We know not to expect a lot of interaction from a newborn. But that doesn’t mean playing with your brand-new baby isn’t important.
From the first day, your baby is interested in what’s going on around him. Connections are being made and information is being sorted and categorized.
Playing games helps fit the pieces together. Play is crucial for his social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Play also brings you and your baby closer and makes your time together that much more enjoyable.
Many games won’t work the first time you play them, but if you keep up your efforts your kid will eventually start cracking up the minute you reach for a particular toy.
Your baby’s attention span will vary a lot, depending on his age, his temperament, and his mood. Sometimes he’ll enjoy a game for as long as 20 minutes, but more often you’ll need to modify the game every five minutes or so.
Birth to 3 months
At this stage your baby will mostly just lie there, except when he’s crying. So how can you connect with him and have fun?
Your best chance is to engage with your baby through his senses: touch, sight, smell, and hearing (let’s leave taste out for now). By the end of his first three months, your baby may reach out and try to grab things and will be interested by sounds, smells, and patterns.
It may take your newborn several seconds to respond to you or he may not respond much at all. Be patient, you may need to keep trying or wait a while for him to enter an alert, responsive state.
Dance, Dance Revolution
In the afternoons when baby gets grumpy, dance with her. Put on some music and either put her in the sling or hold her in your arms.
Silly exaggerated movements are particularly funny to babies.
4 to 6 months
At this age, your baby will become a lot more physical, learning how to roll over and even sit up. She can now hold, handle, and mouth objects, and she’ll spend a good part of her busy days doing so.
Games can get more physical now. Your baby might enjoy knee rides or tickle games. She’s also more responsive to you, making noises and meeting your eyes.
Fly, Baby, Fly!
Now that your baby can hold her head up, it’s time to hoist her into the air. You can pretend that she’s a rocket ship, flying her over you and making realistic rocket noises. You can pretend that your baby is in an elevator, which advances up floor by floor before sinking quickly to the bottom.
7 to 9 months
Your baby’s becoming an expert at sitting and may soon be crawling as well. Encourage these physical feats by celebrating each new milestone by telling him how good he is and clapping your hands.
If your baby’s crawling, scooting, or walking, he may enjoy the challenge of having to move over things. Pillows, phonebooks, tired parents, and laundry make good obstacles. Sleeping cats do not make good obstacles.
Developmentally, your infant has suddenly morphed into an almost-toddler. Games that allow her to practice gross motor skills such as standing, pulling up, and climbing are important for her now. Your baby will also like to work on her fine motor skills by fiddling with the tag on your shirt or the pages of a book.
The Endless Cruise
Once your baby is up on her feet, you can encourage cruising by placing a favourite toy at the far end of the couch or over on the coffee table. Try imitating your baby by putting one of your toys, such as your cell phone, a distance away and cruising on your knees toward it. Your baby may find this amusing and come over to join you.
Encourage your baby to push an object around the room. Push toys and large empty boxes work well. Avoid folding chairs, which can fold up unexpectedly.
Wasn’t that fun?