Ideas for Entertaining and Playing with a Newborn

19 January, 2021
Learn some ideas for entertaining and playing with a newborn. Have fun while helping your baby develop and learn about the world.

When you look at a baby, you’re seeing a helpless human who depends on you. At this point, it may seem like all the baby wants to do is sleep, poop, and eat. However, when babies are spending time looking at their parents’ faces, it’s actually a form of play. It’s important to spend time playing with a newborn in order to stimulate their senses.

After being at home with your little one in your arms, the moment will come when you ask yourself: now what do I do with my baby? His body seems so delicate that any toy, movement or game, seems risky. However, there are ways you can entertain your child by teaching them about the world around them.

Why is playing with a newborn important?

Elizabeth Alzate Grisales, in her book “Manual for Adequate Stimulation”, says that in the first month, babies see everything as a novelty. They’re very dependent on their parents and their movements are reflexive actions. Play, apart from being a way to show them the world, is necessary for building confidence and a sense of security. 

Games help them study facial behavior, which will help them imitate it late. In addition, they help them recognize what the alert sounds or calming noises are. Physical contact with their mother and father will also make the baby feel safer.

Blanquez María and her collaborators explain in the book “Care for Me: A Guide for Mothers and Fathers” that socio-affective development is the most important at this stage. The baby establishes bonds with those who take care of him; they may also develop a preference for mom to be the one who comforts and feeds them, while their father is the one who plays with them. Therefore, games are helpful for creating contact and developing a bond.

A mother playing with her baby.

Ideas for playing with a newborn

The games you can play with a baby depends on the baby’s development in different areas. For example, their motor skills, cognitive skills, linguistic and socio-affective skills. For the first month, the baby’s leg, arm and hand movements are reflexes. They’re able to lift their heads slightly, turn it sideways and hold it straight with their backs.

On the cognitive side, they have vague and indirect looks and expressions. Additionally, they can remember objects, cry for help, and wait for food. They also know to stop crying when they’re picked up or when they see familiar faces.

In terms of linguistic development, they’re able to make vocalizations as a reflex, but not purposefully. They cry to express hunger, sleepiness, discomfort or pain, and they’re startled by some sudden and loud noises.

As for socio-affective development, their reactions respond to internal stimuli. They can differentiate between human voices (especially that of the mother) and calm down when someone speaks to them in a soft rhythmic voice. Also, they’re able to calm down when someone picks them up and turn their heads to look for the source of the sound.

Read also: Which Massages are Best for a Baby?

Move the baby’s limbs

Here, you need to move the baby’s arms and legs up and down. Also, try opening and closing them, as well as folding and stretching their limbs carefully between 5 and 6 times.

Another exercise that we recommend doing is best carried out during bath time. Try moving their feet and hands backwards, rotating them carefully. Hold your baby with one hand and, with the other, get all the joints moving, except the knees. This is the order you should go in: shoulder, elbow, wrists, fingers, hips, ankles and so on from top to bottom.

Improve concentration

Stand in front of your baby to make them look at you. Then, make slight head movements by moving it side to side, sing, or do something funny to help them focus.

You can also make it dark, then turn the lights back on after a few seconds. This will show your baby that there’s day and night, light and darkness.

Ways to communicate

Stand in front of the baby and make gestures with your mouth, eyes, nose, or eyebrows. By doing so, your baby will start to recognize facial expressions, like joy, sadness, anger, disdain or hunger. You can do all of this while singing. Then, when they start to babble, you should respond so he knows this is a way of oral communication.

Show affection

Bring your baby close to your chest, hug them, lay them down next to you, or dance with them. This will help them feel physical contact and learn to perceive affection through body language.

A mom sings to her baby.

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Other ways to play with a newborn

There are other ways to play with a newborn that help promote development. Here are some ideas:

  • Sing: choose any song and sing to your baby often. Repetitive, familiar sounds will help your baby feel calm when they may feel restless.
  • Toys: even though they’re very small, you can give your newborn toys that will help focus their attention or that they can follow with their gaze.
  • Reading stories: in addition to singing to them, reading stories every night using different tones of voice will help calm your baby.

Show them the world

Keep it basic when playing with your newborn. These activities are necessary for showing them how the world works. Spend time with your child, and show them your home as well as the world around them, all the while having fun.

  • Elizabeth Alzate Grisales. Manual de Estimulación Adecuada: Bebés recién nacidos hasta los 2 años [Internet]. Medellín, Colombia. Instituto Universitario de Educación Física. [Revisado 2010; citado 2020 noviembre 25]. Disponible en: http://viref.udea.edu.co/contenido/pdf/229-manual.pdf
  • Mary L. Gavin, MD. Aprendizaje, juego y su recién nacido [Internet]. Kidshealth: julio de 2019 [Consultado 25/11/2020] Disponible en: https://kidshealth.org/es/parents/learnnewborn-esp.html
  • Blanquez, María. Cuídame: Guía para madres y padres [Internet]. Aragón, España. Gobierno de Aragón, Departamento de Salud y Consumo. [Revisado 2005; citado 2020 noviembre 25]. Disponible en: https://www.aeped.es/sites/default/files/3-cuidame_esp.pdf