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Back to Play and learning. You can give your child lots of different opportunities to play, and it doesn't need to be difficult or expensive. Babies, toddlers and young children love playing with water — in the bath, paddling pool or just using the sink or a plastic bowl.

Use plastic bottles for pouring and squirting each other, plastic tubing, a sponge, a colander, straws, a funnel, spoons and anything else that's unbreakable. Never leave a young child alone with water. A baby or young child can drown in just 5 centimetres 2 inches of water.

You can start looking at books with your baby from an early age — it will help them with their future learning. The time spent sharing books with your baby also allows you to bond with them and is good for emotional wellbeing. Even before babies learn to speak, they will enjoy hearing you read to them.

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Listening to you will give them a feel for the sounds, rhythms and rhymes of language. Even small babies like looking at picture books. Local libraries usually have a good range of children's books.

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Some run story sessions for young children. Even if it's for just 10 minutes a day, looking at books with your child will help them build important skills and encourage their interest in reading. Booktrust offers free Bookstart book packs to every child at 2 key ages before they start school. The aim is to help families enjoy reading together every day and get your child off to a flying start.

You will get Looking for fun whatever else Bookstart Baby pack in your baby's first year, usually from your health visitor or other health professional. Your child will also get a Bookstart Treasure pack when they are 3 or 4 years old from their nursery, playgroup or other early years setting. Visit the Bookstart website to enjoy interactive storybooks and gamesand to find out about events at your local library. You'll also find plenty of other book recommendations. You could also visit Words for Life for reading tips and ideas.

Wash out a plastic screw-top bottle and put dried lentils or beans inside. Shake it around in front of your child and they will learn how to make a noise with it. Be sure to secure the lid so that it won't come off as some dried beans are poisonous and young children can choke on small objects. Use a bowl and spoons to measure small quantities of "real" ingredients flour, lentils, rice, sugar, custard powder. You and your child can mix them up with water in bowls or egg cups.

Use crayons, felt tips or powder paint. You can make powder paint thicker by adding washing-up liquid and water. Firstly, show your child how to hold the crayon or paintbrush. If you don't have paper, you can use the insides of cereal boxes or old envelopes that have been cut open. Use socks and envelopes to make hand puppets. Draw faces on them or stick things on to make your own characters.

Get the puppets to "talk" to each other, or to you and your. Encourage your child to walk with you you may want to use reins for safety as soon as they are able to. It might slow you down, but it's a great way for both of you to get some exercise. Collect old hats, bags, gloves, scarves, nighties, lengths of material, tea towels and curtains. Ask friends and relatives or try jumble sales. Make sure there are no loose cords, strings or ribbons that could wrap around your child's neck or trip them or you up.

Paper plates or cut-up cereal packets make good masks. Cut slits for the eyes and attach them to your face with string or elastic.

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It's best to limit your child's daily TV time to no more than half an hour for under-2s and an hour for 3- to 5-year-olds. TV can entertain your child and give you a bit of time to do other things.

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Try not to have it on all the time, though. Always know what your child is watching. When possible, watch with your child, so that you can talk together about what you're watching. Collect cardboard boxes, cartons, yoghurt pots, milk bottle tops and anything else you can think of. Buy some children's glue the type that comes with a brush is easiest to use and help them to make whatever they like. When buying toys, look for the British Standard kitemark, lion mark or CE mark, which show that the toy meets safety standards. Visit the Which? Take care when buying secondhand toys or toys from market stalls, as they may not meet safety standards and could be dangerous.

Toys usually have age warnings on them. If a toy is marked as "Not suitable for children under 36 months", don't give it to a baby or toddler under 3. Check toys for sharp edges or small parts that your child could swallow. Some electrical toys contain small, round batteries called button batteries.

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As well as being a choking hazardthese can cause severe internal burns if swallowed or lodged in your child's ear or nose. Keep button batteries well away from your child and make sure that battery compartments on toys are properly secured with a screw. If your child is using a toy intended for a younger age group, make sure that it's strong enough and won't get broken. Children with a visual impairment will need toys with different textures to explore with their hands and mouth.

Children with impaired hearing will need toys to stimulate language, such as puzzles that involve matching "finger-spelled" letters to appropriate pictures. The Living made easy website has lots of play and leisure ideas and equipment for disabled children.

last reviewed: 9 August Next review due: 9 August Baby and toddler play ideas. Ideas to help your child play and learn You can give your child lots of different opportunities to play, and it doesn't need to be difficult or expensive. It's fun and will help them develop language and communication skills use things that you've already got around the house.

Try some of the ideas below get involved yourself. Your child will learn more from you than they will from any toy Play ideas at any age Playing with water Babies, toddlers and young children love playing with water — in the bath, paddling pool or just using the sink or a plastic bowl. Reading to your baby You can start looking at books with your baby from an early age — it will help them with their future learning. Play ideas from 4 months Rattles Wash out a plastic screw-top bottle and put dried lentils or beans inside.

Play ideas from 18 months Pretend cooking Use a bowl and spoons to measure small quantities of "real" ingredients flour, lentils, rice, sugar, custard powder.

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Drawing and painting Use crayons, felt tips or powder paint. Sock puppets Use socks and envelopes to make hand puppets. Walking Encourage your child to walk with you you may want to use reins for safety as soon as they are able to. Play ideas from 24 months Dressing up Collect old hats, bags, gloves, scarves, nighties, lengths of material, tea towels and curtains. TV It's best to limit your child's daily TV time to no more than half an hour for under-2s and an hour for 3- to 5-year-olds.

Play ideas from 30 months Junk modelling Collect cardboard boxes, cartons, yoghurt pots, milk bottle tops and anything else you can think of. Toy safety When buying toys, look for the British Standard kitemark, lion mark or CE mark, which show that the toy meets safety standards.

Button battery warning Some electrical toys contain small, round batteries called button batteries. Toys for children with special needs Toys for children with special needs should match their developmental age and ability. Video: how can I help my baby learn and develop? Media last reviewed: 25 January Media review due: 25 January

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Baby and toddler play ideas