By Raising Children Network
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Mum playing with newborn baby on bed
Playing with your newborn will bring you closer and help your baby learn about the world. Play ideas for newborn babies are pretty simple – try talking, making faces, singing nursery rhymes, smiling and blowing raspberries.

About newborn babies and play

You’re the best plaything for your newborn, and playing together is easy. All you need to get started is you and your baby.

Playing with your newborn isn’t about games and toys – it’s about the interactions between you and your baby. That’s why it’s enjoyable – and it’s only play if it’s fun.

Why playing with newborns is important

Playing together helps you and your baby get to know each other.

When you play with your baby, your baby learns to trust and depend on you, and the bond between you and your baby gets stronger. This helps your newborn feel loved and secure.

Play helps your baby’s brain to develop and supports his overall development, learning and wellbeing. This is because new play experiences help parts of your baby’s brain link together and grow. And through play, your baby learns more about the world around him and how he can interact with it.

Playing with your baby helps her learn to talk and understand words. You might not always have time to stop everything and play, but you can still chat to your newborn about what’s going on – for example, while cooking dinner, shopping or folding clothes.

Play can tell you a lot about your baby’s personality. Rough and silly or quiet and calm, you’ll soon know what your baby likes.

Play ideas for newborn babies

Play is the natural way that babies and young children learn. Here are some play ideas for newborn babies:

  • Sing, chat, tickle, count toes, blow raspberries – simple games are best for newborns. Babies also love nursery rhymes that involve touch like ‘Round and round the garden’. Sharing nursery rhymes or traditional songs from your own culture and language is great too.
  • Make faces, smile, laugh, roll your eyes or poke out your tongue. Your newborn loves watching your face. Nappy-changing is a great time for face-to-face play.
  • Give your baby all kinds of objects to feel – soft toys, rattles or cloth books with pages of different textures are lots of fun for your baby. Feeling different things helps your baby learn about the world.
  • Give your baby different things to look at – outside, inside, different people or different rooms.
  • Give your baby tummy time each day. This gives your baby practice holding up his head and lets him see things from a different point of view. Always watch your baby during tummy time and put him on his back to sleep.
  • Talk or make sounds with your baby, and wait for her to respond. It might take a little while but you’ll be surprised at how much your baby has to ‘say’. This shows your baby that conversations are about taking turns, listening and responding.
  • Try reading with your baby. It’s never too early to start, but remember to hold the book close – newborns can see only about 20-30 cm in front of them.
Follow your baby’s cues. Even babies with lots of energy need down time and might feel overwhelmed if you keep trying to play with them when they’re tired. If your baby seems startled or upset, try playing a quieter game a bit later. 
  • Last updated or reviewed 19-03-2018