Welcoming a newborn into your life is a joyous and transformative experience. As parents, we are eager to engage with our little ones and foster their growth and development. There are so many ways to do this, we find in the early months, simple “play” is quite often the most effective.
In this blog post, we share our 5 favourite ways to play with your baby, creating beautiful moments of bonding, stimulation and exploration.
GENTLE TOUCH AND MASSAGE
Enhance your baby's sensory experience through the power of touch. Gentle strokes on their arms, legs and back creates a calming and soothing massage promoting relaxation, strengthening your bond and connection.
Here are some tips to help you give your baby a soothing and safe massage:
- Choose the Right Time: Pick a time when your baby is relaxed and content, such as after a bath or when they are well-rested. Avoid massaging them right after a feed, as a full tummy may make them uncomfortable.
- Create a Calm Environment: Find a quiet, warm and comfortable space where you and your baby can relax. Dim the lights, play soft music and ensure the room temperature is suitable for their comfort.
- Use Baby-Safe Oil or Lotion: Select an oil/lotion specifically designed for babies. Always test a small amount on your baby's skin beforehand to check for any adverse reactions.
- Warm the Oil/Lotion: Warm the oil/lotion in your hands before applying it to your baby's skin. Rub your hands together to generate gentle heat, ensuring the oil/lotion is comfortably warm.
- Start with Gentle Strokes: Begin by using long, gentle strokes on your baby's arms, legs and back. Use slow and rhythmic movements, applying light pressure. Follow your baby's cues and adjust your touch to their comfort level.
- Pay Attention to Your Baby's Reactions: Observe your baby's responses throughout the massage. If they seem uncomfortable or fussy, adjust your techniques or move on to a different body part.
- Focus on Areas of Tension: Babies can experience tension in their muscles, particularly around their shoulders, neck and tummy. Use your fingertips to apply gentle pressure in these areas, releasing any tightness. Be mindful of their comfort and adjust the pressure accordingly.
- Engage in Eye Contact and Verbal Interaction: Maintain eye contact with your baby and speak to them in a soothing and gentle tone throughout the massage. This helps strengthen your bond and creates a sense of security and trust.
- Incorporate Gentle Stretches: As you massage your baby, gently stretch their limbs to promote flexibility and body awareness. For example, gently bend and straighten their arms and legs, or gently rotate their wrists and ankles.
- Respect Your Baby's Cues: Your baby may indicate when they've had enough by becoming restless, fussy or losing interest. Be attentive to their signals and conclude the massage if they seem uncomfortable or disinterested.
OUTSIDE NATURE TIME
Take your baby outside and lie on a soft blanket or rug, gazing up at the sky together. Allow the gentle breeze to kiss their skin as you point out the shapes of clouds or listen to the sounds of birds chirping. This simple activity introduces them to the wonders of nature.
Here are some tips to ensure their safety and enjoyment:
- Choose the Right Location: Find a safe and clean outdoor space that offers shade and protection from direct sunlight. Consider a grassy area in a park, your backyard or a shaded spot under a tree. Avoid areas with high foot traffic or potential hazards.
- Check the Weather: Before heading outside, check the weather forecast to ensure suitable conditions for your baby. Avoid extreme temperatures, strong winds or inclement weather that may make your baby uncomfortable or pose risks.
- Use a Suitable Blanket: Select a soft, lightweight and breathable blanket. Ensure it is large enough to accommodate your baby comfortably and has a waterproof or water-resistant bottom layer to protect against dampness.
- Dress Appropriately: Dress your baby in light, breathable clothing that covers their arms and legs to protect them from the sun. Opt for a wide-brimmed hat that shades their face and provides additional sun protection. If it's cooler outside, layer your baby with lightweight clothing or use a light blanket to keep them comfortable.
- Bring Necessary Supplies: Pack a nappy bag with essentials such as nappies, wipes, a changing mat, a spare set of clothes and any other items you may need during your outing. Also, bring a lightweight blanket or muslin cloth to provide additional shade or cover if needed.
- Be Mindful of Bugs: Depending on your location, bugs may be present outdoors. Protect your baby from insect bites by using a baby-safe insect repellent or covering their pram or blanket with a mosquito net. Avoid using insect repellents directly on your baby's skin unless recommended by a healthcare professional.
- Engage in Interactive Play: Lay your baby on the blanket and engage in interactive play to stimulate their senses and support their development. Point out objects in nature, make gentle sounds or sing songs. Encourage them to explore their surroundings by gently touching grass, leaves or flowers, while ensuring they do not put anything in their mouth.
- Stay Hydrated: Keep your baby hydrated, especially on warmer days. Offer regular breast/bottle feeds or if your baby is on solids, bring water or age-appropriate fluids to keep them hydrated.
- Supervise Constantly: Never leave your baby unattended while they are laying on the blanket outside. Stay close to them, providing supervision and ensuring their safety at all times.
