Playing with your baby
Playing with your baby

While you might have a desire to keep your baby entertained, this isn’t a bored houseguest we’re talking about. Your baby has enough on his plate – like making sense of this strange environment and taking yet another nap – without worrying about having a dull parent. However, there are some activities that are more beneficial than others at different stages of your baby's development:

Newborn to 3 months

Use your face. Since babies can only focus on objects around 20cm away, your face makes the perfect object to study – and really, the only thing they’ll want to look at.

Black and white. Babies can only see strong contrasting colors at this point, so black and white toys and mobiles will be the most stimulating for them.

Tummy time -  Once upon a time, babies were put to sleep on their stomachs.  While this tends to be the most natural and comfortable way for many babies to sleep, it’s also the riskiest when dealing with SIDS.  We now know that it’s safer for babies to sleep on their backs, but there is a minor drawback - Babies spend much less time developing their back and arm muscles as they did when the majority of their day was spent laying on their stomachs. Also, too much time on their back can cause a flat spot in the skull.  Because of this, it’s important to spend about 10 minutes a day supervising them while they play on their tummies.

Story time - Okay, so they probably can’t even focus on the book in your hand, but it’s never too early to make a habit out of reading.  Besides, hearing the voice that’s been comforting them for so many months is always soothing.

Newborns spend most of their time sleeping and feeding - some (we've heard!) sleep up to 20 hours a day! - so make the most of his awake-time by playing with your baby and choosing baby toys that will stimulate his senses and teach him how to control his body.  By the time he is three months, your baby will be able to reach out purposefully, play with his fingers, grasp an object, move his legs and arms, roll and life his head.

At this stage introduce:

A Mobile -  While your baby won't be able to focus on the individual items on a mobile, he will enjoy the movement a mobile provides, along with attempting to reach out to grab it. As young babies see highly contrasting colours best, try to find a mobile that is black and white for maximum effect.

Music and Singing -  From the moment of birth, your baby can hear a full range of sounds. While high pitched sounds can be upsetting, he'll find low pitched noises soothing. Research has discovered the 'Mozart Effect' where early exposure to music - even while still in the womb - helps build the brain connections that are used for passing along thoughts and information. This early exposure to music also improves overall health, boosts IQ and cements emotional bonds. Find the words to popular nursery rhyme lyrics.

Simple Toys -  Your baby doesn't need a lot of toys at this stage - just make sure that the toys you choose are stimulating and can lead to learning. Toys that develop his senses are popular - squeaky, rustling soft toys that are graspable (and safe to put in his mouth) and are in highly contrasting colours are great.

This article was written for Kidspot, New Zealand's leading pregnancy and parenting resource.

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