The first 3 months of your newborn baby’s life is a time of massive development, learning and growth. Both for your little one and you as a new mama!
At first, it may feel like all your time is being taken up by feeding, changing, and rocking your bub to sleep. But once the first few weeks pass by, there will be more and more “awake” time – and you’ll want things to do.
“Playing” with your baby aids different areas of development, from cognitive to emotional and physical changes.
I put together a FREE printable checklist of all these newborn activity ideas that you can try with your little one! Print it out, stick it on the fridge, and check off all the things you’ve done
Remember: Follow your baby’s cues! Be careful not to overstimulate, so look out for signs that your baby’s had enough such as when they turn away or start getting fussy. Take a break and don’t feel disheartened if they don’t seem interested. You’d be surprised at how much they take in from even the smallest of interactions! In fact, it’s important for your baby to have time to just lie there and rest, gazing around and quietly processing all the new stimuli that surrounds them.
Here are 50+ simple activities that you can do with your newborn!
1. Face time – This is one of the easiest and most important ways of bonding with your newborn. In fact, research has shown that baby’s prefer looking at faces (particularly eyes) rather than shapes or other objects. Also, during baby’s first couple of months, they can only see objects clearly when they’re 20-30cm away from their face. So keep your face close, and admire their gorgeous little features! Once your baby fixes their eyes on yours, slowly move your head from side to side, allowing them to track your movements. You can also try making funny faces – poke out your tongue!
2. Stretching – After being in the foetal position for so many months, newborns are quite curled up and tend to prefer keeping their arms and legs close by, particularly if their frequently kept swaddled. Remove any wraps, then slowly and gently stretch each of your baby’s arms and legs outwards one at a time. There are all kinds of motions that you can help your little one do! This helps strengthen their muscles.
3. Imitation – Reciprocity of communication is a key way of helping your baby build towards two-way interactions. Basically, all you need to do is imitate your little one! Whether they’re waving their arms or cooing, copy what they do. Sometimes, they’ll surprise you with an adorable reaction!
4. Listen to music – Put on your favourite tunes! Or turn on the classical tracks. Was there a particular set of songs you regularly listened to during pregnancy? Some theories indicate that your baby can recognise these songs after birth!
5. Tracking – This activity is all about helping your baby follow the motions of objects in front of or above them. There are a whole variety of different ways you can do this – the simplest way is to get a brightly coloured toy and hold it near their face until they fix their eyes on it. Then slowly move it from side to side and up and down, watching as your baby moves their eyes or head to follow its motions. This is a skill that needs working on, so don’t expect them to be pros on their first go!
6. Mirror play – Although it’ll be many months (probably 16-18 months!) until your baby recognises themselves in the mirror, it’s still fun to hold them up to a mirror. Let them look at themselves, and if they look at you make some funny faces! Another way to incorporate mirrors into play is to prop up a mirror (we love to use this one) in front of your baby during tummy time. Giving them something interesting to look at is a motivation for them to lift their head up for longer.
7. Plane ride – Keeping your baby’s head well supported if they don’t have good head control yet, lie their tummy across your arms and zoom (gently!) them through the air. Alternatively, start by sitting on the floor with your legs bent like you’re going to do sit-ups. Place your baby’s tummy against your shins, then lie back on the floor while raising your legs into the air. Rock your legs back and forth to give your baby a flying sensation. Not only will they love these motions, but it’ll also give your core a bit of a workout!
8. Conversations – Chat with your baby! Talk about anything and everything. Did you know, “parentese” (an exaggerated, repetitive and drawn-out way of speaking that people often use with babies) actually helps language development. While your baby won’t understand your words, your tone is very important. Higher-pitched and gentle tones are preferable.
9. Massage – When you’re both relaxed, apply gentle pressure to different parts of your baby’s body. A great time for this one is after a warm bath before you put a fresh outfit on. You can use baby lotion or unscented oils, and massage these into your little one’s skin.
10. Explore textures – This type of sensory play is an interesting learning experience for your baby. You can use a whole range of (clean) household items for this, from the bristles of a brush, to the softness of a blanket, or the smoothness of a plastic cup. Touch different textures against your baby’s hands and feet, describing what they are as you go.
11. Read – Sit your baby on your lap or lie down beside them, and bring out the books! Starting reading early has benefits to literacy later in life, even if it’s just the familiarity of books. Start building up your collection of board books. Before you know it, you’ll know all of them off by heart.
12. Black and white – Print out some high contrast images and stick them around the sides of your baby’s cradle or crib to look at. You could also add these to part of a mobile. Newborn vision is quite blurry at first, so these contrasting images are easier for them to look at than shades of colours.
