Playing With Your Newborn: 26 Games to Help You Bond

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When you have a baby who’s waking up to the world, but not quite ready to throw a ball or crawl across the floor, it can be tricky to come up with ways to play with your kiddo. What’s the best way to spend your day with your newborn (when she’s not eating or sleeping)? Here’s a list of 26 ways you can make playtime more magical for the two of you.


Photo: Nelson Kwok via Flickr

1. Mocking Bird: When your baby makes little squeaks, repeat those sounds back to him. Imagine you’re in a fascinating conversation and talk to him about those coos, and listen as he tries out different sounds.

2. Narrate Your Day: Your voice and words are powerful brain boosters. As you go about your day, chat about everything your doing, from folding socks to opening mail. During changing time, label her body parts for a first lesson in head, shoulders, knees and toes. If you’re out of things to talk about, try good old show and tell. Grab an object, hold it up, and tell your baby what it is – cup, car keys, tissue box.

3. Stretch Out: Hold a toy just out of baby’s reach and watch as he stretches out his arms and swats at it. Note: this one can go quickly from fun to frustrating, so do it just enough that your kiddo’s having fun, and not so long that he’s in tears.

4. Fabric Fun: Pull out a silky scarf and wave it in the air over your baby for a live action mobile. You can drape it across her body or face for a little more fun. Then, use the scarf for baby’s first game of peek-a-boo, draping it over your head and pulling it off.


Photo: Joshua Hayworth via Flickr

5. Copycat: Babies are tuned into faces, even before their developing eyesight can process other things, and love to watch facial expressions change. Stare into your kiddo’s dreamy eyes, and make your mouth into an O shape. If she can imitate you, try sticking out your tongue and making a few other faces.

6. Soft and Smooth: Find a few items with different textures – a satin ribbon, a fluffy blanket – and help your baby touch them while you describe what he’s feeling.

7. Light Show: When it’s rainy outside, break out a flashlight and make that day brighter. Lay down next to your little one, flash the light across the ceiling and throw in a few shadow puppets. Then, watch your little one track the bright light. Bonus: if you have a ceiling fan, switch it on and watch the swirling blades mesmerize him.


Photo: Chris Michaels via Flickr

8. Tummy Time for Two: Make tummy time more fun by getting down on your belly right next to your baby. Nose-to-nose, take in the sights of the dust bunnies under the couch.

9. Music Time: Put on some tunes and help your baby kick her feet and clap her hands in time with the music. When he’s able to grasp something, hand over a little rattle.

10. Smell You Later: Before solid foods are on the menu, babies can still explore food through smell. Grab some mint, a lemon, and a spice or two, and pass them near your baby’s nose while you describe what she’s sniffing.

11. Massage: The next best thing to getting a massage yourself is giving one to your baby. It’s relaxing, fights the horror known as colic, and it’s one way to interact with your kiddo when she’s way too young for a tea party. These simple instructions will get you started.

carrots or orange

Photo: Carrots Are Orange

12. Sight and Sound Discovery Bottles: Grab an empty plastic bottle out of your recycling bin and fill it with anything that has a bright color or an interesting texture – pom poms, dry beans, beads. Hot glue the cap back on so the contents stay secure and baby can’t get a hold of any choking hazards. Babies under four months will be mesmerized as you shake the bottle from side to side, and then, when they’re a little bigger, they can shake the bottle back and forth themselves. Find all you need to know about how to make your own at Carrots Are Orange.

13. Disappearing Act: Take out a toy, like a small ball, and show it to your little one. Then, cover it up with a blanket and say, “Where’s the ball?” Keep on hiding the toy and revealing it, until your baby gets tired or starts to fuss. At this age, repetition is a good thing, even though it can be a little boring for you. Consider it good practice for the cries of “Again, Again!” you’ll hear when your toddler wants you to push him on the swing.

14. Take a Hike: Strap on that baby carrier and get outside for a stroll. Little ones will enjoy the wind on their cheeks and the sight of a bird flying past, and you’ll fight cabin fever.


Baby mobile

Photo: Studio Mishela

15. Baby Gym for the Win: A simple wooden baby gym like this one lets you switch up the toys that dangle over your baby, so rolling around on the floor never gets old. Available at Etsy seller Studio Mishela, $90.09.

16. Mirror, Mirror: Your face is one of your baby’s favorite things. And the next best thing? Her own reflection. Hold up a mirror so she can see that sweet little mug. Snuggle up next to her and smile at your reflections for a few minutes.

18. Nursery Rhyme Basket: Singing songs is more fun with props. Put together a basket with finger puppets or other goodies that go along with nursery rhymes – like a sheep and a toy boat – and use these as you chant classics like Baa Baa Black Sheep. Find out all you need to know about putting together a basket and the brain-boosting power of nursery rhymes at The Imagination Tree.


Photo: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr

18. Puppet Show: Grab a few simple puppets or stuffed animals, and spin tales about monkeys and knights. Use them to act out your favorite bedtime story or make up a new one.

19. Super Sounds: Crinkle paper, clap together a pair of slippers, shake a bell. Any interesting sound (that’s not too loud, of course) will fascinate your baby.

20. Take It Outside: Find a shady spot and spread out a blanket, and relax together in the great outdoors. A change of scenery is sometimes all you need to make an afternoon great.

21. Just Add Water: In a few short months, your baby will love to scoop and pour water from cup to cup. For now, just splashing in the water, whether you hold him over an inch of water in the sink or in the bath, is almost as much fun. Bring a cup to the tub, drizzle a little warm water on his chubby hand, and watch the droplets fascinate him.

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Photo: Family O’Abe via Flickr

22. Reading Time: It’s never too early to start a book habit. Pick short board books that will hold up to future exploration. With your help, your little one can touch the pages and explore new textures.

23. Rock a Bye: Have a dance party with your little one to your favorite tunes. She’s not ready for a mosh pit, but she’s sure to enjoy a gentle sway in your arms.

24. Magazine Stand: He can’t grab and rip yet, so now’s the perfect time to read something other than Goodnight Moon aloud. Pick out one of your favorite magazines and introduce it to your baby. Most magazines have bright pictures, and you can point out shoes or people as you read along.

Sensory Butterfly

Photo: Asia at Fun at Home With Kids

25. Mess-Free Sensory Play Butterfly: Follow this easy DIY from Fun at Home with Kids to make a squishy, sparkling butterfly. You can tape it on the floor and your little one can pat the butterfly’s wings. Just be sure to stay close, as the butterfly does include some tiny pieces sealed off inside of it.

26. Snuggle: When all else fails, scoop up your little bundle of love and revel in the sweet, fleeting baby smell.

What’s your favorite way to play with your newborn? Tell us in a Comment.

— Oz Spies