SINGING AND RHYMES
Engage in melodic play by singing lullabies, nursery rhymes and songs to your baby. Your voice, filled with love and warmth, not only calms and soothes but also helps develop their auditory senses and language skills.
Singing to your baby can be a beautiful and bonding experience that promotes their language development, soothes them and creates cherished memories.
Here are some tips to make the most of your singing sessions:
- Choose Calming Songs: Select songs with soothing melodies and gentle rhythms. Lullabies, nursery rhymes and soft folk songs are excellent choices. The calming nature of these songs can help your baby relax and not become overstimulated.
- Create a Comfortable Environment: Find a quiet and comfortable space where you and your baby can be free from distractions. Dim the lights, create a cozy atmosphere and eliminate any background noise that could interfere with the soothing experience.
- Maintain Eye Contact: While singing, make eye contact with your baby. This helps establish a connection and reinforces the bond between you. Your baby will feel comforted and engaged by your loving gaze.
- Use Gentle and Melodic Tones: Sing with a soft and melodic voice. Your baby is more likely to respond positively to gentle tones that convey warmth and tenderness. Experiment with different pitches and volumes to find what your baby enjoys most.
- Incorporate Simple Movements: As you sing, incorporate gentle movements that accompany the rhythm of the song. Rock your baby gently in your arms, sway from side to side or gently pat their back. These movements can enhance the soothing effect and create a multisensory experience for your baby.
- Repeat Favourite Songs: Babies often find comfort in familiarity. Repeat your baby's favourite songs regularly, as they may find reassurance and security in the predictable melodies and lyrics. Repetition can also aid in their language development and memory retention.
- Make It Interactive: Encourage your baby to participate in the singing experience. Use hand gestures or simple movements that correspond with the lyrics. You can also encourage them to clap their hands or tap their feet along with the rhythm.
- Explore Different Genres: Don't limit yourself to lullabies and nursery rhymes. Babies can enjoy a variety of musical genres. Experiment with different styles, such as classical, folk or even soft pop. Observe your baby's reactions and preferences to discover what resonates with them.
- Sing Throughout the Day: Singing doesn't have to be limited to specific moments. Incorporate singing into your daily routines, such as during nappy changes, bath time or in the car. Your baby will enjoy the continuous engagement and the comforting presence of your voice.
- Have Fun and Be Yourself: Your baby is drawn to your voice and the love behind it. Sing with joy, enthusiasm and authenticity. Don't worry about your singing abilities; your baby appreciates the emotional connection and the soothing vibrations of your voice more than technical perfection.
Hold your newborn in front of a mirror, allowing them to see their own reflection. This activity fosters self-awareness and can captivate their attention as they observe their movements, expressions, and the person holding them.
Here are some tips to make the most of this playtime experience:
- Choose a Safe and Stable Mirror: Ensure that the mirror you use is securely attached to the wall or placed on a stable surface. Opt for a baby-safe mirror that is shatterproof and has rounded edges to eliminate any potential hazards.
- Find a Comfortable Position: Hold your baby in a comfortable and secure position, such as in your arms or on your lap. Make sure you have a clear view of the mirror so that your baby can see their reflection easily.
- Maintain Eye Contact: Before introducing the mirror, establish eye contact with your baby. This helps create a connection and builds anticipation for the mirror play. Smile and speak to your baby in a positive and engaging tone to capture their attention.
- Introduce the Mirror Slowly: Gradually bring the mirror into your baby's field of vision, allowing them to notice their reflection. Start by holding the mirror slightly to the side and then gradually move it to a position where your baby can clearly see themselves.
- Encourage Interaction: Point out your baby's features in the mirror, such as their eyes, nose, or mouth. Use simple and repetitive language to describe what they see. Encourage your baby to touch the mirror gently, as they may be curious about the "other baby."
- Make Funny Faces: Make silly or exaggerated facial expressions in the mirror to elicit smiles and laughter from your baby. Encourage them to imitate your expressions by sticking out their tongue, wrinkling their nose or smiling back at themselves.
- Sing Songs or Recite Rhymes: Singing songs or reciting nursery rhymes while holding your baby in front of the mirror can enhance the playtime experience. Your baby will enjoy the combination of visual stimulation and auditory engagement.
- Incorporate Toys or Props: Introduce baby-safe toys or props that your baby can interact with while looking at their reflection. A muslin cloth is perfect for some peek-a-boo play!
- Capture Photos or Videos: Capture precious moments of your baby interacting with their reflection. These photos or videos can serve as cherished memories and can be shared with family and friends.
- Observe Your Baby's Reactions: Pay attention to your baby's cues and reactions during mirror play. Some babies may be fascinated and engaged for longer periods, while others may lose interest quickly. Respect your baby's preferences and conclude the activity if they seem disinterested or overwhelmed.
