Babies learn through play, and in their first year of life, they will make an incredible transformation! But how do you make the most out of this time, and what are things to do with a baby in between feedings, diaper changes, and those short periods of sleep? Discover 21 fun things to do with babies that are not only entertaining for both of you, but are also fantastic for helping your baby reach their milestones.
Baby snuggles are always the best, but when you engage in this activity in the most natural way possible, it can have amazing benefits! Research shows that skin-to-skin contact can help to regulate heart and breathing rates, lower stress levels, promote sleep, and moderate their body temperatures. This is a wonderful bonding activity that helps with breastfeeding, and can even lead to having a happier baby.
So get snuggly! And for those who have busier days, consider wearing your baby around your home using a Boba Newborn Wrap. This can give you some freedom to get chores done, while still giving your baby that beneficial kangaroo style care.
Tummy time is a crucial activity for building your baby's head, neck, and shoulder strength. Best of all, with healthy babies, this exercise can begin the day they come home from the hospital. What do you need for tummy time? While not required, we recommend some sort of colorful blanket or play mat, some rattles and other small toys, and a play gym. These extra items can provide a sensory experience, which will foster cognitive, language, and fine and gross motor development.
How to Do Tummy Time
Parents should engage in tummy time sessions two to three times per day, starting with short increments and working their way up to longer time frames. Experts advise parents to start with as little as three minutes of supervised time on the tummy. Once your little one gets better at holding their head up, begin placing toys just out of their reach. This is an easy way to get them moving early!
Did you know that listening to music with your baby can help with their cognitive development, aid in pattern recognition, and even facilitate speech? It can also be a great bonding activity! Turn on some tunes or sing to your little one. Add in some baby toy instruments to introduce different sounds and tempos. This is another excellent interactive and sensory activity that can start from the moment you get home.
Before three months of age, your baby's vision will be blurry. For the parents who want to help their little ones hone this skill, one of the best things to do with your baby is to play visual stimulation games!
- Look at Family Photos: While you may be a big blob to your baby in the beginning, newborns can actually recognize faces based on their shape. This means that they can discern between you, dad, grandma, and anyone else in their life. Thus, grab the photo album and show them the faces of their family! Just remember that these images need to be large and it needs to be situated less than eight to ten inches away from their face.
- Enjoy High-Contrast Books: Babies see best in black and white. These high-contrast images make it easier for their eyes to focus. So run to the bookstore and grab some books that feature monochrome pictures and let your little one work on honing their gaze.
- Track the Object: As your baby's vision gets better, start introducing moving objects. This can start with a low hanging mobile and then parents can transition to various toys as they approach the three-month mark. Just remember that you need to keep objects up close so that they can see these items.
- Play Peek-a-Boo: This simple game actually has an array of benefits. Not only is it a fun activity to play with baby, but it will continue to build their visual tracking skills and it will help them to slowly understand that just because you are not in view, does not mean that you are gone forever. Once your child hits their four-month mark, they may actually begin playing along with you, which can help with their hand-eye coordination as well.
- Play in the Mirror: Babies love to look at themselves! Add in the fact that they recognize you in the reflection, and it makes this activity even more exciting. This can help with visual tracking, facial recognition, and self-awareness. Better yet, as your baby begins to talk, this can be a great way to build their vocabulary.
Get Some Outdoor Therapy
While direct sunlight is not safe for babies under six months, you can still find a shady spot to take in the views. This can also be a wonderful sensory experience - the breeze on their cheeks, the soft tickle of fine blades of grass on their hands and feet, and the relaxing sounds of nature are not only relaxing for both you and baby, but they can also help them to explore the world!
Babies overheat easily, so enjoy this activity in the early morning or early evening hours when temperatures are more ideal.
Read to Your Baby
Parents can work on listening skills from an early age and build a lifelong bond with their baby by simply reading to them. Babies are like sponges. They learn through observation and imitation, which is why play is so important. However, another fantastic method for them to learn is through listening. Grab some simple nursery rhyme books and get to reading. This can serve as a solid foundation for their future bedtime routine as well.
Sensory play has so many spectacular benefits. Some easy ways to start include:
- Blowing bubbles
- Dancing to music with your baby
- Exploring different textures and sounds using rattles and other toys
- Playing in the bath
- Blow raspberries on their tummy
- Playing with small sensory bottles (9 months +)
Survival swimming may seem like a skill that won't be needed for years to come, but once your baby begins to move, water becomes a big threat. Give your little one the tools they need to handle the unthinkable by signing up for these lifesaving classes.
Parents can enroll their kids as early as six months of age and the results can be astounding. Not only that, but this is a fantastic way to build your baby's muscles, improve their breath control, and even help them sleep.
Give Them a Baby Massage
Infant massage is another excellent bonding activity that will help your baby sleep and even reduce gas and colic. Parents can also add this to their baby's bedtime routine to ease them into a restful sleep.
Teach Them Sign Language
One of the hardest parts of being a parent to a child under two is not being able to fully communicate with them. What many people don't realize is that you can bridge this gap with sign language! Children as young as six months of age can start learning this communication skill, which can allow you to better understand your child's needs.
The words "more," "milk," "all done," "sleep," "help," "yes," and "no" are simple to teach and extremely useful for communicating with a non-verbal baby. Parents can easily introduce these signs by making them when they use the words. After a while, your child will pick up on these hand gestures, making life better for everyone.
Try New Foods
At four months, another fun thing to do with a baby is to begin trying solid foods! Parents should start with single-ingredient foods and wait three to five days between each one. This ensures that you can spot any allergies that may arise. Once they prove that there is no problem with the item, you can include these foods in their regular diet.
For the parents who want to skip purees and try serving their baby the same foods that they are eating, baby-led weaning can be a fantastic experience that promotes healthy eating, helps to prevent picky eaters, and even improves your little one's social skills!
Baby Play Date
Finally, what better way to play than with other kids their age! Finding families with children in the same age range as your own can allow for entertainment for everyone and it is another opportunity to work on your child's social and language skills. While they won't show progress immediately, it will make those moments easier when they arise.
Document the Things You Do With Your Baby
Remember that the more things that you do with your baby, the faster they will gain the skills they need to function independently. Also, while it may seem silly to take pictures and videos of you and your baby playing peek-a-boo or making silly faces in the mirror, these are fleeting moments you will want to remember. Your baby will suddenly turn into a little person in the blink of an eye, so don't miss it. Focus on fun with your infant and take the time to document your baby so that you can cherish these memories forever.