Play ideas for your newborn baby

Australian animal play mat

It’s never too early to play with your baby

When you have your first baby there is so much information around you all the time; but I want to share with you a piece of advice, that my obstetrician gave me when Freddy was a day old, that helped me. Stop thinking-he told me.

This sounded easy given I’d recently carried then pushed a baby into the world, although I had already started to worry. Is the baby getting enough to eat? Enough sleep? The doctor went on to explain, that for the first 6 weeks, most babies don’t have a natural routine as they are adjusting to life outside the womb. Basically, the first 6 weeks are all about going with the flow and following your instincts- to survive and thrive.

This was not easy advice to take for someone who likes order and routine. However, this was by far, the best parenting advice I received, because survive and thrive we did. Freddy gained weight quickly, was such a happy, smiley baby and sure enough, as we approached the 6-week mark, we started to fall into a routine mostly around his needs to eat, sleep and play.

Playing with newborn: 0-4 weeks

Australian animal baby play mat

Baby Grace checking out the Australian Animals on her baby play mat

With each week that passed, Freddy spent more and more time awake. We began to explore different ways to bond with him and encouraged him to connect with the world. As Freddy got stronger, he started to push up and look around. We found that placing toys in front of him and moving them side-to-side encouraged movement and developed his strength.

Play looked a little different in those early months to his crazy toddler escapades now, but these are some play activities we found worked the best with Freddy in those early weeks:

  • Tummy time- as I mentioned in my previous post, for those early couple of weeks this should occur mainly on your chest or on a soft baby play mat for 1-2 minutes. Then begin to place interesting things in front of your baby-try to encourage them to test their own strength.
  • Talk, sing and read books to your baby – they have been listening to your voice in-utero for the past 9 months! It is comforting for your child to hear and it fosters communication development.
  • Make faces with your baby- smile, poke out your tongue, create an ‘O’ with your mouth. They may start to copy you.
  • Explore with your baby – introduce them to new things. Go for walks into different rooms, into the garden or down to the park. Show your baby the trees, flowers, paintings, books or even a magazine you’re flicking through.
  • Sleep- newborns need so much sleep. More than I realised.

Playtime ideas in the second month:

As Freddy got older, stronger and his senses developed we were able to start trying more ideas. By about 4 weeks old, Freddy loved to lie on his back and look at objects suspended from above. We had a wooden Discoveroo Ocean Play Gym, which we still set up on our baby play mat anytime someone visits with a new baby. Anything he could wave his arms at and have a chance of hitting kept him engaged.

Playing on baby play mat

Baby Leo enjoying the Discoveroo wooden gym on Cosmic Unicorn play mat

At this stage of Freddy’s life, play was centred on engaging his senses and promoting motor development. These were some play activities that we found useful during this time:

  • Show your baby household items that make noise – for example, scrunching paper, rattling keys, touching cellophane and squeezing squeaky toys. Babies love sound and it will stimulate their auditory response.
  • Hang items above your child when lying on their baby play mat to encourage your baby to reach for items that interest them and even items they have never seen before.
  • Introduce sensory style play around 6 weeks- let your baby touch fabric swatches of different textures. Try various types of fabrics including silk, faux fur, leather, even clean dishcloths and towels.
  • Stimulate their sense of touch – Open your babies hands, stroke their palms and and wiggle their fingers.
  • Move their limbs – Create dance routines by moving their arms up and down and then repeat with the legs. As a bonus, this movement can help with digestion!

With number two on the way, we’ll be breaking out these activities all over again. We will also be trying some new play ideas, thanks to friends and family. If you have any more newborn play ideas, we’d love to hear them.


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