This article is fabulous! I often wondered in the first days if I was playing and stimulating our little guy enough, or in the right ways. Turns out our natural instincts to talk, sing and make faces at our little babies are right on target. Here is the link: Playing from 0-3 Months - an article from BabyCenter and there are many more ideas for playing with babies of all ages
When we first brought our baby home, we were stricken with terror. Would the baby suddenly stop breathing? What if she choked? Did the other people on the road always drive this dangerously?
As the days wore on, the fear ebbed. Okay, we could keep the baby alive. But what were we supposed to do with her? She stared into space, showing no particular interest in our efforts to sing or dangle toys in front of her face. "Look, baby, look at the monkey!" Nope. Just vacant stares, and then some crying to liven things up.
Now that we both know a lot more about babies — or at least our baby — we know not to expect a lot of interaction from a newborn. But that doesn't mean playing with your brand-new baby isn't important.
From day one, your baby's interested in what's going on around him. Deep in his head, there's a lot going on. Connections are being made and information is being sorted and categorized.
Playing games helps fit the puzzle pieces together — as your baby grows, play is crucial for his social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development. Play also brings you and your baby closer and makes your time together that much more enjoyable. Remember: The more your baby laughs, the less he cries!
A few notes for the novice baby-entertainer: Repetition is important. Many games won't work the first time you play them, but if you keep up your efforts your kid will eventually start cracking up the minute you reach for a particular toy.
Your baby's attention span will vary a lot, depending on his age, his temperament, and his mood. Sometimes he'll enjoy a game for as long as 20 minutes, but more often you'll need to modify the game every five minutes or so. You'll know your baby's loving your antics when he's turning toward you, smiling, or laughing. But if he squirms away from you, looks away, or cries, it's time to change the activity.
Some babies are easily overstimulated. If yours starts to cry during playtime, don't despair. Switch to calmer activities like cuddling, looking at picture books, singing soft songs, or nursing.
Keep in mind that not every baby will catch on to every game that's supposedly perfect for his age range. Don't allow this to freak you out, as in: Oh no, Noah's not reaching out for objects yet — there's something wrong with him! There's probably nothing at all wrong. Your baby may be a little slower than the mythical "average" baby in this way, but he's probably ahead in another way. Of course, if you suspect your child has a developmental delay, talk to his doctor.
Birth to 3 months
To the outside observer, a newborn basically seems like a pooping ball of protoplasm. Your baby will mostly just lie there, except when he's crying. So how can you connect with him and have fun?
Your best chance of doing this is to engage your baby's senses: touch, sight (remember, your baby is still very nearsighted), smell, and hearing. (Let's leave taste out for now.) By the end of his first three months, your baby may reach out and try to grab things and will be fascinated by sounds, smells, and patterns.
Note: It may take your newborn several seconds to respond to you or he may not respond much at all. Be patient — you may need to keep trying or wait a while for him to enter an alert, responsive state.
Dance, Dance Revolution
In the afternoons when my baby got grumpy, nothing worked as well as dancing with her. I'd put on some music — she preferred soulful tunes from Stevie Wonder and James Brown — and either put her in the sling or hold her in my arms.
At first she preferred soft swaying. Later on she liked me to swing her in the air or bump her up and down rather rudely. (Just be sure to offer neck support and don't shake your baby.) When your arms get tired, put your baby down and keep up the dance.
Silly exaggerated movements like jazz hands or shaking your butt are particularly funny to babies. Close the drapes so the neighbors won't see.
Let's Look at Stuff
Most of your early playtime will be spent showing your baby stuff. Any object in the house that won't poison, electrocute, or otherwise hurt him is fair game. Babies love egg beaters, spoons, wire whisks, spatulas, books and magazines with pictures, bottles of shampoo or conditioner (don't leave your baby alone with these!), record albums, colorful fabrics or clothes, fruits and vegetables, and so on.
Keep a little stash of objects beside you and sit with your baby. When the moment's right, whip something out like a magician. "Look, Kyle, Daddy's bicycle bell." Hold the object still about a foot from his face and stare at it yourself. Hey, now that you look at it, that bicycle bell is kind of interesting. Congratulations! You're thinking like a baby!
Oh, and don't expect babies to really "get" books at this age. You'll know they're enjoying them by their way of getting still and watchful when you bring a favorite book out.
Babies don't tend to sit through a whole story, though, and when they're a few months older they'll grab the books from you and close them. This is all developmental stuff. Babies love looking at books and cuddling close to you, but they usually don't care about the plot.
Journey Into Mom's Closet
You haven't spent a lifetime accumulating a closetful of bright, slinky, tactile clothing for nothing. Dig into your closet and show your baby your cashmere sweater, your cottony-soft favorite jeans, your brilliant plaid skirt. Run soft or silky fabrics over his face, hands, and feet. Lay fuzzy stuff down on the floor and put your baby on top of it.
In a few months, your baby will want to run his hands over anything beaded, embroidered, or otherwise embellished. But for now, he may just be content to gaze in wonder.
Hey! What's Over My Head?
You'll be amazed at how much fun you can have with the simplest stuff around your house. Here are three ideas to start you off:
Tie or tape some ribbons, fabric, or other interesting streamers onto a wooden spoon and dangle them gently over and in front of your baby's face.
Take a floaty scarf and fling it into the air, letting it settle on your baby's head.
Tie a toy to an elastic string (like the kind used for cat toys) and bounce it up and down in front of your baby's face, saying "Boing! Boing!" every time it descends.
Remember, never leave your baby alone with strings or ribbons that could encircle his neck or that he could get into his mouth.
The Diva Within
You may have a terrible voice — but your kid doesn't know it! Now's the time to sing at volume 10, so set free that opera voice inside you.
Your baby may like absolutely anything you sing, but there are some classics you should know. "Itsy Bitsy Spider" was the only song that made my baby stop crying when she was on a jag. And most kids like any song with movements — "The Wheels on the Bus," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes," and "Patty-Cake," to name a few. (If you don't remember the words to a favorite song, try an Internet search. )
You may feel silly at first, but as your child gets into it, so will you. Try adding your baby's name to the song: "Old Mac Ethan had a farm," "Kate is my sunshine, my only sunshine," and so on. Try songs with silly sounds or animal noises in them, like "Witch Doctor" or "How Much Is That Doggie in the Window?"
Try singing a song in a low growly voice and then in a high squeaky voice, to see which gets the most reaction. Try singing the song breathily into your baby's ear, or use a hand puppet (or a napkin or sock willing to play the part of a hand puppet). And get used to singing, because this could begin to eat up a significant portion of your day.