Having a newborn can be pretty overwhelming. It may seem like just yesterday when life revolved around you and your husband, and now you’ve got an undeniably cute and adorable, tiny human being. While life as new parents may be mostly about feeding, changing diapers, cleaning bums, and sleepless nights of breastfeeding or rocking your baby to sleep, you may also want to consider playtime as a significant part of your routine. If you feel clueless on what games you can play with your little one, here are some fun and simple playtime activities you can consider to make bonding time all the more enjoyable.
Now, you may be thinking, “Isn’t my baby too small or young? What if I hurt him? Can newborns even play?” While your baby may seem too tiny to be playing at this stage, and can barely even move around, studies show that playtime or physical interactions can greatly contribute to your child’s brain development. Aside from the bond you create, Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Director of Center on the Developing Child in Harvard University, said that babies take in all kinds of experiences–such as physical interactions–and at every second of these experiences, the brain is making between 700 to 1,000 new connections in their brain cells. Check out some of our sample activities below.
At this stage, nothing is more fascinating to your little one than your face, so unleash those silly faces and high-pitched voices, and learn to play with your baby. More than any expensive educational toy in the market, playtime with you will always be more than enough for your baby’s brain development. Making silly faces or different facial expressions, such as putting on a big happy smile, looking surprised, raising your eyebrows, or sticking your tongue out, help stimulate your baby’s visual, social, and emotional development. You might not get a smile back, yet, but over time, you’ll be surprised when your baby starts copying you or even giving you sweet little coos as a response.
Studies show that playing peek-a-boo stimulates your baby’s senses, helps develop visual tracking, and supports social development. And although the idea of object permanence is yet to be expected until she turns five months, it’s never too early to enjoy playing this classic baby game for your baby’s developing brain.
Pull out some cotton balls, a comb, a brush, a piece of fabric–basically things with a variety of textures–then gently brush them one by one on your baby’s skin or try to tickle your baby with them. This activity encourages tactile stimulation and helps promote your baby’s body awareness.
Babies love music and what better way to incorporate play and fun with learning, than with a bit of music (or maybe even a whole lot of it)! I assure you, you don’t need to be hitting all the high and low notes, because no matter how out of tune you may be, it will always be enjoyable and entertaining for your little one. You can sing him your favorite songs, or start with some nursery rhymes, and even work on some finger plays to go along with it. You can also choose to put melodies when chatting with your baby, as a way to teach him your routine. You can create a chant for when you’re changing his diapers, or giving him a massage.
Much like singing, sounds also help in further developing your baby’s sense of hearing and strengthening your baby’s cognitive skills. You can play with baby rattles, gently shaking them in front of your baby, or perhaps other musical instruments, or even anything you can find that will make different kinds of sounds. You can move the source of sound from left to right, up and down, and see her follow it around. Just make sure not to make it too loud.
Your baby might not be able to clap his hands on his own yet, but your guidance is all he needs to help him discover this is actually possible. Gently clap your baby’s hands or feet together for a fun little exercise routine. You can also tenderly circle his legs or stretch his arms, or just simply, softly wiggle his fingers.
Classical music and nursery rhymes are without a doubt great for your baby’s growing brain, but hitting up a little bit of jazz or maybe even some pop music won’t hurt either. Make listening to music fun and enjoyable, as you and your little one do some gentle sways. Listening to songs together also encourages language development and promotes your baby’s listening skills.
It’s easy for new parents to focus on the basic needs of their babies during the first few days (and this is totally fine because those in themselves are pretty taxing enough), but just a little reminder that aside from food, sleep, and a clean nappy, your baby’s connection with you is one of his best tools for survival and development. While you may feel silly playing with your little one, who is yet to actually interact with you, know that those eyes of wonder and amazement are signs his brain is progressing, and his heart is building a beautiful bond with you.