Now that your little one has arrived, you’re ready to show her the world. One of the best and fun ways to do that is through play. Taking cues from your newborn as to whether they are willing to play is also key. “Babies have different states of alertness and in most alert states, play can be fun,” says O’Brien. “But a tired [or] hungry baby will fight play activities that they adored when they were more relaxed. “Paying attention to how your baby responds to the tone of your voice and how quickly or slowly you handle each toy will also help you determine how to play.
“Play gives parents a chance to step away from the care taking role and get to know their little one. Because each stage of a newborn’s development represents different skill sets and abilities, it helps to understand how different types of play are beneficial.”
says parenting coach Maureen O’Brien, Ph.D. Just as important as a full stomach is a newborn who is well-rested or, in what Dudley describes as a calm alert state. “This is the time when you see them looking around calmly and happily noticing what is around them,” she says.
Once your baby has awoken from her nap, has been fed and is ready to play, you’ll want to make sure you have the right toys on hand, depending on her age. Introducing a new toy or two every month will keep her entertained, without becoming too overwhelming. For nap time or quiet time in a crib or bassinet, try a mobile with rotating toys.
“Babies enjoy looking at moving objects, and if the mobile or suspended objects are low enough, they may even start trying to bat them with hands or feet”
she notes, which helps develop hand-eye coordination. At 4 to 6 Months, babies are learning how to grasp and hold objects, which builds their fine-motor skills. But be wary of smaller objects that may easily move from hand to mouth.
Cause and effect is a newly acquired skill at this stage of development, so encourage your baby to make some noise. Holding and banging objects together, such as pots and pans, a drum, xylophone or toy hammer, will stimulate the senses. “Mom can sit her baby on her lap and encourage him by saying, ‘Bang, bang, bang,’ which helps promote language development,” notes DeSouza.
What a difference a year makes! Your baby is now mobile, crawling around and exploring (and in some cases, already walking). Any toys or games that encourage him to move around are a great way to develop gross motor skills. Dudley suggests gentle chase games in which you follow as you baby crawls or walks away.
When he’s not on the go, your baby may be more inclined to check out toys that can be manipulated, such as containers that fill and spill, dump trucks, pop-up toys and stacking rings.
“The change in air quality and sounds is often soothing. Older babies can also benefit from outdoor tummy time, a position that helps promotes crawling”
And don’t let a little rain spoil your outdoor playtime. “Infants even enjoy being out in the rain under an umbrella and watching, hearing and feeling the world in this new condition,” says Dudley. No matter how old your baby is, experts laud the benefits of incorporating some outdoor playtime, whenever the weather permits. It’s a great mood booster for a fussy newborn.