By Raising Children Network
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Play helps babies learn about themselves and their world. All you need to get started is you and your newborn.
Newborn baby being entertained by finger puppets
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Babies are naturally inquisitive. They start experimenting with their new bodies from the moment their eyes open. This starts with movements so small you might not see them, and continues through play and games as your child gets older. Play is a vital part of growing and learning.

Play for a newborn is a gentle affair. At this age, a baby is easily tired and may only be able to manage a few minutes of stimulation at a time.

Playtime is about your child slowly discovering the world and trying out her different senses on the objects around her. Toys can be a great way to kickstart your newborn’s play and support your baby’s development. But everything is still new to her, so there’s no need to rush in beeping, flashing toys. You might like to read our article on choosing toys and games for babies.

Your newborn’s play can be as simple as tummy time on a mat, touching a textured soft toy or watching a mobile slowly turn. You are your baby’s most important play buddy – and playing with your child is one of the most wonderful things about being a parent.

Play ideas for your newborn

From birth, babies’ brains are working hard to understand what’s going on around them. There are lots of fun ways you can provide new experiences that will stimulate your baby’s thinking and imagination:

  • Funny faces: Make different faces at him, smile, laugh, roll your eyes and wave your hands gently. He’ll be fascinated and may even try to imitate you.
  • Peek-a-boo: This simple game of ‘now you see me, now you don’t’ is an enjoyable spectator sport for your newborn. In months to come, he’ll learn to play it with you.
  • Singing: Your newborn loves the sound of your voice and your songs can help his brain develop. You can sing to him during nappy changes, in the car and at bathtime. You can make up your own songs about whatever you’re doing, or brush up on some classic songs in Baby Karaoke.
  • Toys: Simple toys let your newborn exercise his sense of touch. Try soft toys or a rattle made of various textures, like crinkly fabric, satin and velvet. By touching and feeling things, your baby finds out more about his world. Just be sure your toys are safe and clean – that way you won’t have to worry when they end up in his mouth!
  • Talk: You might not always have time to stop and play for a few minutes. Chatting to your baby about whatever you’re doing (running the bath, cooking dinner) not only keeps him entertained but can start laying the foundations for language development.
  • Reading: You can start reading aloud to your child as early as you like – the earlier the better. Some people say starting soon after birth is good, while others say around 4-6 months is better because your baby can control his head and show interest in books. Whenever you start, your baby will love being held in your arms, listening to your voice and looking at pictures.

Your child will learn more in first 12 months than at any other time of his life. Not because of flash cards or any formal learning but simply by growing, developing and watching other people and the world around him.

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  • Newsletter snippet: Newborn play and learning: in a nutshell


    By Raising Children Network

    Your newborn needs just a few minutes of playtime each day. Newborns are easily tired so playtime needs to be gentle. It’s all about exploring different senses and discovering the world around them.

    Play ideas

    • Make funny faces – your baby might even try to copy your efforts.
    • Play peek-a-boo – your baby will enjoy watching.
    • Sing to your baby – the sound of your voice is your baby’s favourite thing, and songs can assist brain development.
    • Introduce baby-safe soft toys made from different fabrics – touching helps your baby learn about the world.
    • Chat to your baby – talking together can help lay the foundations for language development.

    This article is an extract only. For more information visit

    Sourced from the Raising Children Network's comprehensive and quality-assured Australian parenting website

  • Last Updated 09-12-2011
  • Last Reviewed 09-12-2011