101 Newborn Activities for Parents and Their Bundles of Joy
The first few months of a newborn's life might make parents feel like they're stuck on a hamster wheel: Feed. Change diaper. Sleep (for the newborn). Wash. Rinse. Repeat. It'll definitely leave you searching for ways to fill the time. This change in lifestyle might have new parents feeling anxious or stressed with feelings of "am I doing this right?" or "the baby is wayyy more awake these days and I don't know what to do!" It's important to slow down and remember that those first few months are an important time for your newborn's development and a special opportunity for some parent-and-baby bonding.
So what are some newborn activities for parents? Dr. Jannette Rey, a clinical child psychologist and the co-director of Providence Behavioral Health Associates, and Dr. Michelle Lefebvre, a pediatrician at Partners in Pediatrics cover the basic goals of speach, movement, strengthening and bonding -- and we gave some a twist to make the days a little more fun and entertaining for those of us who are sleep deprived!
Speaking and Language
- Read any novel, aloud.
- Recite the ABCs with different accents.
- Sing Adele - your baby is no music critic.
- Sing nursery rhymes.
- Walk around the house and point out your favorite keepsakes.
- Touch and recite body part names, such as leg, arms and toes.
- Have a pretend conversation about the weather.
- Go through your favorite photo albums and tell stories behind the pictures.
- Recite the names of family members.
- Imitate her noises.
- Say his name over and over.
- Make meals with her watching you, and recite the recipe a la Julia Child.
- Talk to him when he can't see you, like when he's in his crib and you're in the bathroom.
- Take turns making noises. You coo, wait for her to make a noise, you make a different noise. It's like her first conversation!
- Repeat sounds she makes and add words.
- Answer him when he "calls out."
- Read baby books like you're a Broadway actor.
- Flex and extend her hands.
- Clap his hands to the beat of your favorite song.
- Touch his hands to his head.
- Cross-body touch with her hands.
- Help her hug a stuffed animal.
- Let him hold your finger.
- Use a textured glove to touch his hands.
- Touch his hands to different objects.
- Touch her hands to your lips while you move them.
- Flex and extend her feet.
- Make a scissors motion with his feet.
- Make a straddling motion with her feet.
- Make a kicking motion with his feet.
- Dance while holding her.
- Use a textured glove to touch his feet.
- Cross-body touch with his feet.
Core Strength Movement
- Get involved in tummy time. (Always monitor baby for breathing safety while on her tummy.)
- Add toys to tummy time.
- Do baby sit-ups (either placing baby in your lap, or if his neck is strong, hold his hands and pull him up from a horizontal position).
- Try tummy time with a floor mirror.
- Read a book to her during tummy time.
- Get on your belly and do some face-to-face tummy time.
- Help him reach for toys.
- Have your newborn tuck his knees under his belly for support.
- Lay him on both of his sides.
- "Sit him up" while holding him and sway to some music.
- Help her to roll over on both sides.
- Move objects that he can track with his eyes.
- Partake in face gazing (aka have a staring contest).
- Show her objects with bright colors.
- Hold objects on a string above him.
- Hang colorful scarves from the ceiling.
- Track a flashlight beam.
- Take her outside and show her leaves and flowers.
- Play "where'd it go" with plastic containers and a small-ish toy. Just keep small things out of baby's reach.
- Show her a photo album with family members.
More Playful Fun
- Test out a local music class or mommy and me class.
- Blow some belly raspberries.
- Give your baby a massage with lotion.
- Imitate her movements.
- Have skin-to-skin contact (and catch up on your favorite daytime talk show).
- Ring a bell from different areas of the room to see if she looks for the sound.
- Show him sign language motions, such as the sign for milk.
- Dance in front of him -- he's also not a dance critic.
- Bring her out to public places for new exposures (and so you feel normal again).
- Show his reflection to him in a mirror.
- Shake a rattle and try to get her to grasp it.
- Try bath time with toys.
- Try finger play activities.
- Count fingers and toes.
- Do bicycle legs and "toes to the nose!"
- Play some rounds of peek-a-boo.
- Rock in a rocking chair, varying speeds.
- Sway side-to-side while holding her.
- Have a dance party with him in a front carrier.
- Practice the thrill of anticipation, starting with your hands held high above her head and quickly coming down to tickle her.
- Host a baby playdate.
- Play with some toys that make noise.
- Take a walk to a playground and watch big kids play.
- Try a baby swing once your baby can sit up.
- Take a walk to a dog park and point out all the dogs.
- Pet soft objects around the house.
- Practice being "gentle" by letting him explore your face.
- Hold her up by her hands and let her "dribble" a soccer ball.
- Try seeing what he does with a squeaker toy, like Sophie the Giraffe.
- Plan a walk-date with a friend every day.
- Find a nature path to explore.
- Try a mom and baby yoga class or dvd.
- Make different facial expressions (happy, surprised, fish lips).
- Cuddle her.
- Do some of your own exercises (planks!) during his tummy time.
- Touch noses.
- Visit a new ice cream shop and tell her how delicious it is.
- Bounce him gently on your lap, supporting his head (learn the "Trot Trot to London" song).
- Take baby out to a new brunch spot each week.
- Practice nursing/mixing bottles in public spaces, so you get more and more comfortable with it.
- Explore landmarks together. Start chronicling your adventures.
- Replace the main character's name with your baby's name during story time.
- Check out story time at the local library.
- Gently blow air on him.
- Praise her. (Obvi.)
- Document her hand and foot prints in a baby book
- Chart his growth somewhere you can always see it.
- Splash in the sink.
- Prop baby up with a Boppy (tummy-down or seated) and place rattles and favorite toys in view for her to reach and explore.
- Lie your baby down on his back and place a toy on his belly. Watch as this mesmorizes him for minutes!
The main goal is to use these ideas to p rovide warm, loving attention, build trust and help your baby reach important milestones. (Learn about all the baby milestones.) But take your time. It's important to follow your baby's cues and not push him to do new things when he's fussy or not feeling well.
What are some of your favorite newborn activities you enjoying doing with your little ones? Tell us in the comments below!
Steven Auger is freelance writer residing just north of Boston, Massachusetts. As relatively new parents, he and his wife, Lauren, quickly learned that parenthood is short on sleep (and sometimes patience), but diapers, toothless smiles and lots of love are plentiful.
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