When you were pregnant, you may have daydreamed of the days ahead. From the first moments when you would meet your child, to their first steps, and even thinking about their first days at school, parenthood brings a multitude of adventures. One of the best things about having a child is the joy of exploration, looking at the world through their eyes. What's the best way to experience this? It's simple – play!
Whether your baby is mobile or not, it doesn't matter; there are plenty of ways to play with your child.
- Make faces and sounds. The youngest babies thrive on interacting with their caregivers. With your baby's vision still developing, the positioning of your baby on your lap or in your arms provides the perfect position to play. Your baby may enjoy being sung to (and may respond with noises of their own!). Your baby may also enjoy participating in simple games (where is baby's nose? there it is!) as well as reading interactive books (i.e. a book about animals may have you both participating in a host of animal noises!).
- Play peek-a-boo and discover other finger plays (simple songs that may include motions made by hands, face, etc.). Peek-a-boo is a popular game to play with babies, especially after they understand object permanence (the understanding that something exists even when it out of sight – this usually occurs around 9 months or soon after). The best part of this game for babies is the fun that even though they cannot see something, it is still there, and then it reappears. Of course, the best part for you is the squeals of joy you may hear from your little one. In addition to peek-a-boo, other finger plays may include: Twinkle, Twinkle, If You're Happy and You Know It, Where is Thumbkin? The worldwide web and your local library are great resources for interactive nursery rhymes and songs.
- Get down on your child's level. Think about the size difference between your baby and you. Can you imagine being so small and having someone so tall towering over you? Playful interactions often occur naturally by simply laying on the floor with your baby. From introducing your baby to dramatic play (i.e. using a plush toy to provide playful interactions with your child such as dancing), to gentle tickles and zerberts on the belly or feet, follow your baby's response. Note: though your baby may enjoy the gentle playfulness of tickles, etc., be mindful that too much may be overwhelming to a baby and may result in crying. When playing, follow your baby's lead, and when they are done, cease the activity. Rotate active play with more quiet interactions (rocking, reading, etc.).
- Although your baby may be too small to blow bubbles or throw a ball, they may enjoy the interactions that come from these simple toys. Blowing bubbles often provides a great source of engagement (and may be a great “trick to have up your sleeve” or in your purse). Babies may enjoy balls of different sizes, colors, and textures. Balls can be dropped, rolled, or even bounced gently.
It is often said that “play is a child's work.” This means that play is the avenue in which they will learn and grow. Not only is it good for your baby, it's fun! Enjoy!