Think your baby is too young for games? Think again! Here are some educational babies  that will be fun for infant and caretaker alike.

The Mystery Screen Game for Babies
This game requires two adults and is derived from classic psychological experiments with infants. First, you need to set up a screen that is big enough to hide an adult. This could be a large cut up cardboard box, a curtain, or merely a blanket draped over a table. Set this screen up around 8 to 10 feet from where the babies will be sitting, so that they are facing the screen. Next, gather an assortment of different balls and rolling toys.

One adult hides behind the screen, kneeling down with some of the toys, while the other one kneels to one side of it and gets the babies’ attention.¬† Showing them the ball or toy, they then roll it behind the screen. The adult hiding behind the screen then grabs the toy that was rolled and rolls a different object out of the other side.

Babies will track the object as it rolls behind the screen and comes out the other side, and are sophisticated enough to notice the discontinuity, which they should find either amusing or intriguing. If they’re so inclined, give them the second object you roll out the other side to inspect. Play for as long as it holds their interest!

The Towel Pull Game for Babies
This is a fun game that tests the developing intellect of your baby. Lay a towel or cloth on the floor in front of your baby, and place a favorite toy on the far end of it. Then sit back and watch.: Many babies will figure out that they need to pull on the cloth to bring the toy within reach.

Switch it up by placing the toy at about the same distance away, but off to the edge of the cloth rather than on top of it. Babies will often make the mistake of trying to pull on the cloth to retrieve the toy anyway.

Both of these conundrums represent challenges to their thinking about the world, and can show you how their mind is developing. As they learn to sit up on their own, you can begin testing them with this trick, and then stump them with the second variation. By the end of the first year, most a babies will have mastered this knowledge so that they don’t make the mistake of pulling on the cloth with nothing atop it.

The disappearing object game for babies
This is a fun game to play with infants who are between 5- and 8-months-old and can sit up. Start by gathering a cloth towel and an assortment of intriguing toys or objects, and sit down with them on the floor.

Suppose you show a 6-month-old some wonderfully fascinating thing, such as your set of keys or a watch, or maybe a pair of sunglasses or some new toy. Get their interest, and then set the item on the floor at the far end of their reach, or just outside their reach if your baby can crawl. They’ll bounce around excitedly and start to reach for it. As they do, quickly cover the object by throwing the towel over it. They’ll likely stop in their tracks with a look of bewilderment. Give them a second to contemplate this development, and then pull the washcloth off to expose the hidden object, and the glee will return.

This trick works because to a baby, the hidden object disappears, replaced by this new thing. They don’t yet recognize that things hidden from sight could still be there somewhere. As developmental psychologists Alison Gopnik, Andrew Meltzoff and Patricia Kuhl write, “the keys reappearance from under the wash- cloth is like the magician’s rabbit in the hat for us.” Some little ones may even laugh hysterically when you make the keys reappear.

Here’s an interesting twist: Swap out the cloth for a clear transparent piece of plastic. Because they can see the keys, they have no problem removing the plastic to get at them. Yet by the time babies are around 9-months-old, they’re too sophisticated for this game, and will readily move the washcloth to retrieve the item underneath. So enjoy the mystery while you can.

* A.Gopnik, A.N. Meltzoff & P.K. Kuhl, ‘The Scientist In the Crib,’ New York: Harper Collins, 1999

After you are done here, please note that you can also find many simple, silly or fun baby games in our games area.