When your baby is born, it is the most joyful moment of a parent’s life. When a newborn enters the world he perceives a blur and out-of-focus images, dulled colors, and muted sounds and sensations. So how do you connect with someone who is so disconnected from the visible world? And, how do you provide the proper stimulation to help their brains grow and adapt?
Here are some fun and easy ways to both simulate and connect with your 0-3-month-old baby. Not only these activities encourage brain growth in your little one but they will also provide opportunities for bonding and learning about the world together. So let’s learn some ways to play with your newborn baby.
One of the easiest and possibly most important ways to connect with your baby is to offer them some FaceTime. This means to get close to them to study your face. The studies show that babies begin to recognize and distinguish between faces long before they can distinguish between different shapes and patterns in their environment.
Baby can focus on parts of faces near to them and so by allowing your baby time to study your face, not only do they familiarize themselves with you but you begin to simulate parts of your brain that are associated with their visual experience and their perceptual abilities. This also helps them to later be able to distinguish relevant social information like emotions. A baby as young as a few days old can begin to mimic some of your facial expressions as well. As they start to get a little older, you can also mimic their sounds and facial expressions back to them and you might even get a laugh.
Another important aspect of infant development is gaining spatial awareness. You can encourage this by simply allowing your baby to stretch out on a blanket. Give them uninterrupted time to recognize and study their hands and the ways that their arms and legs move.
This helps them to develop the neural pathways necessary for controlled movements, recognizing spatial concepts like distance, and may even play a role in their mathematical abilities later on in life, so give your baby time to stretch.
Another fun way to play with your baby is to narrate your day to them. Show them different rooms in your home, talk to them about what you are doing or what they are seeing, and let them listen in on your phone calls. All of these activities have been shown to increase a child’s IQ and vocabulary range as they get older.
You can also encourage development in your baby’s language center by initiating conversations where you give your child time to respond to your questions. Another way to encourage communication is to begin signing with your baby. The newborn phase is an excellent time to introduce sign language for frequent activities like changing the diaper or nursing. Signs are amazing tools that eventually allow your child to communicate with you long before they can speak.
Around 5 weeks of age, your baby will go through their first developmental leap and they will start to notice contrast and shadows, so give them time to study these as your encounter them around your home. Talking about the example of the newborn vision, it’s easy to see why so many newborn toys have black and white high contrast images on them. Even with the most obscured vision, you can still pick out the high-contrast image.
If you don’t have any black and white newborn toys around, you can also make your own by using a card or a piece of paper and just coloring an obscured black and white image on it or you can print them. Studying these types of images encourages your baby’s brain development in several areas and they can also be used to encourage visual tracking as they are highly interesting to your newborn.
Another high contrast game that your baby will love, shine a flashlight on a wall in a darkened room and make shadow puppets and watch their eyes light up. Also around 5 or 6 weeks, your baby will begin to exhibit their first social smile, so be sure to pull out all the stops to get your baby to laugh or smile at your antics. Around this time your baby can also pick up on different types of music. So it’s a good idea to put some on in the background and let them listen while they’re stretching out or maybe even pick up your baby and dance around in your living room, your kitchen, or garden, they really enjoy this activity.
Around 7 weeks your baby will also start to recognize patterns, so be sure to give them lots of time to study the various patterns that you encounter throughout your day. Another skill that emerges around 7 or 8 weeks is the ability to grasp and hold on to a toy. You can encourage this behavior by offering your baby a small rattle or some little teethers, they are easy and lightweight for a baby to hold on to. Also after this mental leap, your baby will begin to clearly recognize different facial expressions.
Lastly, it’s important to note that babies learn so much about their environment through their sense of touch. You can encourage this learning and growth by offering your baby a lot of unique sensory experiences throughout their day. Just grab a few different items from your home and let your baby grasp them or show them to them.
The first 3 months are filled with change, your baby’s brain will be growing at such a rapid rate that they will become more alert by the day and seem like they are literally growing in front of your eyes and while the days are a blur of naps, feedings, and diaper changes, also find some time to play with your baby. Also note that whenever you’re playing with your baby, make sure you are looking for signs that they are not overtired, or if they are sneezing or if they are looking away from you and they are yawning or closing their eyes, these are the signs that your baby could be overstimulated or overtired or are not really in a mood to play.