Ways to Play With Newborn
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14 Simple Ways to Play With a Newborn 0-3 Months

Once you bring your newborn baby home, you’re busy with feedings, diaper changes, and endless sleepy newborn snuggles. But one thing that’s often overlooked when caring for a new baby is that there are many ways to play with a newborn!

Of course, playing with a newborn doesn’t look the same as playing with a 6-month-old. But learning how to play with a newborn has numerous benefits. The most significant advantage is that babies learn about the world around them through playtime!

So in this article, you’ll find everything you need to know about playing with a newborn. From the benefits to how often you should play with a newborn and 14 easy ways to play with a newborn, you’ll find it all here!

Let’s get started!

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What is play for a newborn? 

As I mentioned above, playing with your newborn doesn’t look the same as it would for an older baby. Newborns are sleepy much of the time.

Also, they are working on strengthening their neck and back muscles to hold their heads up. Once your baby can hold their head up and is more alert, they will have more engaging playtime.

So with this in mind, play for a newborn can consist of any interaction. Even something as simple as your newborn gazing into a mirror counts as playtime!

How do you play with a newborn baby?

1. Tummy Time

Tummy time is a significant activity for newborns because it helps strengthen their neck and back muscles. Neck and back muscle development is vital as your baby learns to crawl and scoot.

You can start doing tummy time when your baby is as young as a few days old, but it becomes more accessible and more fun as your baby gets older. Also, the fantastic thing about tummy time is that it’s a versatile activity. You can do tummy time however and wherever your baby prefers!

While your baby can practice many of these newborn activities on their tummy, having a complete list of tummy time activities for your baby to try is helpful.

Plus, if your baby struggles with tummy time in general, trying various activities or using a tummy time mat like this one can help your baby feel more comfortable.

NOTE: Tummy time is an activity that should always be supervised.

2. Eye Contact and Smiles

Providing your newborn with plenty of eye contact is a great way to interact with them and helps you bond with your baby. Babies can read a lot from facial expressions, so gazing at your newborn can help them feel safe and secure. 

Also, smiling at your baby is a great way to keep them engaged with you. Plus, the more they see you smiling, the more likely it will be that they will imitate you and smile back!

Another great way to play with your newborn is to imitate the faces they make at you. If they start to make silly faces, make them back! Or, if they start to frown, frown back at them and try to identify what they are feeling. When your baby sees you matching their emotions, they will feel understood. 

3. Talk to Them 

Babies love the sound of their parent’s voices! Even though your baby won’t understand the words you are saying, talking to them regularly is a fantastic thing to start doing.

When you regularly speak with your baby, you are helping them develop language skills and expose them to a vast vocabulary. 

With both of my babies, I have always talked to them as I would an older child. I speak to them while we play, during diaper changes, while walking around holding them; you name the time I’m talking to them! As your babies grow into toddlers, you’ll be amazed at the words they will already know.

Also, try to avoid using a baby-talk voice. Allowing your baby to hear words as they are meant to be said will be beneficial as they start talking later.

Another fun way to ‘talk’ with your newborn is to repeat their noises. When your baby coos, make the sound back. The back and forth will give your baby the idea of conversation. Plus, the silly sounds might get smiles out of your baby as they get a little older.

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4. Sing to Them

We already know your baby loves the sound of your voice, without a doubt! So, what better to do than to sing to them? (Remember, they won’t care if you aren’t the greatest singer.)

If you don’t know what you should sing to your baby, you can always sing nursery rhymes, lullabies, or songs like the Itsy Bitsy Spider. Plus, if you sing interactive songs like the Itsy Bitsy Spider, your baby will be fascinated by the whole experience!

But, since your baby won’t necessarily understand what you’re saying, you can always make up songs. When my babies got upset, I would start singing random nonsense songs about the pets or something I saw outside the window, and they loved it!

5. Visual Tracking With a Toy

Another one of the simple ways to play with a newborn is to help develop their visual tracking skills with a toy. 

To do this activity, you’ll need a small toy. I usually use a rattle like this one because you can gently use the noise to get your baby’s attention. Then, you slowly move the toy back and forth in front of your baby, about 8-12 inches away from them. 

You’ll want to watch your baby’s eyes as you do this activity. Your baby should be tracking the toy with their eyes as you move it side to side.

But if they aren’t entirely tracking the toy, don’t worry! Babies’ eyes develop at different rates, so your baby might not start tracking toys until they are 2-3 months old.

6. Mobiles or Hanging Toys

Using mobiles and hanging toys while playing with your newborn is great because it can help promote hand-eye coordination and visual tracking skills.

If you have an activity gym with hanging toys, now is a great time to use it. While it’s likely that your baby won’t start swatting and grabbing at the toys for a couple of months, they will get a lot of entertainment from watching them move around. Plus, activity gyms are great to use during tummy time!

Once we had our second baby, we decided to get a smaller activity gym like this one, and it’s been a hit! In addition to hanging toys, it comes with a baby-safe mirror that can also hang down for your baby to look at. 

Also, it comes with a water mat that your baby can play with during tummy time or while in a high chair. And we love that it doesn’t take up too much room on the floor!

If you don’t have an activity gym, there are also many excellent hanging toys like this one that attaches to a car seat or stroller.

7. Walk Through Different Rooms

Giving your newborn a change of scenery can also be a great way to stimulate them throughout the day. A straightforward way to do this is to walk through different rooms in your home. 

For example, if you spend much time with your baby in the living room, walk through the bedrooms or kitchen, and talk about what you see. Also, if you’re going out to run errands or for a walk, describe what you’re doing and what’s around you!

Babies typically love walking throughout the house because the motion can be calming. Most times, walking around the room is my baby’s favorite way to be comforted when she’s fussy.

