How to Play With Your Newborn

Three Methods:Playing Games to Develop CommunicationChoosing Games that Build Motor SkillsPlaying While Increasing Bodily Awareness

Playing with your newborn is the best way to help them learn, not to mention develop a powerful emotional connection with you. Touching, speaking, holding, singing, and even simply looking at one another are some of the best ways to play with your newborn. Remember that your newborn is able to communicate with you as soon as they’re born, though it may take them a few weeks to realize that they’re a separate person, and a few more to control their physical movement.[1]

Method 1
Playing Games to Develop Communication

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    Make faces at each other. In terms of engagement and enjoyment, there’s nothing more enjoyable for your newborn than a good face-making session. In fact, newborns even prefer faces to toys. Further, your baby will be especially excited to observe wide-open eyes and genuine smiles. Look your baby in the eye and respond to any actions the baby makes by changing your expression. The sillier the better.[2]
    • Aside from the enjoyment your newborn will derive from making faces at one another, face-to-face interaction also helps lay the foundation for a bond that will help your relationship with your child in the years to come.
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    Be proactive about playing with your newborn. Know that you’ll need to initiate almost all interactions with your newborns for the first few months of their life. By three or fourth months old, however, your baby will begin expressing themselves with facial expressions, sounds, and movements.[3]
    • You’ll start by making dramatic facial expressions and noises, as these will be the first things your baby is able to recognize.
    • Progress into smiling and conveying verbal excitement when your baby begins to coo and gurgle in response to your expressions. Soon, they’ll by squealing and laughing in response to most of your statement and behaviors.
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    Speak to your newborn. Hold your face close to your newborn while speaking to them to get more face-to-face time together as well. Extremely young newborn babies may prefer the silly noises often associated with speaking to babies, but you can also simply speak softly using an actual human language. Not only will this be fun for your newborn, there are copious links between children’s language and intelligence development and the degree to which they were spoken to as a baby.[4]
    • Talk to your newborn while feeding, bathing, and changing them as well.
    • As your baby approaches three months of age, start describing the things around you as you carry them around. At this point, they will be developing the ability to visually focus and will begin to understand the association between language and objects. Though it sounds simple, this will be an immense source of enjoyment for your baby.
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    Read out loud to them as well. It’s never too early to read your baby. You can even simply read whatever you’re reading out loud to them. As they become more aware of their surroundings, read them books that feature pictures with highly contrasting colors and basic illustrations.[5]
    • Exposure to your voice, the rhythm with which you speak and structure sentences, and the vocabulary you use will all steadily increase your baby’s understand of verbal communication.
    • Make sure to eliminate extraneous noise when reading to your baby. In particular, turn off any televisions or other devices emitting distracting audio.
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    Sing to your baby. Your baby will be especially interested in listening if you’re singing. And even better: sing songs that incorporate a physically active component, and move their arms or playfully touch your newborn as you sing to them. Incorporate singing with hand-motions into your baby’s daily routine.[6]
    • Start with the classics, as you may even already know them: The Wheels on the Bus, The Itsy-Bisty Spider, and If You’re Happy and You Know It are proven mainstays.
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    Incorporate hand signs and touching into your play time generally. Moving your babies hands as you talk to them – or moving your own in front of or upon them – will encourage your newborn to develop both the physical skills necessary to move their arms, as well as the mental recognition that communication is occurring.[7]
    • One of the best ways to convey that you’re communicating with your baby is by imitating them. Make similar sounds, expressions, and movements as they are, to emulate the process of interacting with someone else.
    • For more specific pointers, including training your baby to learn specific signs when they’re a bit older, see the wikiHow article on how to teach your baby sign language.

