In the first few weeks after bringing home my babies, they seemed so small and fragile. All I was worried about is getting them fed, changed, and snuggled.
However, once a few weeks went by and my babies were awake a lot longer, I was was wondering how to play with my newborn. I wanted to incorporate activities that would aid in his development and keep him busy during awake times.
Activities for newborn babies are actually quite simple, but still very beneficial.
Your baby may sleep most of the day, so you will need to use your time wisely and find how to entertain your newborn when they’re awake. Newborn awake time activities vary greatly and can change dependent on your preferences and what your baby seems to enjoy.
If you are nervous about finding the appropriate newborn play ideas, or find yourself wondering… “What activities can I do with my newborn?”, don’t worry! Read on to find some of the easiest and most beneficial newborn awake time activities.
This post may contain affiliate links, for which I would receive a small commission if you make a purchase.
Why do I need to entertain my newborn when they are awake?
Play is the most important way that babies and toddlers learn. They explore their environment, learn language, develop relationships, strengthen motor skills, and gain knowledge through play. Newborn activities for development are important and they can start as early as 1 week old!
These early months are the building blocks of your newborn’s development. It’s important to stimulate them as much as possible to get their body’s systems off to a running start. Newborn play ideas may be difficult to think of at first, but as you get used to it, the play will actually come quite naturally.
You may be surprised to know that the human brain grows and develops at the fastest rate when they are babies and toddlers, it is because of this that activities for your newborn are so important. In order to help your child have the most optimal tools for growth, give them all the interaction, love, and stimulation that you can.
It may not be apparent right now, but you will be providing them with important sensory input to their body’s joints, strengthening muscles for physical development, and brain stimulation for social and emotional interaction and so much more.
When should I start playing with my newborn?
During their first month of life your baby will learn so much just by interacting with you on a daily basis. The best news though, is that you can start playing with your baby at any time- the sooner the better.
There’s no need to worry about a set time for activities with your newborn. Instead, take the time to talk, sing, and interact with your baby all throughout the day.
The lullabies that you sing to them, how they try to look at you while they’re laying on your chest, and the soft touch that you provide while holding them, is all stimulation.
What Activities Can I Do with My Newborn?
You may be wondering, “what activities can I do with my newborn?”, and the answer is simple – the best way to introduce play with your newborn is to provide stimulating opportunities in your day-to-day life. Newborn play ideas can be super simple- and do not require a lot of preparation or any special training or tools.
You will actually find that a lot of the best ways to play with your newborn come from things that you already instinctively do. Things like singing, rocking, talking, bouncing, holding, imitating, and massaging are all excellent newborn awake time activities.
Newborn Play Ideas
Newborn play ideas do not have to be complicated, in fact, it’s probably best if it is kept simple. The following list are some great ways to play with a newborn. You’ll begin to learn your baby’s cues and what they like and dislike as you go along.
1. Imitate their noises and facial expressions
They’re starting to realize they have a voice so let them know that they are being heard. When they start making sounds and noises, repeat after them. They’ll love hearing it back while also familiarizing themselves with your voice.
Also, you can imitate all the little facial expressions they make: yawning, grimacing, smiling, or eyes wide open. Imitating is one of the best newborn activities for development.
They should start smiling around 7-10 weeks. If your baby isn’t smiling yet, just show them your big smile and they will start imitating it too!
2. Tummy time
Tummy time is such an important newborn play activity at this age to strengthen your baby’s neck muscles, allowing them to hold their
It also improves strength in the arms, hands, and fingers for fine motor skills, sensory stimulation throughout their body, and gets them ready to start rolling. You can begin putting them on their belly from 1 day old.
This mat is great because it has it’s own little propping pillows plus overhead toys when he can really lift his head up or laying on his back. However, if you don’t have one, placing them on a blanket is totally fine.
Tummy time should be done EVERY day to give your baby the strength and sensory input that they need for physical development. During the first few weeks, tummy time can be done for just a few minutes per day. As they approach the 3 month mark, you should be getting them on their bellies for at least 5 minutes, 5 to 8 times per day.