8. Use Mirrors and High-Contrast Pictures

Babies love mirrors. Just watching their reflection can bring them so much entertainment! And your baby will love playing with baby-safe mirrors even more as their eyesight improves.

When choosing a mirror for your baby to play with, ensure it’s a baby-safe mirror. That means that it’s made out of shatterproof material. 

Also, babies love looking at high-contrast images and objects. Black and white pictures are easy for babies to see while their eyesight develops. Flash cards like these ones are great to lay on the floor or hold in front of your baby for them to look at. 

9. Baby Massage

Baby massage is another beneficial way to play with a newborn! It’s relaxing, which can help promote sound sleep and help with babies’ digestion or gas problems. Plus, it’s a fantastic bonding activity.

Baby massage is an excellent activity to do during tummy time or as an addition to your child’s bedtime routine. 

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10. Snuggle and Skin-to-Skin

Skin-to-skin has numerous benefits for babies, like calming them, regulating their heart rate and body temperature, and providing an excellent opportunity for bonding. 

Also, snuggling and having skin-to-skin time is an excellent activity for newborns because it helps them feel secure while having simple interactions with you.

11. Read to Them

Reading is a fabulous activity for children of any age because it creates bonding opportunities. Plus, it shows your child that reading is fun, and you might find yourself with a future bookworm!

For newborns, soft books and high-contrast books are terrific choices. Both options supply plenty of stimulation for your baby.

Not to mention, high-contrast books are easier for younger babies to see. My children loved this high-contrast book; it always kept their attention for so long!

Also, remember that whatever books you let your baby play with will surely end up covered in drool. Try choosing sturdy books that can withstand the drool and won’t fall apart like a regular book.

12. Sensory Play

Babies love things that stimulate their senses which is why sensory play is so exciting! Exposing your baby to numerous textures and sounds will be a great sensory experience for them. 

And the best thing is that you don’t have to buy anything fancy for this newborn activity; you’d be amazed at the sensory supplies already at your home!

Things like a soft lovey or a crinkle book can be exciting sensory items for your baby. Also, a toy like this bumpy ball is great because it has many different textures and sounds in one place.

My children loved to do what we call ‘nakey blankey time,’ which is when we would get them in just a diaper and lay them on a super soft blanket like this one.

Then, we would drape some of the blanket over their tummy and legs so they wouldn’t get cold, and they would love to lay there and look at some high-contrast toys and books!

13. Independent Time 

Surprisingly, another great way to play with newborns is to give them some independent time. Letting your baby have some time to hang out with nothing stimulating them can give them a much-needed break to take in their surroundings. 

When giving your newborn independent time, you’ll want to have them in a safe spot while still supervising them. I usually use my baby’s crib for independent time because I know she’ll be safe, and I can generally get a few minutes to put her clean laundry away.

Remember that when giving your newborn some independent time, you’ll want to ensure they are already content and not fussy or hungry. It’s likely that your newborn won’t want to lay down if they feel like they need your comfort or a feeding.

14. Move to Different Spots 

Changing up your newborn’s view by moving to a different spot in the room or house is a great way to engage with them! Plus, changing the scenery can be helpful when your newborn is fussy.

For example, if your baby is lying on a soft surface like your bed or their crib, change it up by moving them onto a blanket on the floor. They will get a different view of the room, and the floor will feel different than the bed. 

Or, if your baby is lying on a flat surface, move them to their bouncer chair or baby swing. A swing or chair will give them a whole different experience from lying down. 

When should you start playing with your newborn?

A common question among new parents is when you should start playing with your newborn. The fantastic thing about playing with your newborn is that you can start immediately! 

While newborns sleep often, they will still have wake windows throughout the day when they are alert enough for some playtime. Just remember to choose the best activity for them based on their temperament at the time.

How much time should you play with your newborn? 

Another great question is how much time you should play with your newborn. You certainly don’t want to overdo it, as that can make your newborn overstimulated and fussy. 

With that being said, follow your baby’s lead! If your baby is content and alert during their wake window, try one of the appropriate newborn activities above. And keep in mind that newborn playtime is typically short and simple. 

When it comes to tummy time, you can help your baby try it out 2-3 times daily. While you can aim for 3-5 minutes of tummy time per session, know it’s ok if your baby only lasts 30 seconds. And always end tummy time once your baby gets fussy or cries.

Benefits of Playing With Your Newborn

While there are numerous benefits of playing with your newborn, here are the top three:

Bonding Time

One of the most significant benefits of playing with your newborn is that it gives you more opportunities to bond with your new baby. 

As you go through the day-to-day of caring for your child, your bond grows more and more. But when you play with your newborn, you’ll discover what they enjoy. And then, before you know it, you’ll be able to find what kind of newborn playtime activities make your little one smile!

Helps Them Learn and Process Information

Regularly playing with your newborn helps them learn so much! When you mimic their emotions, you’re helping them know that you understand their feelings. And when you talk to your newborn, you are helping set the stage for the language skills they will use later on. 

Also, playing with your newborn helps them process the world around them. For example, playing with sensory toys shows your baby that some things feel and sound different than others.

Develop Motor Skills and Build Muscles

Playing with your newborn through an activity like tummy time will help them develop crucial motor skills and build the muscles they’ll need to start rolling over and crawling. 

Ways To Play WIth Newborn - Pin Image

And there you have it; the best ways to play with a newborn. Babies of all ages learn so much from playing, so introducing playtime to your newborn is fantastic! Not to mention, the best part of playing with your newborn is being able to watch them learn and develop new skills that help them grow.

Before you go, check out these related articles:

What’s one of your favorite ways to play with your newborn? I would love to know in the comments below!

Rachel Sig 3

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