You know it’s important to play with your baby—the right kind of play isn’t just fun, it’s also interesting, educational and a bonding experience. But figuring out how to interact with a scrunched-up newborn and how to happily occupy an unruly 14-month-old are their own unique challenges. That’s why we came up with this handy guide, covering activities for babies (and toddlers) from birth to age two.
Just one thing before you read: Babies develop at different rates. If your baby doesn’t seem ready for a certain activity, try it again in a month or two. Know that all babies are different. Your baby also could downright hate an activity we suggest. That’s normal! Feel free to improvise (and leave your suggestions in the comments!).
0 months: Swing time
Don't break out the baby swing just yet. (And definitely stay away from playground swings for now!) Until baby gets better head control, try folding a bedsheet in half (twin or queen-size sheets work best) and then lay it on the ground and place your baby in the middle. With an adult positioned at either end, pick up the ends of the bedsheet until baby is off the ground. Make sure baby is safely and securely resting inside and no parts of the sheet are covering her nose or mouth. “Swing the baby slowly to watch for her reaction,” says Kimberly Lyons, MEd, CMT, founder and owner of Tum e Time, a baby play center in San Francisco. “If your baby enjoys it, try singing a lullaby as she relaxes in the hammock.”
This activity can help your baby build strong bones and muscles—and just may soothe a fussy baby to sleep! Just be careful to swing gently and safely!
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1 month: Wear your baby
Babies love skin-to-skin contact, but you can’t just sit and cuddle all day. A baby carrier, such as a ring sling or a strap-on front carrier, lets your baby snuggle in close while freeing up your hands. Wearing your baby also provides him with a wealth of stimulation. “Wearing babies allows them to see what you see and begin to make sense of the world as you wear them while you work, clean and run errands,” says Bethany Gonzalez Moreno, founder of B. EcoChic, a company that helps parents find eco-friendly baby products.
Young babies should be worn facing inward, not outward, to avoid overstimulation and so their heads have proper support. Make sure baby has plenty of room to breathe while you're carrying him.
2 months: Make a mobile
“Very young babies are attracted to contrasting colors,” says Gaby Merediz, an artist, writer and mother of two young boys. “So draw some simple shapes in black marker on white paper and hang them above your baby’s crib or on a spot on the wall near your baby’s line of sight.”
At birth, baby’s vision is limited, so she’ll have a hard time focusing on anything more than a few inches away from her face. Providing her with interesting objects in her line of sight encourages her to focus her eyes and strengthens her vision. Of course, you are her very favorite “interesting object,” so make sure she gets plenty of face time with you too!