3. Encourage them to explore their bodies
Your newborn will soon start to become aware of all of the different parts of their bodies. You can help facilitate these milestones by bringing their hands to their mouth, in front of their eyes, and touching objects. Each of these are great activities for your newborn.
You can also have them:
- Sit in front of a mirror to look at their reflection and point to all the features of their face.
- Stretch their arms up high and circle them around.
- Bring their feet to their hands.
- Allow them to bear weight and stand while you’re holding them up.
- Cycle their legs and push them into and out of their bellies.
Newborn awake time activities can be something simple like massage! Gently rub or massage all the parts of their body from toes to back and all the way out to their fingertips.
This will help them start feeling and discovering different parts of their body. When you give a massage, they are starting to get a sense of where their body is in space, including all their limbs that are attached to them.
Be gentle, but still firm. You won’t hurt them!
Try this after diaper changes or bath time. You can do it when they’re in just a diaper with Calming Lavender Baby Lotion or Coconut Oil to make it smoother. You could also just do it over their clothes at any point in the day.
5. Try different positions
You probably have your baby on his back most of the day in some kind of inclined device, such as a swing, bouncer, or newborn lounger.
These are great devices to make them feel comfortable and still cozied up like they’re in the womb. However, make sure you’re switching up the gear regularly so they’re not in the same position every time you put them down. Here are a few newborn play activities you can try in different positions:
- Try laying them flat on their back and watch how much they stretch and kick. In this position, they can move their head and neck more to look around.
- You can also lay them on their side. This way, they’re halfway to rolling to one side or the other so that may help them get started on that. They can also see things from a different perspective on their side, as well as have an easier time bringing their hands in front of their face.
- Of course, being on their bellies is great stimulation too (and the most important), as stated before.
- You can try positioning them sitting up with support, propped up on a Boppy, or in the corner of a couch.
6. Face to face
Face time has a whole new meaning with babies. If you need to figure out some newborn awake time activities, this is a simple one that you probably do already.
Babies respond the greatest to faces, especially mom and dad. They are drawn to familiar faces and the more they see yours up close, the better they will respond when they see you if they are in discomfort.
Sit up with your knees bent and prop the baby against your legs. This way you can be face-to-face, about 1 foot away.
Your baby will become aware of the features of your face and start smiling before you know it. While giving them that face time you can also demonstrate smiling, and laughing, as well.
7. Sit them up
A newborn will be put down a lot or just held on their backs most of the time. Not only is sitting up great for face-to-face and better eye contact, but it will also help strengthen their neck and trunk muscles and reduce time spent on their back (potentially leading to a flat head).
Once your baby has pretty good neck control (probably around 2-2.5 months), you can start using a Fischer Price Sit-Me-Up.
This is one of my favorite gadgets for little ones because it gives me a place to put them down, without worrying about them spending too much time laying flat.
8. Use toys of different textures and sounds
Shaking a toy in front of your newborn’s face is great for visual stimulation, of course, however, there are other ways that your infant can explore new objects. Toys are an excellent way to introduce newborn activities for development.
Toys that are multi-sensory have different textures, sounds, and music to stimulate many of the senses. This Donkey Plush Toy (above) is a great all-in-one toy that provides all of those things
- Rub those objects on their hands, arms, face, or legs so their brains start to recognize all the different textures and sensations.
- Put the objects on different sides of their head to see how they look and respond to where the sound is coming from.
- Have your baby reach for and touch these objects while laying in different positions.
- Make different sounds for your baby to hear in high and low pitches like squeaking, bells, musical notes, whistling, singing, humming, etc.
You also use common household objects to accomplish this, as well!
- Plush stuffed animals
- Soft toys
- hard rattles
- soft or coarse bristles on a brush
- cotton balls
Related Post: Must-Have Baby Toys for Your Newborn
9. Lay them on their backs with toys overhead
This promotes visual fixation and tracking as your baby starts to follow objects moving around. Use toys that are brightly colored, make noise, or rotate.
10. Baby talk
I know it may seem silly to talk to a newborn when they can’t understand what you’re saying yet. However, this is a great way for them to become familiar with your voice and new sounds, and this is one of the easiest ways to play with your newborn.
