It’s hard to believe your newborn is actively learning at this stage, but they are. Try these activities to help them use their muscles, activate their senses, and build neural connections.
1. Side-lying neck stretch
After all that time in the womb, your baby needs to stretch out of the fetal position and use their muscles in new ways. This activity encourages your baby to turn their head to stretch their neck muscles.
- Hang a mobile about 8 to 12 inches from your baby.
- Lay your baby on their side with their head beneath the mobile.
- For support, place one hand on their belly or hip and, if needed, the other on their back. You can also position a rolled-up blanket against their back.
- Spin the mobile very gently to attract their attention.
- Alternate sides so your baby stretches both sides of their neck.
2. Stimulate with tactile play
Stimulating your baby through touch and gentle pressure fosters the development of body awareness while helping you connect and bond.
To play, place a baby washcloth, silky scarf, or a mitten over a few of your fingers and use it to gently stroke your baby’s bare feet, hands, belly, and face. Repeat this often to help your baby learn what the different textures feel like against their skin and begin to associate each body part as theirs.
3. Exploring temperature
Introduce your baby to temperature differences for an early sensory experience.
- Gather some cotton balls.
- Fill one bowl with cool water and one with warm water.
- Dip a cotton ball into the cool water, then gently brush your baby’s face and body with it.
- Narrate as you go: “Does this feel cool on your hand? Do you like it?”
- Then dip a cotton ball in the warm water, test its temperature inside your wrist to ensure it’s not too hot, and repeat the process.
Watch your baby’s facial expressions and body language as they experience the sensations on their skin ❤️
Please be sure to put the cotton balls and water safely away when play is done.
4. Tummy time from the start
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that healthy, full-term babies begin tummy time in the first days of life.
The sooner you start placing your newborn on their belly, the more natural it will feel for them thanks to several newborn reflexes. Until your baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off, they may find it more comfortable to be on your lap or chest.
- Place black-and-white images on the floor.
- Lay your newborn across your legs and place the images in their line of vision, no more than 8 to 12 inches away.
- Elevated on your lap, your child will have the opportunity to practice the newborn visual skill of focusing on an object. This both stimulates their eyesight and keeps them engaged as they stretch and strengthen their body.
- Although it may not look like your newborn is doing much, trust that they’re hard at work. At this age, even 1 minute at a time at different times throughout the day can add up. If they start crying or seem uncomfortable, take a short break, then try again.
5. A calming massage
Baby massage promotes relaxation and sleep, and positively affects hormones in your baby’s body that control stress. It’s easy to do.
- Choose a time and place where you won’t be interrupted.
- Spread a blanket on a soft surface, such as a carpet or bassinet.
- Lay your newborn on their back on the blanket.
- Rather than rubbing, use a smoothing motion to gently massage their torso, shoulders, arms, hands, legs, and feet.
You can massage your baby with their clothing on or off, and use a baby-safe lotion or oil. How long should it last? Until your child indicates that they’ve had enough—or falls asleep 😉
6. Focus play
At birth, a baby’s vision isn’t fully developed. Right now, your child is learning how to focus their eyes on an object right in front of them. Since newborns see best in black and white, use a black-and-white rattle or other small toy.
• Hold the toy about 8 to 12 inches away from your baby and wait until they are able to focus on the plaything.
• Slowly turn the rattle so that your baby can see it from all angles.
• While they don’t understand that this is a three-dimensional object yet, the slow, subtle movements give your baby an opportunity to develop their visual skills.
7. Read together
Reading to a newborn can feel a little strange, but they still gain a lot from learning that reading can be a pleasurable, loving experience. The world is a new and overwhelming place for your baby, and they take comfort in being close to you ❤️ Your familiar voice and scent help calm them so they can observe and begin to understand the world.
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