It might appear that newborn babies spend most of their time sleeping and feeding, but in the first few weeks babies’ bodies and minds develop at an amazing rate. Your newborn is learning lots of new things every day as they explore all the new sights, smells and sounds around them and discover their new world. When you interact with your new baby, you can help them along as they develop all their senses and discover the way their bodies move and work. Of course when it comes to providing stimulation for newborn babies you don’t need to rush to enrol them in expensive baby classes or start holding up phonics flashcards in front of their faces. Just by talking to and playing with your baby, you give them so much to learn and grow with. We’ve put together a list 12 great ways to play with baby that you can do every day. They all help you bond with your baby, and help them thrive and discover new experiences and skills.
Games to develop motor skills
Your baby will gradually be developing their gross motor skills. Slowly they will begin to strengthen their muscles and control their movements. These include learning how to lift their heads, and starting to control arm and leg movements.
When your baby is awake and alert, place them on a safe flat surface, on their tummy for a few minutes at a time, a few times each day. You could lie next to them to encourage them to turn and lift their head. It’s a nice idea to put them down on different textures for them to explore. These can be blankets or play mats with different fabrics, or on the grass in the garden on a nice day. Every gross motor skill your baby will learn over the first few months will be the result of time spent playing on the floor. From there he will learn to lift his head, to roll, to sit and to crawl. So play with baby by lying next to them on the floor and it’s time well spent.
Face to face
Lie down and place your baby on your chest so that you are face to face. This will encourage him to lift his head and is a great way to talk to or sing to your baby as he gazes at your face. You can share beautiful moments together while you play with baby.
Clap hands baby
This is a lovely game to play with baby. Hold your baby’s hands in yours and clap them together as you sing. Don’t worry if you’re no Adele, your baby will enjoy the tunes no matter what.
The baby boogie
Babies love being moved around in your arms and they love the sway and rhythm as you dance with them. You can swoop and swirl, bob and twirl.
Games to stimulate the senses
Your baby’s new world is full of all sorts of new sounds, sights, smells and textures. Play with baby and you can help them discover and explore them and develop their senses.
Hang a mobile above your baby’s crib. At first babies can see black and white colours the best, but by two months of age they will also be able to see bright colours. They will be able to pick out red and green, and very soon after blue and yellow. A mobile can provide visual stimulation as your baby watches its movements, shapes and colours.
Babies love games where you gently stroke and tickle their skin or when you touch them. There are so many ways you can play with baby to touch their skin and make them giggle. When she is lying on a mat smile at her and touch her hands, her feet, and kiss her tummy. See how she wiggles and reacts to your touch and your voice. If you use words such as ‘beep’ before you touch their nose or feet, they will begin to anticipate the word and the game and love it even more. You can also use soft scarves, feathers or other soft items to tickle and touch your baby.
Shake, rattle and roll
Play with your baby, showing them noisy toys and objects, which you can shake and rattle to let them hear all the different sounds. You can use noisy toys or just pop rice in a box and shake it.
All the feels
Let your child touch and feel lots of different objects with all sorts of different textures. Try toys and books with crinkly surfaces and objects with rough surfaces or raised patterns. Squidgy toys and household items are also wonderful for them to touch and explore.
Mirror, mirror on the wall
Show your baby their face in the mirror. Point and say their name and gradually your baby will begin to associate the face in the mirror with the sound. Babies hold a fascination for other babies and so will love looking in the mirror. They prefer looking at faces above all else and will soon begin to distinguish between the faces of those they know and those they don’t know. They will also start to recognise different facial expressions. Try pulling lots of funny faces or sticking out your tongue slowly in the mirror as another fun game to play with baby.
Games to encourage communication
Parents and adults naturally speak to babies in a special voice, which is higher in pitch and has a more sing-song quality. It’s known as ‘motherese’ The more often you talk to your baby, even long before they can talk back, the more they learn about communication and the better their language will develop. When you leave pauses in your conversations with a baby they soon learn that it is their turn to ‘talk’ and fill in the gaps with a noise or an expression.
Let’s talk, baby
Talk to your baby as you go about your day. Explain what you are doing as you get them dressed and ready. Chat to them about the things you can see out of the window. Explain to them that you are chopping the vegetables for dinner tonight. You might feel a bit silly at first, talking to such a tiny human who can’t speak back but, believe us, they are listening and learning. Talking to your child is one of the best things you can do to encourage their language development. Research has shown how important it is and how much of a different it can make:
The greater the number of words children (hear) from their parents or caregivers before they (are) 3, the higher their IQ and the better they (do) in school.
So talk, talk, talk.
Imitating your baby is a great way to teach him about communication. Copy the expressions he makes and the things he does. In playing this game with your baby, you are teaching him about the back and forth of communication and how we take turns when we talk. It’s great fun too to take the lead from your baby and to see how he responds when you copy him. You will soon notice that he is trying to copy you too. When he’s calm and awake and looking right at you, try pulling a facial expression very slowly. It could be as simple as doing an ‘ooo’ or ‘aaa’ in slow motion. Can you see him trying to pull the same face afterwards?
Curl up with a book
Even teeny tiny newborns will enjoy hearing your voice and babies love looking at bright pictures when you read to them. Choose chunky books with black and white pictures or bright colours. You can snuggle up together and your baby will enjoy listening to his favourite sound in the world – your voice.
Don’t stress about play time
The first three months with a newborn can be as exhausting and tough as they are beautiful and magical. While you get to grips with feeding, changing and soothing your baby, you may often find the days passing without realising where they’ve gone. Don’t worry if you haven’t had the time or energy to play with him. The amazing things you do each day, like cuddling your baby, smiling at him, talking to him and rocking him, all help him thrive and develop. Play time at this stage is all about the little moments that you share together. He will be learning so much from being close to you, from gazing at your face and from hearing your voice. Very soon your baby will start to smile when he sees you and reach his arms out for you. As he starts communicating back, you can both share all the more fun, games and giggles.