Even if they can’t understand you, your voice will start to become recognizable. This will help soothe them when they are in discomfort, knowing that mom is there.
Use their name when you speak to them, read books, or sing songs. Although your baby won’t know their name is referring to them until around 6-7 months, it will give them a head start at recognizing it.
11. Sing to them
Your baby is starting to learn the sound of your voice so those sweet lullabies or fun sing-a-longs are music to his ears. He’ll start smiling, cooing, and laughing before you know it and just hearing the familiar sounds of mom or dad will surely make him happy.
12. Snuggles & Kisses
I’m sure I don’t have to tell you to do this because it’s probably what you spend your entire day doing. My favorite thing to do is get my baby naked in just his diaper, wrap him loosely in a super soft blanket, and kiss him all over his belly and neck.
The best thing you can do for your baby is giving them all the loving skin-to-skin contact that you can.
13. Stick Out Your Tongue
This newborn play activity has got to be one of my favorites, and whether you believe the studies or not (some say that babies can start imitating this at only a couple of weeks old!) it is still fun to try!
Is your newborn actually imitating you by sticking their tongue back out? Or is it just a reflex? Tell me, does it really matter? It is super cute!
14. Read to your Newborn
Your newborn likely doesn’t quite understand what a book is, but that doesn’t matter. Starting a reading habit early on can be beneficial to you both. Reading to your children has been linked to raising better readers as they get older!
15. Count Their Fingers and Toes
It is never too early to begin introducing your newborn to concepts. In fact, counting is an excellent newborn activity for development. Take your baby’s toes into your fingers and wiggle them as you count. Next, unravel each finger and count those too!
16. How Big is Baby?
This is a fun little rhyme to repeat with baby as they grow. Take your baby’s hands into yours and say “how big is baby?”, “how big is baby?”, and then gently spread out your newborn’s arms wide saying “SO BIG”.
You can repeat a few times. As your newborn grows they will begin to complete the gesture on their own.
17. Give Your Newborn A Tour
Take your baby on a tour of your house! Point things out as if you are seeing them for the first time- your newborn very well may be!
Explain the colors, textures, sounds, and shapes that you see. Your newborn may not understand it all right now, but they are still soaking it all in.
18. Play Peek-a-boo
Did you know your newborn is already developing a sense of patterns? Play peekaboo! This is one of your babies first experiences with the world of patterns!
Each time you cover and then uncover your face, you are showing your baby that things can happen in a pattern and can become predictable! Play Peek-A-Boo as long as it holds your newborn’s interest and encourage your baby to copy you as they get older.
19. Mommy is Big! Baby is Small!
Introduce your newborn to the world of measurements with this activity. Say to your newborn “mommy is BIG” (while holding your hand up high), “baby is SMALL”(while holding two hands close together.)
You can complete this activity with other movements as well:
- Put baby’s hand on top of yours “mommy’s hand is BIG”, “Baby’s hand is SMALL”
- Put baby’s foot beside yours, “mommy’s foot is BIG”, “Baby’s foot is SMALL”
- Hold different objects up for baby and repeat the process!
Your baby is learning new vocabulary and mathematical concepts in this fun newborn play activity.
20. Make up Songs!
You can make up songs about just about anything, but songs are an excellent newborn activity for development. Try this one!
- One little finger! One little finger! One one one! (Hold up one finger while moving it up and down)
- Two little fingers! Two little fingers! Two two two! (Hold up two fingers while moving them both up and down)
- Three little fingers! Three Little Fingers! Three Three Three! (Hold up three fingers while moving them up and down)
21. Just let them be
Even when they’re not doing anything, they’re still learning all about the world around them! They’re taking in so much information through their senses at every moment. Therefore, there’s no need to worry about if you’re not stimulating him enough.
I hope that you found many new ways to play with your newborn to help form your bond and stimulate their senses and development.
Most of all, be sure to enjoy time with your little one. While newborn play activities are important, it is equally important to relax and enjoy this time with your little one. They won’t be tiny for long, and before you know it they will be running off to complete their own explorations.