As a newborn seemingly has only three things on their to-do list – eat, poop, and sleep – it’s easy to think that they’re not ready for playtime or any form of extra stimulation. This isn’t true! You can interact with your baby in a playful way outside of feeding time. In fact, it’s important to play with your baby as it aids in their development.
Why Is It Important To Play With Your Baby?
The first few months and years of a baby’s life is a critical time – this is when their brain grows and develops at an extremely fast rate, and they become aware of their environment and the impact that they have on it.
Playing with your baby can help them reach developmental milestones such as being able to focus on specific objects and people, move around intentionally, and lift their head.
“Babies have a long way to go before they can toddle swiftly across a room. To accomplish each motor milestone – whether it’s grasping, rolling over, or walking – an infant needs the right mix of muscular strength, balance, coordination, cognitive development, and, especially, desire,” explains Parents.
Making it a priority to play and interact with your newborn can have a huge positive impact down the line.
First, how long is your baby a newborn, and when are they considered an infant? A baby is usually considered a newborn until they reach two to three months old. An infant is a baby under one-year-old.
As your baby develops and leaves being a newborn behind, playtime will change as they build upon each developmental block they reach.
Tips For Playing With Your Newborn (Under Three Months)
Begin Narrating What’s Going On
Even though it may feel like your newborn isn’t exactly taking in everything you’re saying, you’d be surprised by how much your words can help them develop and to start recognizing things!
Remember, playing with your newborn isn’t just about games and toys, as Raising Children points out, “Playing with your newborn helps her learn to talk and understand words. You might not always have time to stop everything and play, but you can still chat to your newborn about what’s going on – for example, while cooking dinner, shopping or folding clothes.”
In their second week, newborns can start focusing on specific objects up to 18 inches away. So, a great way to play with your baby is to make funny faces, stick out your tongue, and laugh in front of them so they can focus on your face. It’s the perfect baby playtime game!
Parents suggests, “As you feed your little one, move your head slowly from side to side and see if their eyes follow you. This helps build their eye muscles and tracking skills.”
Massages And Little Exercises
Babies actually enjoy massages just as much as some adults! Plus, it can help boost their muscle development.
A baby massage can be super simple. After bath time and when they’re relaxed and in a fresh diaper, you can gently but firmly rub their belly, back, arms, and legs. You can add a lotion to help further soothe them, especially if you’re getting them ready for bed. This is a great opportunity to bond with your little one.
Also, small exercises to get their limbs moving such as pedaling and stretching their legs, moving and stretching their arms, moving their toes, and tickling them is an amazing way to get their muscles moving so that their movements become smoother and not as jerky.
Healthline Parenthood says, “Lay baby on a blanket and help them get moving. Gently hold their hands while you move their arms up, out to the side, and around. Give those adorable toes a little squeeze and pedal their legs (this one is also great for gassy babies!).”
Tips For Playing With Your Infant (Three To Six Months)
During the three-month stage of your baby’s life, they’ll be hitting some pretty adorable milestones. This includes incoherent baby talk, laughter, and smiles. They’ll also be building up their strength, so, to encourage this, tummy time is essential. This can be used during playtime.
Time spent on their belly is important from when they are newborns, but as they get older you can lengthen this time.
“Encourage your baby to work his way up to about 15 minutes total on his tummy every day (or two to three sessions a day lasting three to five minutes each), always under your watchful eye. As your baby gets older, you can leave him on his belly for longer stretches, since older babies need more time on their tummies to build strength,” says What To Expect.
Some babies hate tummy time, but it’s still important to do it. Lay your little one on their belly on a mat with some toys around them.
With interesting things around them, they will be encouraged to lift their head (strengthening their neck muscles) and pull themselves towards it.
Cause And Effect Games
Between three and six months old, your baby will be able to understand that they can make things happen. They learn that if they do a certain thing, they will get something out of it.
To encourage this stage of development, give them toys.
Teaching Littlies suggests putting hand or feet rattles on them. Your little one will work out that when they kick their legs or move their arms, a noise happens.
Give Your Baby Sensory Toys
During this time, your baby’s fine motor skills are developing, and they are using their hands to grab things.
Introduce toys with different textures to encourage this development.
Sensory toys stimulate your little one’s senses of touch, smell, sight, and hearing and they have heaps of benefits.
Good Start explains that sensory baby playtime is important for development. It can help them develop problem solving skills, supports language development, and can help build nerve connections in the brain.
Mom Loves Best has a list of their top sensory toys for 2021.
It’s never too early to start bonding with your baby and encouraging their cognitive development – playtime is a great way to do both!
If you’re getting ready to welcome a new bundle of cuteness and aren’t feeling completely ready, don’t worry – it’s normal! To feel more confident and excited for your newborn, register for my free mini-course, Prepare For Baby.