

Step 1 > Help your child sort their toys and other household items by size, color, shape, and function.

Step 2 > For example, if the toys include a mix-up of blocks, puzzle pieces, and wooden toys, you can help them sort the three toy types into three separate boxes.

Step 3 > Once that’s done, you can further sort each type of toy. For instance, you can help your child further sort the blocks size-wise or color-wise in additional empty boxes.

Step 4 > The other household items like the child-safe bowls, plates, dishes, and cutlery can all be sorted similarly. When sorting playing cards, younger children can sort them according to colors, while older children can sort them according to numbers or symbols.

Sorting Laundry

Step 1 > Getting your children to help you with laundry can be an excellent sorting game. The laundry can be sorted according to the color (whites, darks, and colored clothing) and type (socks, shirts, tops, trousers, kids clothing, etc.) and tossed into separate baskets.

Laundry basket with folded/sorted towels

Step 2 > Once the laundry is clean, help your child find and pair all the matching socks. Once you’re through with that, turn it into a physical task — your child can learn to toss the rolled-up pairs of socks into a laundry basket.

Step 3 > Older preschoolers can further sort the cleaned laundry as per who it belongs to or size, while parents talk to them about the similarities and differences during the process.


  • Through sorting laundry, you can help your child learn sequencing. Let them watch as you move the laundry through the step-by-step washing process — washing, drying, folding, separating, and distributing.
  • During either of the sorting games, encourage your child to talk about the sorting process. For example, explicitly ask how they decided to sort the items and what led them to do so. Ask them ample open-ended questions along the way to stimulate their thinking.

Why this game is important:

Through ‘sorting’ activities, children develop critical cognitive skills. Developing such skills are essential for brain development as they aid memory, attention, and problem-solving. According to research, strengthening these skills helps with later reading and math.

Communication, Speech & Language Skills Game

Playing the next game will help you stimulate your child’s communication, speech, and language development. The first few years of every child’s life are crucial for developing those specific skills. Your positive role-modeling and dedication can help your child flourish. While playing the game, always remember to praise your child at every attempt they make to communicate. 

Here is a fun and easy game to play at home with your children to help them meet their communication, speech, and language milestones:

Game 5: “Turn Taking”

About the Game: 

Playing “Turn-taking” games help your child develop strong communication, speech, and language skills. Turn-taking is part of a circle of discussion, wherein one person speaks while the other listens. As the conversation continues, the roles of the speaker and listener get exchanged. Here we have outlined a few of those games you can play with your child at home.

Setting up the Game:

Setting up the “Turn-taking” game depends on which of the several available games you’re playing. Here are the examples of some popular games and how to initiate them:

Rolling or tossing a ball back-and-forth: Use any ball available at home.

4 types of toy balls

Animal Noises: This is an animal noise imitation game. It would help if both parents and the other siblings also take part in this game.                           

Playing “Copycat”: For this game you don’t necessarily need anything other than giving your time and attention. To make it more fun you could incorporate toy drums or any other toys or household objects.

Playing “Turn taking” games:

1. Rolling/Tossing A Ball: 

You and your child may play this game sitting on the floor, or on chairs across a table. There should be a distance of a few feet between the two of you. Next, take turns passing the ball by either rolling or tossing it to each other. While passing the ball, make sure you’re looking at the child and saying something to them. After watching you, when it’s their turn to return the ball, they’ll do the same. When your child talks or replies to you during the play, do not interrupt or correct their speech. Instead, listen till they’re done talking. These are called “serve and return interactions” that teach essential communications skills through taking turns.

2.  Animal Noises:

You can play this game one-to-one with your child, but it’s more fun if there are additional participants. Participation of the siblings, both parents, and other relatives can enhance the learning experience. To play, sit in a circle, and take turns making an animal noise. Each person has to repeat the animal noise before making their own. To boost your toddler or preschooler’s communication skills, each participant should acknowledge who’s turn it is by looking at the right child while repeating the animal noise.

3.  Copycat:

Playing “Copycat” involves copying hand and body movements. For example, you put your hands on top of your head, and the child copies you. Next, the child does another action, and you copy it. As your child learns to copy others, you can add other elements to the game to keep it fun. For example, you bang on their toy drums or push a toy car to teach them to copy you and do the same. Another exciting way to play the game is to imitate your child’s sounds or words and then expect them to imitate and learn the new words and sounds you speak. Playing this game teaches the child how to imitate people, so that they can develop their play, language, and social skills in the process.


  • Ask open-ended questions: Asking your child open-ended questions like “how” and “why” significantly enhances their vocabulary and conversational skills. As a result, children can express themselves better.
  • Be responsive to your child’s cues and signals: Being a careful observer and responding to your child’s non-verbal and verbal signals to you, shows your love and support. It shows your child that they are important to you and encourages them to make more attempts at communication.

Why this game is important:

Practicing turn-taking is an excellent way for your child to learn the communication pattern — the back-and-forth exchange between two people (a.k.a. Conversational interaction). Learning through conversations and imitation help the development of play, language, and social skills.

Final Thoughts

Remember that when it comes to helping young children, timing is everything. The earlier children receive support, the better for their lifelong outcomes. As a parent, you are your child’s first and most important teacher. You can make a huge difference in how your child learns the essential skills to function in life. All the parent- child games in this blog are evidence-based, parent-led interventions to help you with that goal. Further, any parent who notices missed or delayed milestones or any red flags in their child’s development should urgently bring their concerns to their child’s pediatrician and seek a developmental evaluation. Interventions during the early years have the best chance at helping a child make progress and reach their full potential.