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Playing with Babies - When, How, and Why We Should Begin Playing as Soon as Possible

Do newborns “play?”

Short answer: yes! It just looks very different from what we usually imagine playtime to look like.

  • Most people think that all newborns and young infants do is eat, poop, and sleep - but they play, too!

  • Playtime looks very different for babies - they aren’t using blocks or doing pretend games like their older siblings - but they are learning.

  • In this post, we’ll go over what playtime looks like for the very young, and how we can harness the opportunities to play with them during their brief awake times.

What is “play?”

When we think of playtime with kids, we think of toys, art, games, and other traditional playtime occurrences. However, young babies can “play,” as well - we just have to match their development level.

Basically, “playtime” for babies can be defined as introducing sensory input: children use play to explore the world around them, and babies can, with your help, use play to do the same. By introducing babies to new sounds, textures, and experiences within their environment, we can help them to understand the world outside the womb and to begin to understand the cadence of their home’s spoken language.

Ideas for playtime with babies

Playtime with infants can look like any of the following:

  • Speaking expressively to the baby, making eye contact (a good place to start here is to tell the baby in detail what you are doing and why - “I am taking this dirty plate and putting it into the dishwasher so it will be clean for us to eat off of later!”)

  • Showing the baby items around the house and naming them aloud

  • Reading books (any books, even one you are reading for yourself) aloud to the baby

  • Putting the baby’s feet in water, on a soft rug, in the warm sun - any new textures or temperatures - and talking about the sensation

  • Putting on music and humming or singing along

  • Patting the baby’s bum to the beat of a song

  • Going for a walk and naming the things that you see, smell, hear, etc.

  • Showing the baby items of different colors, sizes, and textures

In conclusion...

Babies don’t play like older kids do, but they do learn about the world around them through interacting with it, like big kids do through playing. By helping to introduce them to different stimuli within their environment, we can help them to learn and process language, sensory inputs, and vocabulary from a very young age. The book Begin with a Blanket: Creative Play for Infants by Rachel Coley is a wonderful resource for baby play, and can be found for purchase online.

Share Your Playtime Ideas

What is your favorite way to “play” with your baby? Comment below!

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