When I tell expecting parents, who attend my prenatal classes – that they must play with their newborn babies, they are shocked.
However, what is important to understand is – that brains and bodies grow when babies play.
And playing age appropriate games with your baby is the best way to help your baby develop both physically and mentally.
Playing with your baby also builds a connect with your baby and this makes it easier for you to teach your baby and instil discipline later.
Things to remember when playing with your baby
- Do not buy expensive toys. You are your baby’s favourite toy. And you need to be part of all the games.
- Play for a minute or less. Stop if your baby starts fussing. This indicates that your baby is tired.
- Make sure there are no loose parts in any toy that you use. Loose parts can be choking hazards.
Games you can play with your baby –
Start with the first few games with your newborn. Keep adding the games lower in the list as your baby grows older. Each of these helps your baby grow both physically and mentally.
- Smiling and cooing –
Yes. That is always a baby favourite.
Bring your face within 12 inches of your baby’s face. Look into your baby’s eyes and smile.
Speak in a high-pitched sing song voice. This is called parentese. Open your mouth wide when you talk. You can also sing.
- Grasp –
Put your finger into your baby’s fist and allow them to grasp it tight. They love this game.
- Play with fingers and toes –
When you massage your baby hold each toe for a little while and talk about it. Say “What a sweet little toe you have. This is your big toe. And then you have 4 smaller toes.” Count them as you touch them.
- Play follow the object –
Hold something bright coloured like a rattle in front of your baby’s eyes and move it from side to side while smiling at your baby so that your baby begins to follow the object with their eyes.
You can also shake the rattle and help your baby track the rattle using the sound.
- Have fun during tummy time –
During tummy time – lie on your tummy so that you are face to face with your baby and talk or sing to her.
Roll a ball in front of her during tummy time. Roll it towards her if she tries to reach for it.
Give your baby objects that they can grasp like a rag doll or a wooden block or a teether.
- Tour the house with your baby –
Carry your baby around as much as possible so that your baby learns to balance. Show her how drying clothes flap in the wind. How water runs out of the tap. And so on. Talk about it as you show.
- Mirror your baby’s facial expressions –
Smile when they smile. Grimace when they grimace. Be a mirror.
Also copy your baby’s babbling and smile.
- Give baby something to kick –
Place a rattle at a place where your baby can kick it and make a sound. Smile every time they make a sound.
- Play peekaboo –
Call your baby’s name from different directions and help her to learn to track your voice.
- Sing a song and clap baby’s hands together along with the rhythm of the song.
Don’t wait for your baby to grow up. Start early and make your baby stronger and smarter quickly while having fun.
Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD
Dr. Debmita Dutta is a practicing doctor, a parenting consultant and the founder of the website WPA whatparentsask.com – She is based in Bangalore and conducts Parenting workshops at schools and corporate organizations. She also conducts prenatal classes for expecting parents and infant care classes for new parents.