Oh, those sweet little newborn coos and wiggly movements that come from a fresh new baby. Those adorable sounds won’t last for long.
Just within a couple of months, you’re wondering where that tiny baby went. After having my second recently, I realize how fast this time does fly by and I want to cherish every moment that he’s this little.
In those first few weeks, your baby seems so very fragile. Their little heads and bodies flop around because they don’t have adequate neck control or muscle strength. They’re operating on reflexes alone and just repeating the cycle of eat, sleep, poop.
You may feel like you don’t know how to play with your newborn or even if it’s safe to do so early on. Read on for the benefits and ideas of how to play with a newborn below.
Why it’s Important to Play With Your Baby
Play is the most important way that babies and toddlers learn. They explore their environment, learn language, develop relationships, strengthen motor skills, and gain knowledge through play. Play can start as early as the newborn stage, but you have to help them out a bit.
These early months are the building blocks of your child’s development. It’s important to stimulate them as much as possible to get their body’s systems off to a running start.
You may be surprised to know that the human brain grows and develops at the fastest rate when they are babies and toddlers. In order to help your child have the most optimal tools for growth, give them all the interaction, love, and stimulation that you can.
It may not be apparent right now, but you will be providing them with important sensory input to their body’s joints, strengthening muscles for physical development, and brain stimulation for social and emotional interaction and so much more.
Tips for How to Play With a Newborn to Stimulate Their Development
Although it may seem like there’s not a lot to do with them because their senses haven’t fully developed and they sleep all day long, you can really use this time to stimulate and bond with your baby.
The older they get, the more they will start to respond to these actions. If you start from the beginning, you’ll really see how they develop and grow with each and every milestone.
Here are several ways on how to play with your newborn baby in the first 4 months.
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1. Imitate their noises and facial expressions
They’re starting to realize they have a voice so let them know that they are being heard. When they start making sounds and noises, repeat after them.
They’ll love hearing it back while also familiarizing themselves with your voice. Also, you can imitate all the little facial expressions they make: yawning, grimacing, smiling, or eyes wide open.
They should start smiling around 7-10 weeks. If your baby isn’t smiling yet, just show them your big smile and they will start imitating it too!
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2. Tummy time
Tummy time is such an important activity at this age to strengthen your baby’s neck muscles, allowing them to hold their
It also improves strength in the arms, hands and fingers for fine motor skills, sensory stimulation throughout their body, and gets them ready to start rolling. You can begin putting them on their belly from 1 day old.
It may be easier to start out propping them up on a Boppy or pillow so they’re not completely flat. It’s great to use a tummy time mat, like this one, for added stimulation.
This mat is great because it has it’s own little propping pillows plus overhead toys when he can really lift his head up or laying on his back. However, if you don’t have one, placing them on a blanket is totally fine.
Tummy time should be done EVERY day to give your baby the strength and sensory input that they need for physical development.
Read about more great tips and ideas for tummy time here: How to make tummy time easier for your baby
3. Encourage them to explore their bodies
They will soon start to become aware of all of the different parts of their bodies. You can help facilitate these milestones by bringing their hands to their mouth, in front of their eyes, and touching objects.
You can also have them:
- Sit in front of a mirror to look at their reflection and point to all the features of their face.
- Stretch their arms up high and circle them around.
- Bring their feet to their hands.
- Allow them to bear weight and stand while you’re holding them up.
- Cycle their legs and push them into and out of their bellies.
Babies love massage probably just as much as adults do. You can gently rub or massage all the parts of his body from his toes to his back and all the way out to his finger tips.
This will help them start feeling and discovering different parts of their body. When you give a massage, they are starting to get a sense of where their body is in space, including all their limbs being attached to them.
Be gentle, but still firm. You won’t hurt them!
Try this after a diaper change or bath time. You can do it when they’re in just a diaper with Calming Lavender Baby Lotion or Coconut Oil to make it smoother. You could also just do it over their clothes at any point in the day.
Check out this post on How to Properly Massage Your Baby
5. Try different positions
You probably have your baby on his back most of the day in some kind of inclined device, such as a swing, bouncer, rock n play, or newborn lounger.