13. Dance – Rock it out to some lively tunes, or slow dance to some calm music. Either way, rhythmically move your body in time with the music, and move around the room while you do so. Added bonus if you sing along as well!
14. Explore smells – Your baby’s sense of smell is quite sensitive, so let them sniff some different scents. Take a walk outside in the garden to find different flowers, or bring out some spices. Just be careful that your baby doesn’t get anything up their nose!
15. Air cycling – Lie your baby on their back, and move their legs in a cycling motion through the air. Not only does this help stretch out their leg muscles, but it also puts a little pressure on their tummies to help release any built-up gas. This is a go-to movement if your baby is having gas pains.
16. Torch play – Shine a light in a darkened room and point at different objects, such as things on the wall, the light fitting or fan on the ceiling, or other furniture around the room. Cast shadows by using different objects. The high contrast is sure to attract your baby’s attention.
17. Mobiles – Set up a mobile over a play mat for your little one to look up at. They can also work on their coordination by batting at the hanging parts. Baby Charles loves his Skip Hop activity gym, which even has a mirror directly overhead as well as dangling toys. You can also put a mobile over the change table, to give your baby something to look at while you’re busy changing their nappy or outfit. We use this mobile so many times throughout the day, and it’s being such a great buy because it features heaps of different musical tracks as well as a rotating set of soft characters.
18. Yoga ball balancing – Got a yoga ball lying around? Balance your baby on their tummy upon the ball, keeping them well supported, and rock them back and forth and side to side on the ball. This is also a more creative way of getting some fun tummy time happening!
19. Walks – Getting out and about is a fantastic way to spend some time with your baby. Bring out the pram and go for a stroll around the block. It’s a good opportunity to get some exercise as well.
20. Skin to skin time – Did you know, just 10 minutes of skin-to-skin contact has been shown to reduce your baby’s stress hormone levels and increase oxytocin, which helps them feel safe and calm. Make sure your baby isn’t cold, and cuddle them closely!
21. Sing – The sound of your voice is something your baby loves already, so sing some nursery rhymes, a lullaby, your favourite songs, or simply make something up! This is also best accompanied with #13.
22. Balloon kicks – Tie the string from a helium balloon loosely around your baby’s ankle or wrist. When they kick or move their arms, the balloon will bob around above them! Large silver balloons are great to use because they’ll reflect the light as well.
23. Tummy time – This is an essential activity for all babies! This can be started from day 1, and is really important in helping them build up the necessary muscles required for crawling and eventually sitting. Good opportunities for doing tummy time include during a massage, or on a soft blanket. Encourage your baby to lift their head by putting different toys in front of them.
24. Wrist/ankle bells – Allow your baby to make sounds simply by kicking their feet or waving their arms! You can either make your own, or we use this cute Lamaze foot and wrist rattle set. Watch as they start to make the cause and effect connection.
25. Kick the water – Fill a shallow baking tray with 1-2cm of warm water. Lay out a large towel on the floor, place the tray on top and lie your baby beside it with their bare feet in the water. They can splash and kick, or simply enjoy the fluid sensation on their toes.
26. Rattles – These are a great toy for your newborn, as their bright colours and sounds easily attract your baby’s attention. You can even make your own! Fill small containers (such as film canisters, pill bottles, plastic bottles, etc.) with different objects like rice, dried beans, marbles, little bells – pretty much anything that’ll make a sound when shaken. Use your imagination!
27. Kisses and raspberries – Make all sorts of funny sounds with your mouth, from blowing raspberries on your baby’s tummy to pretending to munch on their fingers and toes. Get creative and shower the love!
28. Target practice – Work on your baby’s coordination skills by hanging a variety of objects above them, within arm’s reach. Anything that’s lightweight and will easily move when hit are good, such as ribbons, balloons, and small balls of wool. It’s best if they’re brightly coloured and have different textures as well.
29. Hold on – Hold a small toy in front of your baby, gently touching it to the palm of their hand. Their reflex will be to close their fingers around the object, so see how long your little one holds on to it on their own before dropping it. Alternate between their hands, until they can use both hands at the same time! Use toys of different textures and sizes to provide variety.
30. Sock puppets – Slip a brightly coloured sock (even better if it’s patterned) over your hand, put on a funny voice, and interact with your baby. Let them feel it against their hands and face. This is also a good chance for them to practise their eye-tracking skills. You can also use fun animal sock puppets and make their noises!
31. Play gym/activity mat – There are so many of these available on the market! Your baby won’t be particularly fussed about which you choose, just make sure it’s high contrast and has dangling parts for them to look at (and swat at). Some even play music or have moving parts which are added bonuses. Our favourite is the Skip Hop activity gym.
