You may be thinking you have this beautiful newborn baby that is so fragile, you are afraid to “play” with him/her.
Good News! There are ways you can interact with your newborn by special ways of “playing” with them. Some you may already be doing instinctively. That’s great! However, sometimes you may just need some extra encouragement and reminders of how great these interactions are with your 0 – 3 month old.
Here are ten ways to play with your 0 – 3 month old baby.
1. Face Time | Research has shown that newborns prefer to look at faces over any other kind of interaction or toy. They love looking at faces that are smiling, have open eyes, looking directly at them in the eye, and that are responsive to their actions. Having face time with your baby helps develop that special bond between the both of you that lays the groundwork for a wonderful and healthy relationship in the months and years ahead.
2. Talking | Definitely talk to your baby during face time but also when you are changing their diaper, giving them a bath and when you are feeding them. When your baby is close to three months old, carry them around the house and point out various things in the house. They can begin to focus at this age and this way helps them begin a connection between language and objects. Hearing your voice throughout the day whether it is “baby talk” or “real talk,” improves their development of their auditory cortex (the part of the brain responsible for processing sound input) as well as their ability to focus on human voices. Research has found that it is VERY important to talk to your baby throughout the day because the more words they hear before they are three, the higher their IQ and the better they do in school. When I watched my granddaughter recently (she was three months old), I talked to her by telling her everything I was doing at any given moment, such as, washing clothes, cleaning or whatever task I was doing. I would just say it out loud, like, “I’m putting the clothes in the washing machine. I’m now putting detergent in the machine to make the clothes clean.” It may sound silly to you, but your baby will love to hear you. You get the idea. Just speak out loud with whatever you may be doing throughout the day.
4. Copy him/her | When you copy your baby’s facial expressions, sounds and/or movements, you are actually teaching them the basics of back and forth communication. They will notice that what they say or do matters to you. They also learn that you are receptive to their attempts at communicating with you.
5. Sing with hand motions | Can’t carry a tune? Your baby won’t care. Just them hearing you communicate in a different way will be beneficial to them. It’s great to sing to them and move them using the hand gestures associated with certain children’s songs, such as, “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” or “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” “Pat-a-Cake” is also a great one to use for hand gestures. It’s not really a song, but using the hand gestures encourages their developmental skills by coordinating the hand movements for functional use.
6. Dance | Can’t dance either? Your baby still doesn’t care. I mean, you already rock back and forth naturally when holding your baby, right? Why not turn that into a fun time to play and bond with your baby? You can do this during tummy time or other type of play time. The “dancing” allows their body to have some big-time movement as well as helps prepare their body for learning to roll over. So what are you waiting for? Turn that music on and start dancing with your baby.
7. Have something for them to look at | Big changes happen between 0 – 3 months with a baby’s developing visual system. From not being able to coordinate their eyes and seeing black and white to being able to see some colors and slowly moving objects. That’s why it’s great for them to utilize an activity play gym with the various hanging objects. You can change it up by switching out the toys it comes with to hanging a variety of household items (as long as they are safe). You can also be the “gym” by hanging various age-appropriate toys about one foot from their face and talking, singing or helping them reach out and bat it.
8. Give something for them to feel | Babies learn through the sense of touch. To help develop their tactile sensory system, let them feel various textures and materials to their skin. This will cause them to become familiar with them and to distinguish between those different feelings. Feeling the different textures/materials will also promote fine motor and hand skills down the road. Toys such as, balls, rings, blankets, rattles, etc. will serve this purpose. So, lay your baby down on a soft blanket and let them play with a variety of age-appropriate toys with different textures.
9. Read out loud | If you didn’t already read to your baby while in the womb, it’s never too late to start now. Use books that have different colors and simple pictures. You can even read out loud one of your own books or magazines while you are feeding your baby. Any out loud reading or talking exposes them to language, rhythm, sentence structure and, most importantly, your voice. It’s best to do this with no other background noise, such as a TV or radio on. It would make it more difficult for them to pick out important sounds if several noises are happening at the same time.
10. Play with your baby on the floor | Mostly everything mentioned above can be done while your baby is laying on the floor. All the motor skills that babies develop in their first year are done while laying on the floor. These include rolling, pushing chest up off the ground, crawling, sitting, and eventually, walking. All these are the result of time spent playing on the floor. Tummy time? Definitely a large part of developing these skills. You can start by gently rolling your baby into the tummy-down position after being placed on their back. This can be done during any playtime on the floor. As they get older and they can hold their head up better, you can place your baby tummy-down almost every time you lay them on the floor when they are awake.
One last thing | Do your baby a favor and please don’t always play with your baby while they are in some type of baby gear – swing, bouncer, etc., that you might think will help your baby develop muscles and motor skills faster. It definitely won’t.
Now, what are you waiting for? Get down on the floor with your baby. It’s “play time!”