Having a newborn is equal parts wonderful and terrifying. After months of getting to know the baby prior to birth, you end up meeting them — and they can be much louder and more demanding than they were on the inside. Babies are also fragile, and they don’t exactly come with a list of instructions. Every relative will be offering you advice, most of it unsolicited. And don’t even get us started on the lack of sleep. Even with all of that, though, you spend most of your spare time looking at your baby in disbelief that you created something so perfect. Motherhood is a whirlwind of emotion. That said, newborns can be tricky for one big reason: They don’t do much! Trying to figure out how to play with newborn babies may feel a little bit like trying to solve the mystery of the Rubik’s cube.
But, there are definitely ways to play with a newborn that’ll keep your little one entertained and strengthen your bond. Here are some engaging newborn activities and ideas to try.
How to Play with Newborn: Active
Sing Songs to Your Newborn
Newborns — and most humans in general, to be fair — enjoy music. Babies can identify a beat in music at just seven months old. Music can also cheer them up, which is why many parents opt for lullabies to ease a fussy baby. By singing fun songs to your newborn, and possibly incorporating them with light motion, your newborn will have the time of their life.
Do Tummy Time
Curious about when to start tummy time? It can seem a little scary if your newborn isn’t fond of the activity. But it’ll get better — especially when they gain more strength to hold their heads up. Tummy time is an important way for your newborn to develop. And while it may not seem like a fun way to play with newborns, many might take a liking to the new perspective. Just make sure your newborn always knows that you’re by their side.
Use Your Hands
Newborns require a lot of touch and cuddles, which count as play. But, they’ll also appreciate it if you use your hands for expression. Hand gestures are all a part of communication, and it’s something your newborn will eventually pick up on. Some kids are excellent at signing, and it’s something you can start to teach at any time. In general, just remember that newborns appreciate simple and gentle gestures.
Newborns dance in different ways. Usually, they’re on their backs or propped up, and might try feeling a beat with uncoordinated gestures. You can also pick your newborn up and rock and sway to a song. It’s also a great way to help promote body movement. Most newborns will eventually pick up on how to best move their bodies, but dancing with a parent is definitely a good way to give them a head start.
How to Play with Newborn: Passive
This is the easiest way to play with newborn babies, and it’s one of the best. A newborn usually smiles for the first time between six and eight weeks old, and they may feel more confident about giving it a shot after seeing your happy face. Making faces at babies will often get a giggle. It’s also quite sweet to see a newborn baby so impressed by a simple maneuver you’ve done so many times before.
Set Baby Up in Front of a Mirror
As your baby grows, they’ll be more and more intrigued with their reflection in the mirror. Babies like studying faces and looking at other people, and that includes their own face. That’s why plenty of activity centers for newborns include a mirrored area that’ll help them see their reflection. With time, your baby will start to learn what they look like. It’s good to look for small mirrors or mirrored surfaces that won’t break — anything heavy or wall-mounted may be too dangerous.
Buy a Mobile
Mobiles above cribs aren’t as popular as they used to be, but they can be fantastic for play. Newborn babies enjoy watching movement, and it’s more stimulating with colorful characters. Many playsets also offer mobiles that have different touch sensations. For example, one animal on the mobile may feel crinkly, while another may be soft. These textures often found on newborn toys can help stimulate your baby’s awareness of touch.
How much should you play with a newborn?
Babies may seem like chubby balls of energy, but they can’t play all day. It’s important not to overplay with them to avoid overstimulation. Engage with your baby for about two to four minutes. Then, give them a break and play with them later. Babies can become overwhelmed by activity, which can make them fussy.
Planning for Newborn Playtime
As with many aspects of parenting, what you can expect is that you won’t know what to expect! Babies develop at different rates, so your newborn might not interact with you the way another newborn interacts with their mom. At least not yet — in all likelihood, your little one will get there at their own pace. But if you are worried about their development or concerned they may not be seeing or hearing as they should, bring it up to your baby’s doctor.