Play With Me (Part 1)

>> Thursday, April 16, 2009

Annie from PhD in Parenting is hosting a Carnival of Play theme on her blog this month. It's taken me half the month to get motivated to participate. Mostly because I wasn't sure I would have anything new or of value to contribute. Then I looked at myself. I'm by no means a perfect mom but I do LOVE to play with my kids. Even when they are newborns I play with them. Now I'm not talking run around, rough house sort of play so don't get worried. :) But you definitely can play with your newborns. Each month as they grow and change so can your play. So I thought I would try to write some articles on how you can play with your babies from birth to 2 years. It seems to get easier (the kids will come up with ideas for play) after that, especially if you have been playing with them all along.

Me playing with Evan 1 month old

First of all let's talk about some rules for play. These rules are for you mom and dad :).
  1. Partners: Never EVER criticize your partners ability to play with your child. Moms and Dads play very different from one another. That's a good thing because a child needs different types of play. Remember your way isn't always the "right" way. Never tease or make fun of your partner during play. It doesn't matter if they sing in tune or if they have rhythm when dancing. What matters is that they are playing. If you are not participating in the play, keep quiet!
  2. Be Safe: Never rough house with tiny babies. Make sure you have baby proofed the room you are going to play in. Never allow play with anything potentially harmful (scissors, markers, glue, paints, ect) without adult supervision. Put up baby gates where necessary. Move furniture so you have room to play. Put up breakables.
  3. Listen to your child: Just because you are in the mood to dance and shimmy doesn't mean your child will be. Watch their cues. The best times to play with your new baby are when he is quiet, calm and awake. When baby is tired of playing he will turn his head or look away from you. If baby is really tired he or she will cry. If they don't seem interested or are unhappy change the type of play or wait and try again later. Be willing to adapt to whatever situation arises and don't get frustrated. Remember play is supposed to be fun!
Now that we have covered the rules let's get to the fun stuff - PLAY! Today I will talk about play from birth to 6 months. You'll notice I do a lot of talking to my baby when we play. To me talking to your baby is just as important as play. Your baby won't learn to speak unless he hears his language spoken. So talk to your baby all the time! For more about language and the young child you can read here.

Birth to 3 months:
So you've brought your new baby home. Now what? You are busy learning how to diaper, breastfeed, bath and all those other fun daily things. Remember baby doesn't care if you are doing it right. Baby doesn't even know if you are doing it "right", the same applies to play. Play is how your baby learns. It helps him develop the skills he needs to grow and learn. When you spend time playing with your baby, you're showing him that you love him and that he's important to you. This early time is so easy when it comes to play. There are no expectations, and while at first baby may just look at you that's ok. Smiles and coos will soon be on their way.
  • Movement- For nine months your baby has experienced movement. Your baby has moved on his own and he's felt your movements - the rocking and swaying as you walked and bent down. These movements are comforting to baby. So how can you incorporate this into play?
Dancing - Find some simple happy song on the radio or stereo and gently rock and sway to the music while holding your baby in your arms. Watch for baby's cues. She may be in the mood for something quiet and soothing or something upbeat and quick may be to more of her liking. This can also be helpful when baby is fussy.

The Elevator Game - As soon as your baby can hold her head steady you can play this game. Lie on your back and gently lift your baby over you. Slowly bring her down and say things like " I'm going to kiss you" or "up up and away, back down to mommy".

Bicycle Game - Holding your baby's calves just below the knee, gently flex one leg so his knee touches his tummy. Say things like "Let's go for a bike ride".

Touch the Sky - Gently take your baby's hands in your own and raise his arms above his head. Say something like "Reach to the sky and back down to your sides".

Big Hugs - Gently cross your babies arms over her chest and then gently stretch them back out. I say "Big hugs for baby".

Pull-ups - Wait until your baby can hold his head up before playing this game. Lay baby on his back, hold his hands, and slowly pull up until baby is sitting. Say things like "Up we go!" or "Time to get up!".

Rocking Chair - Some babies love to be held and rocked. Some babies like slow rocking and other babies like a faster tempo. Whatever makes your baby happy is OK! Use this time to sing lullabies or nursery rhymes to your baby. Or just nurse your baby and look at her. One day she will meet your gaze and your heart will just melt.
  • Changing/Dressing Games - Caress, softly tickle, or kiss your baby every time you change him or her. Touching, caressing, cuddling will all help develop a bond with your baby faster than anything else. Touch is also an important ingredient for breastfeeding moms. Touching and handling your baby will aid in the secretion of prolactin - the "Mothering hormone", which will also assist in your milk production and your ability to relax. So go ahead hold and caress your baby - you are not going to spoil her I promise!
Baby Massage - This is great especially after bath time. Before bed and that last (well, you hope) nursing session before baby goes to sleep. Baby massage is not only good for bonding but it also encourages muscular co-ordination and suppleness, which helps to prepare the baby for co-ordinated physical skills to come.