These are great devices to make them feel comfortable and still cozied up like they’re in the womb. However, make sure you’re switching up the gear regularly so they’re not in the same position every time you put them down.
- Try laying them flat on their back and watch how much they stretch and kick. In this position, they can move their head and neck more to look around.
- You can also lay them on their side. This way, they’re half way to rolling to one side or the other so that may help them get started on that. They can also see things from a different perspective on their side, as well as have an easier time bringing their hands in front of their face.
- Of course, being on their bellies is great stimulation too (and the most important), as stated before.
- You can try positioning them sitting up with support, propped up on a Boppy, or in the corner of a couch.
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6. Face to face
Face time has a whole new meaning with babies. If you need to figure out an easy way how to play with a newborn, this is a simple one that you probably do already.
Babies respond the greatest to faces, especially mom and dad. They are drawn to familiar faces and the more they see yours up close, the better they will respond when they see you if they are in discomfort.
Sit up with your knees bent and prop the baby against your legs. This way you can be face-to-face, about 1 foot away.
Your baby will become aware of the features of your face and start smiling before you know it. While giving them that face time, play games like Peek-A-Boo, demonstrate smiling, and laughing, as well.
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7. Sit them up
A newborn will be put down a lot or just held on their backs most of the time. Not only is sitting up great for face-to-face and better eye contact, it will help strengthen their neck and trunk muscles and reduce time spent on their back (potentially leading to a flat head).
Once your baby has pretty good neck control (probably around 2-2.5 months), you can start using a Fischer Price Sit-Me-Up.
This is one of my favorite gadgets for little ones because it gives me a place to put them down, without worrying about them spending too much time laying flat.
8. Use toys of different textures and sounds
Shaking a toy in front of your newborn’s face is great for visual stimulation, of course, however there are other ways that your infant can explore new objects.
Toys that are multi-sensory have different textures, sounds, and music to stimulate many of the senses. This is a great all-in-one toy that provides all of those things
- Rub those objects on their hands, arms, face, or legs so their brains start to recognize all the different textures and sensations.
- Put the objects on different sides of their head to see how they look and respond to where the sound is coming from.
- Have your baby reach for and touch these objects while laying in different positions.
- Make different sounds for your baby to hear in high and low pitches like squeaking, bells, musical notes, whistling, singing, humming, etc.
You also use common household objects to accomplish this, as well!
- Plush stuffed animals
- Soft toys
- hard rattles
- soft or coarse bristles on a brush
- cotton balls
Read more about The Only Newborn Toys You Will Need For Development & Stimulation
9. Lay them on their backs with toys overhead
Place your baby under a mobile or on an activity mat. At just a few weeks old, they will start gazing at the objects floating above them.
This promotes visual fixation and tracking as your baby starts to follow objects moving around. Use toys that are brightly colored, make noise, or rotate.
10. Baby talk
I know it may seem silly to talk to a newborn when they can’t understand what you’re saying yet. However, this is a great way for them to become familiar with your voice and new sounds.
Even if they can’t understand you, your voice will start to become recognizable. This will help soothe them when they are in discomfort, knowing that mom is there.
Use their name when you speak to them, read books, or sing songs. Although your baby won’t know their name is referring to them until around 6-7 months, It will give them a head start at recognizing it.
11. Sing to them
Your baby is starting to learn the sound of your voice so those sweet lullabies or fun sing-a-longs are music to his ears. He’ll start smiling, cooing, and laughing before you know it and just hearing the familiar sounds of mom or dad will surely make him happy.
12. Snuggles & Kisses
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you to do this because it’s probably what you spend your entire day doing. My favorite thing to do is get my baby naked in just his diaper, wrap him loosely in a super soft blanket, and kiss him all over his belly and neck.
He’s 3 months now and started laughing and giggling like crazy when I do this! The best thing you can do for your baby is give them all the loving skin to skin contact that you can.
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13. Just let them be
Even when they’re not doing anything, they’re still learning all about the world around them! They’re taking in so much information through their senses at every moment. Therefore, there’s no need to worry about if you’re not stimulating him enough.
Enjoy the time with your little one and I hope you learned how to play with a newborn. They don’t stay this small for long!