Play is an essential activity for your newborn since it allows them to explore their environment and exercise their skills. Playtime also provides an excellent opportunity to bond with your baby and even learn more about their personalities. You may use toys and other baby-safe props at home to have fun playtime with your little one.
While playtime will inevitably be a vital part of your baby’s life, you may wonder about the right moment to initiate it. Read this post to learn about when you can start playing with a newborn, how long you should play, the benefits of play, and various ways to play with your baby.
When Should You Start Having Playtime With Your Newborn?
You may play with the newborn from the moment you bring them home for the first time (1). If your baby is alert and awake, you may place them on their tummy to initiate their very first playtime. You may keep the tummy time short; three to five minutes per session, two to three times per day.
Place a toy in front of the baby or sit in front of them during tummy time. Remember to interact with them as much you can to make playtime stimulating for the baby.
What Are The Benefits Of Play For Newborns?
Playtime is one of the essential activities for a newborn since it expands and strengthens the neural networks of the baby’s developing brain (2). Children experience rapid brain development during infancy, and play is an excellent way to support it. Besides, it helps in the baby’s overall cognitive and physical development, facilitating the timely achievement of various developmental milestones.
- Keeps the baby’s mind active and supports cognitive development
- Helps baby understand the world and objects through cause and effect
- Improves muscular dexterity, improving posture in the long run
- Makes bones, muscles, and joints stronger
- Supports development of social skills
- Stimulates language development and communication skills
- Develops various senses, including sight and hearing
How Much Should You Play With A Newborn?
There is no fixed duration for the time you may spend playing with your newborn. The World Health Organization recommends about 30 minutes of tummy time play per day for babies younger than 12 months (5). Nevertheless, this could vary based on the baby’s interests, age, and achieved developmental milestones.
When playing with the baby, you may look for the following signs that suggest the baby needs a break from play.
- Turning away from the toy or source of stimulation
- Falling asleep in the middle of the play activity
- Showing fussiness or crying when encouraged to play
- Showing disinterest in play while sucking at their thumb, suggesting they might be hungry
Tips And Ideas For Newborn’s Playtime
You may convert simple activities into games for the baby’s playtime. You may also use toys to encourage the baby to play often. Below are some suggestions, tips, and ideas for the newborn’s playtime (6).
- Begin with tummy time: The American Academy of Pediatrics state that the baby must be on their back for sleep and tummy for play. Tummy time strengthens the baby’s muscles and conditions their muscles for several physical development milestones. You may start with tummy time right from day one. In the long run, it could promote gross motor skills and improve the baby’s control of the head, neck, and limbs.
- Try activities that stimulate their senses: Newborns love activities that stimulate their senses (7). Pick a game that stimulates their senses. For instance, peek-a-boo is a great game to exercise the baby’s vision and object permanence skills. Make a puppet out of a sock, place it on your hand, and pretend that it is talking to the baby to stimulate their auditory skills. Bring objects with different textures and place them close to the baby. Let them touch, feel, and experience various textures.
- Play together with toys: Toys could play a vital role in stimulating the baby’s imagination, social, and communication skills (8). Pick toys that let the newborn experiment with cause and effect. A rattle could help the baby learn that some objects make noise when shaken. A squeeze toy could fascinate the baby when it returns to its original shape when the pressure is released.
- Talk and be interactive: Research indicates that when parents play with their babies, they synchronize their neural activity with that of their baby (9). This neural synchrony may boost the functions of the baby’s neural pathways and improve their cognitive development. Articulate words clearly and maintain eye contact when playing and speaking to the baby. Let the baby study your face, watch your lips move, and see your expressions. When the baby tries to respond, show your enthusiasm by smiling wide or clapping and cuddling the baby. This encourages the baby to keep trying.
- Sing and dance with the baby: Singing to the baby could have several benefits, including improving their bond with parents and even stimulating language development (10). A baby recognizes the mother’s voice way before they recognize her face. You may sing any nursery rhyme or children’s song. Make sure you smile and maintain eye contact with the baby. You may also hold the baby’s hands and clap to the rhythm as if dancing together. Holding the baby securely in your arms and dancing in gentle motions is also a great way to play with the newborn.
- Try mirror activities: Babies enjoy looking at their reflections, and a baby-safe, unbreakable mirror could make a great toy for a newborn (11). Place the mirror in front of the baby and let them look at their reflections. Prompt them with questions, such as “Who is that?.” Dress and change the baby’s diapers in front of the mirror. The mirror is a great way to teach the baby that objects exist even if they cannot see them.
- Read to the baby: Expose your baby to language by reading out loud from storybooks. Board books with big, colorful pictures are great for the read-and-show type of activities. Even if your baby is young, remember to point at characters and say their names aloud. Experts believe that newborn babies may pay more attention to happy sounds (12). Therefore, try reading out funny stories with plenty of laughs and smiles.
- Introduce the baby to new environments: Exposure to new sights, sounds, smells, and even people stimulates brain development in babies (7). Take your baby outdoors at least once a day. If it is not possible to do so, make sure you sit with them in front of the window or on the balcony for at least 30 minutes a day. Point at different objects and draw the baby’s attention to different sounds to stimulate their cognitive function.
- Imitate and make sounds: Make interesting sounds, such as the chirping of the birds or other sounds the baby hears, to grab the little one’s attention. The baby realizes that you can make different sounds, and they may try to imitate you. You may also make noise with other items, such as toys or plates and spoons. Listening to different sounds is a great way to familiarize the baby with certain types of sounds.
- Play games with clothes: There are several games you may play with clothes while doing laundry and looking after your newborn. Peek-a-boo is perhaps is the best example. Some other games you may try include pretending to fold clothes with the baby or hiding several pieces of clothing behind one another to reveal them with a surprise.
- Perform massages and assisted exercises: Since newborns are not very mobile, you may incorporate assisted physical movements and exercises. Place the baby on their back and perform bicycling motion with their legs, twist their legs to the sides, and move their feet to touch their forehead. Remember to be gentle and not push the baby’s limbs too hard. You may also massage them periodically to stimulate their physical development. Lay the baby on their back to massage their belly, and later massage their backs during tummy time. You may use a baby massage oil to help you massage the baby better. You may learn more about various massage techniques here.
Newborns are new to the world, and it can take several months for them to understand the nuances of their environment. However, this should not stop you from playing with them. You may try several activities and games to play with a newborn while they lay in your arms or crib. The right kind of play promotes brain development and also helps them reach milestones at the right time.
2. The Importance of Play; University of Georgia
3. Physical activity and exercise for children; Pregnancy, Birth, and Baby
4. Physical activity birth to 1 year; Australian Government
5. To grow up healthy, children need to sit less and play more; WHO
6. Simple Ways to Entertain & Boost Your Baby’s Development at Home; American Academy of Pediatrics
7. Physical Activity with Infants; Alabama Department of Public Health
8. Kevin Zoromski, Playing with a variety of toys leads to appropriate growth for girls and boys; Michigan State University
9. Liz Fuller-Wright, Baby and adult brains ‘sync up’ during play; Princeton University
10. Jill Suttie, Why Parents Sing to Babies; Greater Good Magazine
11. Mirror, mirror on the wall; Australian Government
12. Marieve Corbeil, Sandra E. Trehub, and Isabelle Peret, Speech vs. singing: infants choose happier sounds; U.S. National Library of Medicine