Playing is how babies and children learn about their bodies, surroundings and how to communicate. While a newborn baby can’t actively play, they can still learn by listening to your voice, watching your face and looking at the things you show them. They also learn about communication when you respond appropriately to their cues or sounds.
Here are some activities you can do to stimulate your new baby. Be aware that newborns get tired quickly and are easily overstimulated. Try these activities when your baby is quiet, but alert. If they become fussy, cry, or avoid making eye contact, it’s time to stop to avoid overstimulating them.
Interact: Talk, smile and interact when you’re feeding, bathing and changing your newborn. When your baby is a few weeks old they will start making sounds, which you can respond to as though the two of you are having a conversation. You can also sing to your baby, tickle them, and make funny sounds and faces.
Toys: Toys are great for stimulating your baby’s senses. Let them touch soft toys, jiggle a rattle or musical toy, look into a baby-safe mirror or feel the pages of a textured cloth book. You can also hang a mobile above their cot or get them an activity gym which they can lie under. Patterned objects with strong contrasting colours – like red, white, and black – are good for developing their vision.
Music: Put some gentle music on and sway along with your baby in your arms. This is a particularly nice activity to do if your baby needs soothing.
Reading: Reading to your baby is excellent for its language development and learning to communicate. Newborn babies can only see about 20 – 30cm in front of them, so hold the book close enough for them to see the pictures. If there’s a book that you’re reading, you can read some passages out aloud to baby. They won’t understand the content yet, and will still learn plenty from hearing how your voice changes as you read.
Tummy time: Let your baby spend time on their tummy each day. As they try to lift their heads up to look around, their necks and shoulders become stronger. It also allows them to see the world from a different angle. You can put baby on a colourful playmat or blanket, which they can examine. Or even prop them up slightly on a firm pillow, with a mirror in front of them. Always supervise your baby when they’re on their tummy, and put them on their back if they falls asleep during tummy time. – Gabi Falanga