Written by Valerie Griffith, CLD
From the moment your baby is born, they are learning about the world around them. They will immediately recognize the voice of Mom and Dad, and soon, your faces too. Making a connection with your baby by eye contact and speech can count as play from hour one.
Play doesn’t need to be complicated, so hopefully by the end of this list you will realize you can take a deep breath and feel less nervous- if your baby has already been born you may find that you have already been using quite a few, if not all, of these modes of play.
When your baby is alert and calm, you will find them receptive to learn and play with you. Here are a few ways to play with your newborn:
· Face to face time with open eyes, eye contact, and smiling from parents and primary caregivers is one of the most enjoyable and simplest ways to lay a foundation for relationship building with your infant in the future. this allows for them to learn about emotions, as well as feel a sense of love and safety. Even just locking eyes with your sweet bundle of joy can change their brain waves and encourage communication.
· Tummy time to strengthen muscle control and coordination is an important daily activity that can be made more enjoyable with a high contrast book propped up to look at, or a familiar and friendly face near by to interact with. You may even consider being belly to belly with baby, and encouraging tummy time with the comfort of having physical contact with you.
· Engaging in play builds lifelong connections and is nurturing too. Sensory play with colors, textures, and a variety of items can be simple. As you go throughout your day all your activities can all be play for you and your newborn. They will love as you introduce the different textures and colors of laundry as you are folding it, the sounds of a box of dry pasta as you prepare to make a meal, and the smells of soap when it is bath time.
· Dancing, swaying, and gentle bouncing are wonderful ways to play with baby and explore variations of movement. You will be setting a strong foundation for balance later on in development. This will be helpful when learning to walk, stand, sit, and roll over. This skin to skin time will also strengthen your bond, enhance breastfeeding efforts, help in the fight against postpartum depression, and even benefit your little one’s heart rate and body temperature. There is even evidence that more touch between baby and parent can reduce parental stress levels too!
· “Infant directed speech”, also known as baby talk, improves IQ, brain development, and eventual school performance. Since your voice is familiar and comforting to your little one, go ahead and sing songs, narrate your day, and read stories. In a study published in the journal Infancy, babies that listen to singing stay calm for nearly twice as long as babies listening to talking. So even if you aren’t a confident vocalist, go ahead and sing to your sweet child. These are fantastic ways to engage your new family member, and is both good and necessary for them!
· Down time, and low-engagement observation of their environment is okay too. Infants need time to be able to process and relax from more engaging play, much like adults occasionally need a bit of calm too. If calm and content, don’t fret about letting them have a bit of time to themselves.
The most encouraging news I hope you can take from all of this, is that the only thing baby needs to learn, develop, and play is YOU! Bring your baby along for your day, and you will grow your confidence to engage and play your way through it!
Book a postpartum appointment today, and you will receive hands-on assistance and advice with all of your newborn questions, concerns, and needs.