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.
Playing with your baby helps them with learning to talk and understand words. You might not always have time to stop everything and play, but you can still chat to your baby about what’s going on – for example, while cooking dinner, shopping or folding clothes.
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. Rough and silly or quiet and calm, you’ll soon know what your baby likes.
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, not about games and toys. This means that all you need to get started with newborn play is yourself and your baby.
Here are some play ideas for newborns:
- Sing, chat, tickle, 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. 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. This gives your baby practice holding up their head and lets them see things from a different point of view. 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. 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 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 newborn baby seems startled or upset, try playing a quieter game a bit later.