Play is a critical element to healthy childhood development. Through play, children are able to discover and understand the world. Play looks very different for children as they grow and change. Because infants develop so rapidly, their play experience changes rapidly as well. With their short wake time and limited abilities (vision, motor control, communication, etc.), it can be challenging to create engaging play experiences for 0-3 month olds. Luckily, we’ve got you covered with 20 different ways to play with your 0-3 month old!
- Eye Contact – Take time to make meaningful eye contact with your baby. Eye contact helps foster attachment and teaches the nuances of nonverbal communication.
- Stretch Out – After being in fetal position for so many months, newborns are quite curled up. Gently stretch your baby’s arms and legs one at a time. This helps develop body awareness and stretches their muscles. Of course, if your baby doesn’t enjoy the stretches, stop immediately.
- Familiar Music – Research suggests that newborns are able to recognize music they heard regularly in the womb. If your baby had any regular sounds he was exposed to in the womb, play those sounds. If your baby didn’t hear any music consistently enough to recognize it in the womb, choose a few songs to start playing or singing for your baby now. Familiar music will stimulate your baby’s mind and can help soothe them.
- Imitation – Flatter your baby by imitating her sounds and expressions. It communicates to your baby that she matters, that you are paying attention to her, and models the communication process.
- Wonderful Wearing – With an infant’s need for physical contact and rhythmic motion, wearing your baby is the perfect way to meet these needs. There are all sorts of baby carriers out there, so take your pick and strap on your little one.
- Marvelous Mirrors – Mirror play is a wonderful activity for babies, even the littlest ones. Prop a mirror near your baby’s face during tummy time or hold your baby in front of a mirror. She will love marveling at her beautiful face (and yours!).
- Airplane Ride – Give your baby a new perspective on life (and some vestibular input) by holding your baby face down using your arm across his tummy to support him. This position can be helpful for gassy babies, but un-gassy babies will enjoy it too! Gently sway your baby side to side. You can even make airplane noises if you want.
- Pleasant Conversation – Talking is teaching. Talking is one of the most essentail aspects of language development and it starts from Day 1 (some would even argue it starts in the womb). Talk to your baby often throughout the day.
- Massage – You can help your baby’s circulatory and digestive system develop by massaging your baby with gentle pressure and motion. Choose a time when both you and your baby are relaxed to do this activity. You can use baby lotion or unscented, natural, edible oil (like grapeseed, almond, or olive oil) to massage your baby.
- Explore Textures – Feeling different textures is an easy sensory activity you can do with even the littlest babies. You can gently run your baby’s hands over a variety of textures or offer her Play is a critical element to healthy childhood development. Through play, children are able to discover and understand the world. Play looks very different for children as they grow and change. Because infants develop so rapidly, their play experience changes rapidly as well. pieces. Some ideas are scarves, baskets, pillows, and clothes. Take a quick look around the room and I’m sure you’ll see all kinds of textures to offer your child.
- Be a Bookworm – Reading with your child is one of the best gifts you can give them. Even the littlest babies are learning when you read to them. Plus, your baby will enjoy the snuggles and the sound of your voice.
- Swing Together – Like the airplane game, swinging also provides good vestibular input for your baby. You can hold your baby and gently sway together on a hammock or swing. I found it very comfortable to wear my baby in a carrier and swing at the playground together.
- Black and White – A newborn’s vision is not fully developed when they are born. They can most easily see high-contrast images, such as bold black and white patterns. Print off or make your own high-contrast pictures and hang them where your baby can easily see them. Some good places are where your baby does tummy time and on the changing table. Look at and talk about these pictures with your baby.
- Shall We Dance? – Dancing is a delightful way to bond with your child and offer the physical contact and swaying motion your baby loves. Put on some groovy beats and dance the night away (on second thought, maybe just stick to the daytime).
- Light Play – Young babies are interested in moving objects and light and dark patterns. Capture your baby’s interests by playing with a flashlight in a darkened room. Shine the light on different objects and cast shadows too. You’re baby will be fascinated.
- Stop and Smell the Roses – Babies are born with a heightened sense of smell. In fact, babies can recognize the smell of their mothers immediately after birth. Stimulate your baby’s senses by passing pleasant scents (like flowers, citrus fruits, and vanilla) beneath your baby’s nose. She won’t be able to voluntarily sniff yet, but she’ll enjoy noticing the new smells.
- Baby Sit-Ups – Strengthen your baby’s neck muscles by doing an infant version of this adult exercise. Lay your baby on a blanket and sit at her feet facing her. Securely grasp the top corners of the blanket near her head and gently bring her towards you. Gently lay her back down. Repeat this several times until your baby shows you she’s tired by squirming or looking away.
- Cycle Time – Strengthen your baby’s abdominal muscles and increase his body awareness by gently moving his legs in a cycling motion. This activity also introduces the idea of alternating motion (one leg, then the other), which he’ll need to understand in order to crawl and walk.
- Mesmerizing Mobiles – Encourage visual tracking development by offering mobiles to your baby for gazing. Some great spots for mobiles are over a changing table and in a common hang out space where your family spends time. We hung a mobile in our living room for our baby to enjoy. Change out the mobile every few weeks to keep your baby interested. This doesn’t have to be a solo activity. Lay down beside your baby and share in the activity!
- Balancing Act – Develop your baby’s balance and strengthen her neck muscles by securely holding her on top of a large beach ball or yoga ball. Gently roll your baby back and forth and talk to your baby about what she’s experiencing.
Want more ideas for playing with your 0-3 month old? Check out Davis and Hall’s book 1001 Fun Ways to Play.
Wondering what to do when baby wants to cry instead of play? Check out our post on the reasons newborn babies cry!