15 Ways to Engage with Your Baby
Life with a newborn is an adjustment. It’s exhausting, repetitive and at times overwhelming, but it is also absolutely wonderful. Your days pretty much consist of changing diapers, feeding baby, soothing baby, bathing baby and putting baby to sleep. But once babies get a little older they start staying awake a little longer. Parents then begin to wonder what they should do with their babies. It’s not like they can move around, play or babble or laugh with you. What are some things that you can do with your new baby? Here are 15 different great ways to engage with your baby.
There are so many benefits of babywearing. Not only is it good for baby (helps them cry less, learn more, etc.) but it is amazing for mom. When you wear your baby you have the ability to engage with their child closely, but also have the freedom of being hands-free! Whether you have a wrap, sling or carrier, I highly recommend snuggling up close to your baby and wearing them. It makes things easier for you and soothes your little one.
2. Do Skin-to-Skin
We’ve talked about the power of touch many times on our site. Holding a baby close to you is a form of communication. It will not spoil your child. It actually lets them know they are safe, secure and cared for. When you hold your baby skin-to-skin it is even better. Here are just a few of the many benefits:
- It helps baby’s senses develop.
- It stimulates baby’s psychological and emotional growth.
- It can boost baby’s immune system.
- It promotes bonding.
- It can help with diminishing postpartum depression in new moms.
- It can regulate both baby’s body temperature and heart rate.
- It can aid in tempering a new mom’s hormonal fluctuations.
- It encourages a positive sleep rhythm for baby.
Skin-to-skin can be done (and should be done) by both parents, not just the mother. For more information on skin-to-skin, read this.
3. Baby Talk
From the moment babies are born, they are familiar with their parents’ voices. Your baby loves to hear you talk and talking to your baby is extremely important for their future development. It builds their language foundation and contributes to how quickly they will pick up talking themselves. It’s been proven beneficial for babies to list to normal speech patters as well as cooing and exaggerated baby talk. So talk to your baby. Tell them what you are doing, how you are feeling, what you are thinking. They will sit there and eagerly listen.
4. Sing to Them
Even if you think you have the worst singing voice in the world, your baby will love it. They are hardwired to enjoy the sound of their parents’ singing voice. So sing to them! (We recommend picking something with a good tune and melody. Heavy metal won’t do the trick.)
- increases a baby’s listening skills.
- encourages language development and introduces new vocabulary.
- can relax your baby.
- is a wonderful way for a parent to express their love that baby will understand.
5. Read to Them
Reading does so much for babies and children and this has been proven over and over again by research. Of course parents can strengthen their baby’s minds and build their children’s vocabularies by talking to them, but reading to them is even more effective. Reading aloud is the best way to help your child develop word mastery and grammatical understanding, which will in the future form the basis for learning how to read.
6. Go Outside
There is something about the great outdoors that babies love. Whether it’s the fresh air, birds chirping or the change of scenery they can’t get enough of going outside. Some parents worry that they are taking their babies outside too soon. But in actuality as soon as a baby is born, it is perfectly fine for parents to take them outside or on errands. (Of course being mindful and keeping them away from any potential health issues.) You will notice that your baby will become less fussy and more relaxed as soon as you walk them around outdoors. This is due to the fact that they are stimulated and engaged by the world around them and they are focussing on processing the information around them.
7. Take Them Where the Action Is
It may sound silly, but babies can actually get bored. If they are in the same place doing the same thing for too long they will begin to cry out for a change of scenery. My recommendation is to set up your baby in the area of the house that gets the most action. This usually happens when other kids are home from school, around the kitchen getting ready for breakfast or dinner, or when dad comes home from work. Wherever that place is, place baby in a Bumbo, bouncer or bassinet and let them soak in the conversations and interactions. This will give your baby free entertainment!
8. Add Some Color
Visual stimulation is crucial in infants as it is the only way the visual center in their brains will develop. Dr. Sears encourages parents to surround their babies with light and dark contrasting colors as well as interesting visuals. These contrasts will register more powerfully on their retina, and it will help their optic nerve thus sending strong visual signals to their brain. If you were only to have neutrals and pastel colors around your newborn, Dr. Sears says that’s on par with keeping them blindfolded! Keep this in mind when designing your baby’s nursery and buying your baby toys.
I know that this might sound dangerous, but coloring is a great way to engage and play with your baby. Strap your child into his or her high chair or hold him or her on your lap and spread out some crayons and paper. Demonstrate how to make marks on the paper; then hand over a crayon. A lot of parents are afraid that the child is going to start scribbling all over the place, but with supervision, a very young child can start using crayons.
10. Infant Massage
The benefits of infant massage go above and beyond using touch to relieve gas or colic – although this is a definite plus! Massaging a newborn is a way for parents to communicate with their baby non-verbally. This gentle touch will help an infant develop trust, confidence and familiarity with a parent. Plus, massage is a surefire way to stimulate all of baby’s senses which aid in their rapid development.
For more information on infant massage and how to do it, read this.
11. Feel All the Things
Introduce a variety of textures to your baby. Allowing them to feel different textures is a great way to stimulate their sense of touch. You can show them different toys, board books, blankets, play mats even the environment around them (sand, water, grass, etc.). This allows them to explore and learn. A parent can take it further by having baby touch a bumpy texture followed by saying the word “bumpy” or having them stroke fur while saying “soft”. Eventually, they will know to associate the word with the feeling.
12. Tummy Time
If you have done #allthethings with your baby, remember that your baby also needs to be doing enough tummy time. Pediatric recommendations range from 30-60 minutes of tummy time each day, whether it happens all at once or is spread throughout the day in smaller increments be sure to include tummy time in your baby’s day. Studies have shown that infants who get this amount of tummy time are quicker to reach milestones in the first years of life.
13. Take a Class or Join a Support Group
Getting out of the house is a great thing for both you and baby. You will have the opportunity to meet other moms with babies and do an activity that you all enjoy. Be mindful of your baby’s schedule (naps and their mood throughout the day) before committing to something. Some examples: Mommy and Me yoga classes, a group exercise class such as Fit4Mom classes, a music class like Kindermusik, or a Float Baby class.
14. Take Them on a Tour
Whether that be in your home, at the grocery store, in your backyard, in Target, wherever. Walk them through and show them different things. Explain what they are looking at, what they are touching and what they are hearing. They will love the private tour.
15. Take a Dip
Sometimes a good bubble bath with you and baby is exactly what you both need. It’s a relaxing experience that is a perfect way to end the day. Play some soothing music in the background or sing to your baby as you soak together in warm water. If your baby is in a more playful mood, add in some bath toys and plastic cups. Whether you are relaxing your playing, it’s a great bonding experience. For safety reasons, be sure not to fill the tub too high, and always have a firm hold on your child.