32. “This little piggy” – This is probably a nostalgic game from your own childhood! You can play all sorts of variations – the idea is to just let your baby enjoy feelings on their toes, along their body and a little tickle too.
33. Streamer curtain – Tape a whole heap of streamers to a coat hanger which can be hung over your baby. Blow at them to create movements, and help them swipe at the streamers themselves.
34. Warm and cold – Expose your baby to different temperatures, while describing the experiences to them. For cold objects, leave a toy of theirs in the fridge, or let them touch an ice pack. For warm objects, this can include a hot water bottle or even your own touch!
35. Snuggles in bed – One of my favourites! Lie them tucked against your body in bed with you, while chatting and stroking their tummy, arms and legs. Just the proximity with you is sure to be something they’ll love. Just be careful not to fall asleep…
36. Blow bubbles – This one’s for outside! You can get bubble mix from a 2 dollar store, then head outside with your baby and blow bubbles into the air. If it’s a sunny day, make sure your little one is kept in the shade.
37. Wear baby – Whether you’re in your own home, or out and about, wear your baby so you can be handsfree for a bit. You can use a sling/wrap or carrier. The proximity to your body is something your little one is sure to love, they might even fall asleep in this position.
38. Change of scene – Spend time playing in different places around the house. Rather than always spending time in the rumpus or lounge room, hang out in the bedroom, out in the backyard or other rooms in your home. Everything is so new to your baby, so a change of scene brings an incredible amount of different things to take in and process.
39. Introduce stuffed toys – Chances are you might already have a bit of a stuffed animal/toy collection from gifts as well as whatever you bought yourself! Give each toy a personality of their own, and bring the characters to life with creative voices and interactions.
40. Finger puppets – A bit of fun to get creative with! These can be as simple as taping some paper around each finger then drawing on some contrasting faces and designs. Even better, use soft felt so you can tickle your baby as well. Otherwise, these people and animals finger puppets are super cute.
41. Drive – If your baby doesn’t mind the carseat, take them for a drive! Put on some music and head out to somewhere scenic. Baby Charles always falls asleep during drives, giving hubby and I a somewhat rare time to just chat with each other!
42. Count everything – While your baby obviously isn’t growing their mathematical appreciation yet, counting all sorts of things throughout the day is a good habit that’ll bring benefits later on when your little one starts to count along with you too! From their fingers to their toes, to the snaps of their onesie while getting changed…you can count all sorts of things.
43. Toilet roll talking – Get an old toilet roll, hold it up to your baby’s ear and whisper secret messages through it! Vary your volume and tone and watch your little one’s reactions!
44. New people – Introduce your baby to others! Whether it’s family or friends, seeing new faces and hearing new voices is good for your little one, so that they start getting used to having others around. Social awareness is slowly developing, and it’ll also give you as the mama a break from holding them for a little while too.
45. Crinkles – Have you seen the viral video of the baby laughing hysterically at ripping paper? While your baby probably isn’t laughing just yet, they are still fascinated by the crinkling sound of paper being scrunched up or torn. Try using baking paper as it’s super scrunchy.
46. Bath together– Get into the bath with your baby! Have fun with bubbles, show them how to splash, and make the most of skin to skin contact. Make sure you have a good grip on them, particularly when getting in and out of the bath, because they can be super slippery!
47. Musical instruments – Explore a range of sounds with homemade “musical instruments”. Tap on glass jars, clang cutlery together, clap against wood, anything that makes a bit of noise! Just be careful not to startle your baby with a noise that’s too loud or sudden.
48. Swing – Place your baby on a folded sheet, and hold either end (get someone else to hold the other ends), then lift baby slightly off the ground and gently swing them back and forth as if they’re in a giant hammock. They’ll enjoy this rocking sensation!
49. Rolling – Once your baby is at least 2 months, you can start helping them discover rolling motions. Lie on the bed or a soft blanket, then gently help them roll over onto their tummy. And then onto their back. They’ll soon learn that this helps them move around to new locations!
50. House tour – Walk with your baby through your house, going from room to room and telling them about each place. Describe what each room is for and point out different objects. In particular, look out for large contrasting things like a bright artwork or feature pillow.
51. Relax outdoors – Get a picnic blanket and lay it out in the backyard (or a local park). Lie with your baby and look up at the clouds, listen to the birds, feel the breeze. Make sure your little one isn’t in direct sunlight though. You’ll also benefit from a bit of fresh air!
Any other ideas? Which activities worked well with your little one? Leave a comment below!
Don’t forget to download the FREE newborn activities checklist!