Peek-a-boo - Play this anytime you are dressing or undressing baby. After bath time take the towel and say "where's the baby?".

Parts of the body - "I'm going to touch your nose", "I'm going to kiss your cheeks" Bend your face down so baby can see you, smile and touch your baby. You can play This Little Piggy Went To Market when you put baby's socks on and off.
  • Visual Games -
Tummy Time - All babies should be put to sleep on their backs. So for at least 10 minutes a day during an awake/content time you should put your baby on her tummy for "tummy time". She may not like this at first. Especially since she won't be able to see much. But she needs to get those neck muscles strong and you can help her! You do not need to run out an buy a special mat for this, a blanket and your face are all you need. Get down on the floor with your baby and lie in front of her. Make silly faces at her. Stick your tongue out and see if she will copy you. Use a colorful toy and raise it above her head to try and get her to look up. Put the toy on the floor and move it side to side. She will try to follow it. Keep talking to her to let her know you are there.

Evan tummy time in front of mirror 2 months old

Mirrors - Your baby will love to see the baby in the mirror. The more he watches that baby he'll soon realize when he moves so does that baby in the mirror. One day he'll figure out that he is that baby in the mirror.

Keep Your Baby With You - Wherever your are in the house take your baby with you. Put your baby in an infant seat and let him watch you cook. Talk to him about what you are making for lunch. Let your baby watch you fold laundry (this is also another great time for peek-a-boo). Talk to him about whose clothes you are folding. Your baby will love watching and listening to you.

3 to 6 Months:
By now you and your baby are more "settled". You are a more confident parent and baby is starting to show you with smiles and coos just how fond he is of you and your playtime together. Baby is growing and changing so we can add some new games to our playtime.
  • Movement - By this time baby should be trying to gain a sense of control over his movements. He will be trying to move with a purpose - trying to reach a toy, learning to roll over from tummy to back and back to tummy. If you haven't rearranged your furniture before, now is a good time to make sure baby has enough room to move and play with you and on his own.
Rug Rat - Place your baby on a variety of surfaces (carpet, warm bathroom, kitchen floor, soft clean grass) and let him explore. Get down there with him and try to entice him to move with toys. Hold one just out of reach and say "come get your toy baby!" When he tries to reach for it, give it to him and praise him.

Airplane - Lie on the floor on your back, feet flat and knees up. Holding baby under his arms, facing you, fly baby up over your head and back down to your knees. If baby really likes this game you can add wiggles and lifts. Say things like "To the moon" or "we have lift off!".

Rolie-Polie - On the floor or a bed very gently roll your baby back and forth. I like to sing "Rollin, rollin, rollin...keep those babies rollin" when we play this game.

Knee Rides - I think everyone knows how to play this game. Make the game fast or slow - surprise baby! Pop! Goes the Weasel is a fun song to sing when playing this game.
  • Water Play - Your baby will love to splash and play and he'll be learning about his body.
Big Tub - Take your baby in the big tub with you. For me this was a great thing for dad to do. I was able to get a much needed break and dad was able to get some bonding/play time in with the baby. The first couple times I stayed with them because dad wasn't sure how the baby would like it, after that I would just come get the baby when they were done playing.

Sponges - get a bunch of sponges and cut them into shapes. When baby has his bath take the sponges and show him how to squeeze them. Talk about the colors and shapes of the sponges.

Songs and Rhymes - Bath time is a great time for songs and rhymes. Sing Splish Splash or Rub-a-Dub-Dub. Have fun with this - go ahead and splash around the tub with the baby. It's only water!

Don't forget about the games from birth to 3 months, baby will still enjoy many of the games and will soon start to join you in many - such as dancing!

Tomorrow I will talk about play from 6 to 12 months. If you have any comments, suggestions or questions please leave me a comment. Now get out there and play with your little ones! Have FUN!


Amy Webb April 16, 2009 at 3:35 PM  

Great post with great ideas! Thanks.

Gina April 17, 2009 at 7:07 PM  

I'll be having my 3rd baby this coming July. It is nice to read your post. It helps me refresh what I need to do.

Paige April 19, 2009 at 10:41 PM  

Thanks for this post! I've been mostly lurking at the Carnival of Play because my little one is only 9 weeks. It is great to get some new ideas on how to engage her!

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