Play with your 0-3 month old baby—is that even possible? Absolutely! Today I’m sharing some easy and fun activities to play with your newborn so you can get started right away!
Be sure to also check out the next steps:milestones & Activities for your 3-6 month old!
As a parent to a newborn that might seem like a task for much further down the road. But actually, babies are born ready to play (or ready to have you teach them how!).
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One of the things I loved learning about the most while undergoing my Master’s in Adapted Physical Education was the developmental process from birth through the acquisition of motor skills in the early childhood years.
Studying the various reflexes and small patterns in motor development revealed some really neat things about how infants naturally progress through stages, and how parents can help facilitate both motor development and social development through play.
This does not mean that you have to be ready to entertain your baby as soon as they come home from the hospital.
How to Play with a Baby 0-3 Months: Learning through everyday activities
Most the first month especially, babies are taking in so much about the new world around them through regular touch and being close to you.
The things that most parents naturally do, such as talking in a sing-song voice or making faces at babies, are actually helping them build connections and make associations, as well as preparing them for their first “conversations”—the adorable goo-goos that make a mama’s heart melt!
Skin to skin, babywearing and simply holding a baby against your chest all provide benefits of tummy time early on too. Therefore, “having to play” isn’t something that has to be on your to-do list the first month.
Focus instead on recovery and adjusting to life with a newborn!
Related: 5 Things Every New Mom Can Relate To
Somewhere down the road after the first few weeks, however, once they start having more awake time, a thought is likely to start creeping into your head of “How am I supposed to entertain and play with my baby” (and how do I give my arms a break from carrying her).
Baby playtime is a great way to do both!
So today I’m sharing a few easy ways to play with a newborn to 3-month-old baby.
How to play with a newborn baby: Easy Activities for 0-3 months
When figuring out ways to play with a baby, aim for a combination of independent play and social play.
This means encouraging baby to both explore and makes sense of the world around them through their discovery (with some help from you sometimes of course) as well as playful interactions with the family.
The Best Things to Have for PLaying WIth a NEwborn:
- Visually interesting objects
- Contrasting books or patterned cards (these ones are adorable and have over 285 5-star reviews!)
- Tissue paper and other texture-interesting items
- A mirror (regular or a baby floor version)
- Soft yet sturdy surface for floor play and tummy time.
While you can definitely play on any surface, a soft foam play mat is ideal for tummy time and play/exploration.
And let’s face it—living with two dogs and a toddler (and a mama who doesn’t like to clean) my floors are never clean, so it makes me feel better knowing she is on a clean, non-toxic surface.
I try to mix up how we play each day, to keep us both from losing interest—though not sure that is possible for babies as they are easily entertained!
Here are some of the best—and my favorite—activities for playing with babies 3 months and under.
10 Activities to Play with your Newborn
1. Supported Tummy Time: Tummy time looks different depending on where on the developmental timeline a baby is—this post on tummy time positions for different stages is great for learning how to do it correctly. Regular tummy time (without support) is important too, but this helps mix it up a bit!
Placing a boppy or tummy time pillow, rolled blanket or other types of support under a baby’s chest helps prop them up and facilitates play for babies unable to fully support themselves on their arms (which would be most 0-3-month-olds!).
2. Hey Macarena!: Gently moving their body parts, such as extending arms and legs, massage, and playing like they are a marionette puppet are excellent ways to help stretch and create awareness.
Plus it is just super fun to make a baby dance, so there’s that!
3. Follow the Sound: Playing music or creating sounds works wonders for encouraging head turning and strengthening neck muscles.
Whether the music or sounds come from you, a musical toy or rattle, or something else, try placing the sound at different locations around your baby and watch them search to identify what and where the sound is coming from.
4. High Contrast/ Visual Books: Books are great for tummy time or for sitting and reading together. While any book will help improve communication and bonding, visual books designed for babies to help strengthen their visual and cognitive development.
These books often contain bold contrasting patterns and objects, typically in black, white and red. Here are some great ones to check out.
5. Mirror: A mirror is perfect for exploration and discovery. Whether you mount a mirror at ground level on a wall (for side-lying viewing), prop up a soft-sided toy mirror (we have this one) during tummy time, or spend time chatting in front of the bathroom mirror, babies can’t get enough of staring at their own reflection.
6. Hanging patterns: After the second “leap” in a newborn’s development (typically around 8 weeks after the due date), babies are able to distinguish patterns around them, and are endlessly amused by them.
Try hanging or even just holding patterned cards or high contrast toys in baby’s field of vision.
Related: Best Gifts for Babies 0-1 year
7. Kicking objects: Help your baby discover and develop the sense of touch by setting up various things for a little “kick practice”.
Try using tissue paper like in this tutorial from Mama OT, as well as placing hard objects near the feet for them to push off of (a cookie sheet or your hands work great).
I like having the mat there as it helps hold the cookie sheet up too.
8. The Imitation Game: For an easy way to play anytime (and one you are likely already doing) lay your baby down with your legs extended or on a soft mat, and make facial expressions while chatting with your baby.
Imitate their conversational noises and facial expressions, and watch as they seem to mimic yours (especially fun in the 2-3 month stage!).
9. Texture Touch: Stimulating the senses is a great way to help encourage development while introducing baby to new things. Use common objects found around the house and lightly touch baby’s hands, feet and skin with them.
Items such as dried beans or sand can also be placed in a bowl or shallow pan for hands and feet during tummy time or while laying on their backs.
Must try Activity: Jello Sensory Play for Babies & Toddlers
10.Water Play: Fill a shallow pan/cookie sheet with water for a little wet exploration!
Baby can be positioned with their feet on the pan for some kicking fun, or try guiding their hands to the water for some splashing fun. Always supervise infants during any type of play, but be especially cautious around water.
Add visual interest by floating a toy and watch as they kick and splash like a little fish!
These are just a few of the easy ways to play with babies in the first few months. By focusing on providing tummy time and ways to explore and interact with the world around them, you will help your baby find excitement in all of the new things they can discover.
Playing even this early is a precursor for other baby milestones and essential for development. And it is fun! For other fun ways to play with babies, check out this post on incorporating Montessori for babies at home.
Benefits of a foam baby mat
Considering a baby foam mat for playtime? There are a lot out there to decide between. I actually never found one I liked when Charlie was a baby, so I used blankets even though I hated how dirty they got and how they provided very little support and almost no grip.
A foam mat is an excellent alternative to blankets and hard floors. While it is not the only solution, it is extremely popular with parents.
If you go the mat route, be sure to find one that is non-toxic and free of BPA, phthalates, latex, lead, and formamide, and is perfect for babies as they do tummy time, learn to crawl and walk. It makes a great play floor for a nursery or playroom as well.
You can find this mat on Amazon.
Be sure to pin this for reference later and then follow The Mom Friend on Pinterest for more great Baby Play Ideas! You can also follow on Instagram to connect with other like-minded mamas and get inspired.