Method 2
Choosing Games that Build Motor Skills

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    Spend some belly-down time on the floor together. Along with holding and talking to your newborn, facilitating some time spent on their bellies is the best way to spend time together. While many of the steps in this article can occur while your baby is on the floor – they will most often be on their back. Rolling your newborn onto their belly will help them begin to develop their motor skills, and will eventually contribute to their learning to roll around, push themselves up, sit, crawl, and otherwise ramble around.[8]
    • Check with your pediatrician if you feel uncomfortable placing your baby on their belly when they’re still itty-bitty. However, know that even day-old newborn babies can usually be safely rolled onto their bellies, after first being placed gently on their back.
    • However, many babies will not tolerate very much time (a few seconds or minutes) on their bellies because they don't yet have the neck strength to hold up their heads.
    • There are plenty of games you can play with your baby on their belly. Peek-a-boo is a classic; you may find yourself enjoying belly time just as much as your baby!
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    Increase the amount of belly-down time as your newborn grows. Get in the habit of always rolling your baby onto their belly for a while after changing them or playing with them when they’re lying on their backs. Once your baby has control of their head, default towards placing them belly-down most of the times you set them on the floor. [9]
    • Start slowly and don’t rush it, but incorporate belly-down time into regular daily activities to get your newborn used to using the muscles they’ll need to start moving around and really start testing your playfulness.
    • However, don't leave your baby alone on their belly, and don't put your baby to sleep on their belly.
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    Provide visual toys for your newborn. Your baby’s visual capabilities will drastically change during the first few months of their lives. Dangle or suspend simple, safe toys designed for newborns about 8-12 inches from your baby’s face. If they reach for it, help them feel or bat at the toy.[10] Choose toys that incorporate high contrast between colors – even simply black and white – as these will help babies begin to be able to tell colors apart.
    • Show your baby interesting visual things as well. For instance, tornado bottles, glittery items, and even lava lamps may totally mystify your newborn – though do not allow them to touch anything that is not designed for a newborn to hold.
    • Another benefit of dangling toys in front of your newborn is that it can help your baby begin to control their visual concentration and ability to track movement.
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    Dance with your newborn. Sure, they may not ever take the lead, but swaying back and forth with your newborn is delightfully playful and will greatly increase your bond with your baby. Swinging your baby gently through the air is not only especially likely to get them giggling, it will help increase their bodily awareness, which will help as they begin to learn how to control their own bodies as well.[11]
    • Make sure to support their neck and head until they can do so safely on their own.

Method 3
Playing While Increasing Bodily Awareness

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    Hold your baby often. Make sure you hold your baby for a while several times every day. Holding them will increase their level of comfort in your arms, and will offer them the joys of movement, changing perspectives, and physical contact. Though simply holding your baby may not seem like "play," you may be surprised by how much you end up laughing at one another and otherwise enjoying each other's company.[12]
    • Experiment holding you baby in different ways, including with the aid of a baby carrier that is safe and appropriate for the baby’s size.
    • Always make sure you’re supporting your newborn’s head, as neck muscles are still developing for the first six months.
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    Incorporate some skin time while holding your newborn. Contact between your own and your baby’s skin will also strengthen your bond to one another, increase both you and your baby’s level of happiness, and even help regulate your baby’s temperature and heart rate.[13]
    • Further, your skin will likely fascinate your baby. They will likely spend long periods of time simply looking at and touching your skin, as well as their own. This is both a type of exploratory playfulness you'll see whenever they touch something new or pleasurable.
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    Remind them about their own bodies. Don’t forget some of the best baby toys there are: their own hands and feet. As your newborn begins to notice their own hands and feet, they’ll be both amused and overjoyed. Facilitate this fascination by bringing their attention to different parts of their own body.[14]
    • As they become able to better control their hands, provide them with a rattle or something else that will make noise. Making noise with toys is often the manner by which babies first begin to learn that they are capable of affecting the world around them.
    • Similarly, provide them with toys they can touch together and compare as they begin to gain more control of their bodies.
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    Make different textures accessible. Your newborn will likely be fascinated by the different ways things feel to the touch. Provide a variety of toys and fabrics to your newborn to expose them to how vastly different things can feel. Similarly, make a point of laying them down on surfaces with different textures, including different types of blankets and cloth.[15]
    • Know that a baby first learns about their body and their environment with their tactile sensory system. Otherwise stated, they first learn by touching things. This is why many baby toys include little move-able attachments.
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    Take the baby on walk or jog. Bringing your newborn on walks will be healthy and enjoyable for both of you. They will be thrilled by the new visual, auditory, and physical sensations. Further, exposure to the outdoor environment will help stimulate their intellectual growth, curiosity, and sense of place in the world as a human individual.
    • Bring your baby along for your jog to include them in your exercise routine.
    • Use a baby carrier if you’ll just be walking, as this will facilitate a greater personal bond, and close proximity to your body is a perfect source of warmth.[16]

Article Info

Categories: Newborns