Playing with newborns: why it’s important
Play is essential for your newborn baby’s overall development, learning and wellbeing.
Through play, your baby learns about the world around them and how they can interact with it. New play experiences also help parts of your baby’s brain connect and grow. And play that gets your baby moving builds muscle strength as well as gross motor skills and fine motor skills.
Play is a great opportunity to talk with your baby, which means that play can help your baby learn about words, language and conversation. And the more you play and talk together, the more words your baby hears.
Playing together helps you and your baby get to know each other too. That’s because play can tell you a lot about your baby’s personality.
When you play with your baby, they learn to trust and depend on you, and your bond with your baby gets stronger. This helps your baby feel loved and secure.
Play ideas for newborns
Playing with newborns is about the interactions between you and your baby. This means that all you need to get started with newborn play is yourself and your baby.
It’s good to try plenty of different play activities with your baby. This gives your baby many ways to learn about their world. Here are some play ideas:
- Sing, chat, tickle, cuddle, count toes, blow raspberries – simple things are best for newborns. Newborns 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 baby loves watching your face and playing peekaboo games. Nappy-changing is a great time for face-to-face play.
- Give your baby different objects to feel – soft toys, rattles or cloth books with pages of different textures are fun. 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 using a playmat or blanket on the ground or floor. This encourages your baby to move and roll, gives your baby practice holding up their head and lets them see things from a different perspective. Always watch your baby during tummy time and put your baby on their back to sleep.
- Talk or make sounds with your baby, and wait for them to respond. Make sure your baby can see your face when you talk. This shows your baby that conversations are about taking turns, listening and responding to social cues. You might be surprised at how much your baby has to ‘say’.
- 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 their eyes.
And remember to enjoy yourselves. It’s play only if it’s fun.
Follow your baby’s cues. Even babies with a lot of energy need downtime and might feel overwhelmed if you keep trying to play with them when they’re tired. If your baby seems startled or upset, you can try playing a quieter game a bit later.