TUMMY TIME EXPLORATION
Encourage your baby to develop their neck and upper body strength through supervised tummy time sessions. Place them on a soft surface with a toy or mirror within their reach, stimulating their senses and fostering motor skills development.
Here are some tips to make tummy time enjoyable and beneficial for your baby:
- Start Early: Begin tummy time as early as possible, ideally from the first few weeks after birth. This helps your baby become comfortable with the position and gradually build strength.
- Choose the Right Time: Select a time when your baby is awake and alert, but not immediately after feeding or when they're too tired. A calm and content state is ideal for tummy time.
- Create a Safe Space: Clear a soft and clean area on the floor for tummy time. Use a play mat or a blanket to provide a comfortable surface. Ensure the space is free from hazards and that your baby is supervised at all times.
- Use Supportive Props: To make tummy time more comfortable for your baby, use supportive props like a rolled-up towel or a nursing pillow placed under their chest or arms. This slight elevation can help them lift their head and engage their muscles.
- Join in: Get down on the floor with your baby during tummy time. Lie face-to-face, make eye contact and talk or sing to them. Your presence and interaction can help them feel secure and engaged.
- Gradually Increase Duration: Start with short sessions of tummy time, around 2-3 minutes and gradually increase the duration as your baby grows stronger and more comfortable. Aim for a total of 20-30 minutes of tummy time spread throughout the day.
- Use Toys and Mirrors: Place toys or a baby-safe mirror within your baby's reach during tummy time. This encourages them to lift their head, reach out and engage with their surroundings.
- Offer Gentle Stimulation: Provide gentle stimulation by moving toys or objects slowly within your baby's line of sight. This can motivate them to turn their head and follow the movement, strengthening their neck and upper body muscles.
- Make it Fun: Keep tummy time enjoyable by incorporating fun activities. Lie down next to your baby and make funny noises, play peek-a-boo or encourage them to reach for toys. This can help distract them if they initially resist the position.
- Be Patient and Encouraging: Some babies may initially find tummy time challenging or uncomfortable. Be patient and offer words of encouragement. Celebrate small milestones, such as lifting their head or reaching for a toy, to motivate and reward their efforts.
SENSORY PLAY WITH TEXTURES
Babies are naturally curious about the world they are just beginning to explore. Introduce them to a variety of textures through safe and age-appropriate sensory toys. Soft fabrics, teethers and textured balls can provide a rich sensory experience.
Encourage your little one to touch, grasp and explore these objects, stimulating their sense of touch and promoting fine motor skills development. Remember, it's not about the quantity of toys; it's about the quality of their tactile experiences.
Here are some tips to get started:
- Start with Simple Textures: Begin by introducing simple and safe textures that are easy for your baby to explore. Consider materials like soft fabrics, smooth surfaces or textured toys with varying surfaces. Gradually introduce more complex textures as your baby becomes more comfortable.
- Create a Sensory Bin: Fill a shallow container or a sensory bin with various materials for your baby to touch and explore. Things like cooked pasta, soft cotton balls or uncooked rice are great. Ensure that the materials are appropriate for your baby's age and do not pose any choking hazards.
- Offer a Variety of Textures: Provide a range of textures for your baby to explore, such as rough, smooth, bumpy, soft or squishy. This variety helps them develop their tactile senses and exposes them to different sensations.
- Engage Multiple Senses: Incorporate other sensory elements alongside textures. For example, play calming music in the background, use scented materials like lavender-scented playdough, or introduce materials with different colours to engage your baby's visual senses as well.
- Supervise and Ensure Safety: Always supervise your baby during sensory play to prevent any potential hazards. Avoid small objects that can be a choking hazard and ensure that the materials are non-toxic and clean.
- Encourage Exploration: Allow your baby to freely explore the textures with their hands, feet or even their mouth. Babies learn about textures through their senses, so let them touch, squeeze and manipulate the materials as they wish.
- Join in the Fun: Engage with your baby during sensory play by modelling exploration and describing the textures as they touch them. Use descriptive words like "soft," "rough," or "bumpy" to help expand their vocabulary.
- Follow Your Baby's Lead: Observe your baby's reactions and preferences during sensory play. If they show interest in a particular texture, provide more of it. If they seem overwhelmed or disinterested, try a different texture or adjust the activity to suit their comfort level.
- Clean-Up and Hygiene: Ensure that the materials used for sensory play are clean and hygienic. Wash or sanitize toys and objects regularly and clean your baby's hands and any exposed skin after the play session.
- Make it a Regular Activity: Incorporate sensory play with textures into your baby's routine as a regular activity. Set aside dedicated playtime for sensory exploration and allow your baby to engage with different textures to support their sensory development.
Playing with your baby is more than just entertainment; it is an opportunity to bond, nurture and stimulate their holistic development. By incorporating these simple play activities into your daily routines, you can create a loving and enriching environment that supports their growth, curiosity and connection to the world around them. Cherish these precious moments and watch your little one thrive.