When we welcome a newborn into our family, as parents, we often wonder what activities we can do with our new baby. It is common to believe they are “too young” to do anything, and it’s easy to put them in a swing or a rocker all day long. The reality is that babies are born ready to learn and explore! Play is a critical component of early childhood development, and can begin almost as soon as you bring your little one home from the hospital.
One of the most important activities to do with your newborn is tummy time. There are many physical and developmental benefits including strengthening the neck and back muscles which will allow your baby to keep his / her head up, which is one of the first motor skills learned. Tummy time also helps promote hand-eye coordination and development of their sensory system as they reach for toys that hang from their activity mat. If you’re not sure where to start, here is a great example of a tummy time station that your little one will enjoy. It includes a soft cushion, a mat, high contrast image cards, and a mirror: Tummy Time Center.
Babies are born with limited eyesight. Newborns can see about 8 – 12 inches in front of them, which means when you are holding and feeding them, they are only able to see your face. Simply making eye contact with your little one as they eat can help establish a bond and stimulate them to eat more. As your little one grows out of the newborn phase, their eyesight continues to develop until they reach about 8 months old. Since babies are drawn to faces, a very simple activity you can engage in with your little one is mirror play. All you need to do is place an unbreakable mirror in front of them, and watch as they study their own face and develop some of their first social skills. Mirrors allow babies to concentrate on their movements, begin setting the foundation for coordination. Babies are naturally drawn to high contrast, black and white images because they can’t tell the difference between colors yet. Focusing on black and white images helps develop their eyesight and improve their focus. Here is a link to download your own high contrast black and white images to print out and use with your baby: High Contrast Cards for Baby Your infant may also enjoy playing with a Montessori Inspired Familiar Faces Basket. To create your own, take photos of the different members of your family and print them on durable cardstock. Let your baby look at the different faces and light up with joy as he / she recognizes their different family members!
After spending nine months growing in mom’s tummy, babies are born with the ability to recognize familiar voices and sounds. Singing to your baby and playing music helps soothe them, promotes bonding, and can even promote greater physical health. A study found that 34 week-old-babies who were exposed to music had shorter hospital stays and improved weight gain. Unlike their vision, your baby’s hearing skills are well developed shortly after birth, so you can begin exploring auditory play right away! Another fun way to explore sound is by creating a Baby Whisper Tube and whispering softly into your baby’s ear through a paper towel roll or creating this Old MacDonald Music Sensory Basket!
Your baby has a big world to explore! A great way to begin developing their different senses is through tactile play. Touch & Feel Frames are a great way to begin developing those senses. All you will need is fabric with different textures and frames to mount them in. Allow your baby to explore the different sensations of the fabric: soft, rough, squishy, and flat. Sensory baskets are a fun way to allow your baby to explore different textures and materials. Here is some inspiration for you to make your own at home: 12 Sensory Baskets for Baby, Montessori Inspired Discovery Baskets.
Your baby was born ready to play and explore! While it will be a few months until they’re able to play catch or build with blocks, there are so many amazing activities for them to enjoy with you.