Playing With Your Baby - Excell for Life

Playing With Your Baby

I have many parents ask me about activities they can do with their babies to stimulate learning, soothe them, and also to just have some fun!

We know that newborns cannot see colors yet, and their primary focus is on objects that are about 8-10 inches from their faces.  Color vision is not fully developed until they are about 5 months old.  Mobiles that have different black and white patterns are a great option to hang over a newborn’s crib.  Hold a toy above your baby’s face at that 8-10 inch distance and hold your face at that same distance when you talk to him.   To stimulate visual development, place your baby on her back and hold a toy in front of her face.  Wiggle the toy or touch your baby’s cheek to get her attention.  Then slowly move the toy back and forth to encourage her to follow it with her eyes. By eight weeks, a baby can fully focus on her parents’ faces.

Singing and talking to your baby helps with language development.

Use different tones and facial expressions when you are stimulating him verbally.  This also helps him to develop listening skills.  Singing to him when he is fussy or upset is also a great way to help soothe him.  You don’t have to have perfect pitch or know all the words, either.  Just make something up!

Show your baby a mirror.

Hold her in front of the mirror and ask “Who is that?”  You can place a mirror on the outside of her crib so that she can look at herself when she wakes up.   You can also put the mirror in front of her face during tummy time.  This activity promotes a sense of self and also helps with visual and emotional development.

When your baby has good head control, that is he can hold it up when placed in a sitting position (usually at around 4 months of age), try doing some baby sit-ups.  Lay him on his back place your hands under his arms, and gently pull him to a sitting position.  As he gets older and gains more strength and muscle control, you can help him do the sit-ups by just holding his hands and bringing him to a sitting position.  This exercise helps with head and muscle strength and control.

Play follow-the-leader!

See how many actions your baby can imitates. You can use facial expressions, blow raspberries, or pound your fist on her highchair tray.  This teaches memory, conversation, and conversation/ interaction with others.

Try dancing with your baby.

Especially if she is upset, putting on some music and gently swaying with her in your arms can soothe her.  This also can encourage listening and an interest in music.  This bonds baby and parent, and helps with emotional development.

Try a kicking exercise.

Place a couple of sheets of tissue paper under a couch or chair cushion so that it hangs down to the floor.  Take his socks off and place his feet against the paper with his knees bent.  If he does not start kicking on his own, gently rustle the tissue paper or tap his feet against it.   This helps the baby to learn about cause and effect as well as sensory integration and body awareness.  It also helps with chin tuck, which is important because it strengthens baby’s neck muscles.

Massage is another way to stimulate bonding and body awareness.

When your baby is calm and quiet, undress him (leaving diaper on).  Lay him on his back on a soft blanket.  Make sure the room is warm.  Gently but firmly stroke his arms, legs, feet, and belly.  You can turn him over onto his tummy and stroke his back.  You can use an unscented lotion, like Aveeno Baby, or you can massage without lotion.  This can also sometimes help your baby if he is fussy.

Fill a shallow pan or basket with different objects that have varied texture, like cotton balls or other small objects that he can grasp.  Put your baby on his tummy, propped onto a pillow, and place the container of objects in front of him so that he can reach them with his hands.  This teaches eye-hand coordination, tactile sensation, and grasp and release.

Be alert to the time when your baby has had enough play and stimulation. She will let you know by stopping her play and looking away, or by becoming fussy.  It is important to do these activities for small amounts of time, 5-10 minutes or so.  Let your baby take a break and she will be ready to have fun again soon!

Enjoy your little one and have fun. She won’t be a baby for long!

Blessings to you,

Nurse Anne

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