20 Ways to Play with a 0-3 Month Old
Congratulations! Whether you have already welcomed your newest family member, or are still gearing up for the big day, you may be wondering about how to play with your newborn.
Play is a critical element to healthy childhood development and how kids experience playtime changes as they grow! Your baby’s short wake time and limited abilities (vision, motor control, communication, etc.) can make it challenging to create engaging play experiences at this age.
Luckily, we’ve got you covered with 20 different ways to play with your newborn!
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1. 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.
2. 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!
3. 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.
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.
5. 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.
6. 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!).
7. 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.
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8. 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 as you play with your newborn.
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.
Use baby lotion or unscented, natural, edible oil (like grapeseed, almond, or olive oil) to massage your baby.
10. 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 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.
11. 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.
12. 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.
13. Pleasant Conversation
Talking is teaching. One of the most essential aspects of language development is talking, and it starts from Day 1 (some would even argue it starts in the womb). Talk to your baby often throughout the day.
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14. Shall We Dance?
Dancing is a delightful way to play with your newborn and bond with your child while offering 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).
15. 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. Your baby will be fascinated.
16. 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.
17. 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.
18. Eye Contact
Take time to make meaningful eye contact with your baby. Eye contact helps foster attachment and teaches the nuances of nonverbal communication.
19. 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.
20. 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.
Want more ideas for how to play with your newborn? Check out Davis and Hall’s book, 1001 Fun Ways to Play.
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Want to learn about developmental milestones? Mama Zone has a helpful overview!