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How to play with your newborn

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This is part 1 of our Play at Any Stage series with Fisher-Price. See part 2 (3-6 months) here.

In news that might surprise you, babies are ready for play from week 1! It might not look like much but even tiny bursts of play can make all the difference to your baby’s development. 

We chatted with Lauren Celenza, a child development specialist and a researcher at the Fisher-Price Play Lab, who explains that it’s never too early to start playing with your little one. “It doesn’t have to be crazy,” she says. “There are different ways you can go about playing with them.”

Watch the full chat – with play and development advice for babies from 0 to 12 months – on Facebook.

Activities such as singing or reading a book are wonderful, or even just raising the pitch of your voice. “Babies are more likely to respond vocally when you use a higher pitched voice,” says Lauren. “They are drawn to respond to that because it’s easier for them to imitate that sound.” 

Lauren also suggests really playing with your mouth and doing things like blowing raspberries and making funny faces at your baby. “Anything you’re doing with your baby at this stage, besides changing a nappy or feeding is play” says Lauren. “You can even incorporate play into something like changing a diaper – it can be really easy and fun.”

What to expect when playing with a 0 to 3-month-old baby 

Sure, babies spend a lot of time sleeping and eating, but they also thrive on interaction with those around them. According to Lauren, at this stage your baby will want to connect with you and mirror your face. “They’re drawn to faces,” she says. “Even at really early ages, baby can also find their main caregiver in a room.” 

Babies also need movement and touch to build up their muscles. Expect your baby to reach out and touch people’s faces and anything else that’s close by. “Their hands are not able to really do strong motions yet, it’s reflexive at this point in time for babies at this stage,” says Lauren. “So try anything that they can bat at or do very little with but get a really good reaction.”

Additionally, your baby’s brain is a sponge, soaking in everything around them. So it’s easy to see why talking, singing and reading to your baby as much as you can is so important for developing communication skills. “Reading is really an early form of play for them,” says Lauren.

Baby milestones to keep an eye out for

While every baby is different (and you shouldn’t be comparing your little one to your friend’s baby), there are some milestones to look out for around this age.

  • Social and emotional milestones: returns emotions, smiles and holds eye contact
  • Physical milestones: lifts head, extends legs, is able to briefly grasp objects
  • Cognitive milestones: looks at objects, listens to sounds and recognises smells. 

Play ideas, games and toys for 0 to 3 months

Don’t overthink playing with your baby, it’s not just about toys and games. Babies can learn alot (and get a lot of enjoyment) from the simplest of interactions with their family. “Less is more,” says Lauren. “Don’t feel like you have to put a ton of things in front of them.”

  • Sing: dust off your vocal pipes and sing for your little one. It doesn’t matter if you can’t hold a tune, they’ll love it!
  • High pitched voice: using a high pitched voice that’s light and airy will encourage your baby to imitate the sounds and respond.
  • Nursery rhymes: these can be a powerful source of learning. Jump on YouTube or Raising Children Network’s Baby Karaoke and familiarise yourself with some nursery rhymes.
  • Blow raspberries: babies will start to blow raspberries when they are a little bit older, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get the ball rolling. Blowing raspberries sets the foundation to many significant skills such as motor skills, language skills, and social skills.
  • Count toes: this simple activity helps babies learn about other body parts, as well as learning how to count (and the physical interaction can be fun too!).  
  • Fisher-Price Soothe ‘n Snuggle Otter: this cuddly toy’s soft belly moves up and down, mimicking breathing, to help soothe your baby naturally, along with up to 30 minutes of calming music, sound effects, and soft lights.
  • Tummy time: this is essential for babies to explore their surroundings and develop head, neck and muscle strength.
  • Read stories: start reading to your baby as soon as possible. Your baby’s brain is developing all the time and the more they can soak in the better. 
  • Different toys: let your baby play with and explore different shapes and textures. For example soft toys or a hard rattle, or anything that crinkles. 
  • Find toys where your baby can get a reaction or sound with little effort – such as a baby gym where your baby can kick, knock or grab different elements.

Speak with your GP or child and family health nurse if you’re concerned about baby development or you need support.

Get prepared: read tips on playing with your 3 to 6-month-old.

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