In the first few weeks of having a new baby, there isn’t much else you want to do apart from look at them – and sleep when you get the chance. But in a matter of weeks, they start to become much more than just cuddle bundles. They are alert, their personality is starting to show, and you might even be getting those big smiles and little giggles. Little ones do need a number of fun experiences. And learning through play is a big deal – and you can facilitate a lot of it in those early months.
Tummy time is an important part of building those core muscles that will serve on the way to walking. Keeping your baby safe when they begin to roll over is really important. Because it won’t take long before they want to roll everywhere. So they’re no longer safe on the couch or left on their playmat for a few seconds. Try to make tummy time fun. Many babies can get pretty frustrated, but practice makes perfect. As well as using toys to keep baby interested, you might want to get down on the floor in front of the baby. After all, you are the biggest and best toy.
Playing with and in water does a lot of good for everyone. Even looking at water has a relaxing effect on people. So it makes sense that babies really enjoy it too. Your baby will probably have a bath as part of their bedtime routine, and as they get older, you might see that bathtimes get more fun (and splashy). In the early days, you can take the baby with you and gently wash them, and play with bubbles. And when they are big enough to sit up unaided, a baby bath is a great place to have some chill time. Cups, flannels, spoons, and other bath toys are great for motor skills. It should be noted that babies should never be left alone at all with any amount of water).
There are going to be times where getting your trainers on for a walk is the last thing you want to do. But fresh air has a great impact on you and your little one. Even more so if you manage to take a walk in the woods. If you use a baby carrier, your little one will be safely tucked into you and close enough to kiss and talk to. A pushchair gives them the opportunity to study the sky and trees in the early days, and as they grow and move to a more seated position, they will see so much more. Walks are very interesting, and you can point things out to your little one. Showing them leaves, flowers, grass, animals, and more.
This helps babies understand that the world is made up of so much more than just you and them.
When they start to get the hang of using their hands, you can get a range of musical instruments that they can shake and bang. Rather than picking up plastic ones that work on batteries, wooden ones will last much longer. And, they sound much nicer too. Drums, the triangle, xylophones, and even a ukulele is a lot of fun for little hands to explore.
You can make your own instruments if you like, from the things that you have around the house. Empty bottles filled with dried pasta are a great and inexpensive way to create a maraca/rattle style toy.
For extra sensory play, try putting paint inside ziplock bags. There will be no mess, and your little one can have fun pressing their hands into the paint-filled bags without making any mess. This is a great way to start showing them shapes, numbers, and colors. Oil and water with some food coloring make for interesting viewing when inside the clear ziplock bags too.
You can also make edible playdoh. They can work on the grabbing hand motion, rolling the dough around and mixing different colors too. If you want to add an extra sense into the play, then you can use a few drops of essential oils to scent to the dough too.
Of course, we all naturally start to play peekaboo with children, and in most cases, we use our hands to pull faces and ‘surprise’ our little ones. But you can take this a little bit further and help them learn that even if they can’t see something, it still exists. Use a handkerchief or a muslin to cover a toy, and then get your baby to pull the cover off. They will be surprised over and over again. When they become more mobile, you can hide behind the furniture, and they will learn to do the same. This helps them tackle some of the biggest leaps. Just because they can’t see their parents doesn’t mean they aren’t coming back.
Getting children to move their bodies in a range of ways helps them to work on balance and their core strength. If they are just a bit too little to dance alone, then picking them up and having a boogie around the kitchen can be a lot of fun. And when they get bigger, you can copy all of their dance moves. It can be quite a workout!
You can experiment with different types of music, from African drum beats to Mozart, and see which they like the most.
You can even get your musical instruments involved.
There is nothing so much fun as imagination. Create forts out of blankets and boxes, this is usually more fun as they get a little bit bigger and can help move the boxes and blankets around. Use tunnels to encourage them to crawl through and see what is on the other side. Roll balls through the tunnels and position your baby at the opposite side and encourage them to attempt to roll the ball back to you.
Make It Even More Fun
When your baby does something new, the chances are that you are very complimentary and clap. Openly showing them, you are impressed. However, the more often you show them how great it is, the more confidence that builds in them. They will then be much more likely to try new things too. Social cheering is integral to them loving learning through play.
Turn-based games. When you take it in turns to roll the ball, or shake the toys, you are teaching them a snippet of patience. This is great for them to learn that their turn will come, and they will eventually wait peacefully (it might take a while).
Don’t overdo it. There will come a point that your little one might get tired, overwhelmed, or ready to move on to something else. There are a few cues that you can spot like your baby looking away, shutting their eyes longer than just a blink, and if you miss all the signs, their final tell may be crying. But, the key to noticing the cues and being able to wind down the fun with some calming music, and putting the toys away – are you being fully engaged with the little one enough.
When your baby is little, they will always view you like the biggest and best toy, which is why it pays to have some games and activities you can do with little effort. You’ll both get to spend quality time, and they get to learn new skills.