Having Fun with your Newborn

Having Fun with your Newborn

I know a lot of parents wonder how to “play” with their baby. Most parents are mainly concerned with getting the feeding, sleeping and changing routine down and making sure their baby is happy. I hear a lot of parents say “Oh i can’t wait till she’s a little bit older so I can play with her!” The good news is you can play with your baby now and odds are she will enjoy it and so will you!
Your baby is already communicating and playing with you in her own way, she also needs all sorts of stimulation. When she coos and makes noises, she’s starting a “conversation” and her journey to language development. Laying her down for some tummy time is the first step to strengthening her muscles and upper body which she will need to start crawling and later to be able to sit at a desk properly.

I’ve collected some fun and creative baby activities from my favourite blogs and books to help you have fun with your baby!

Photo by www.mariamelmofty.com

Your Baby 0-3 Months

At this stage your baby needs to experience your touch, smell and lots of love. The first 3 months are especially hard on parents since you are still getting to know your baby; her temperament and needs as well as getting her to sleep through the night. You can still make the most of everyday routine activities!

  • Bonding

When your baby is alert, fed and has a clean diaper that’s a great opportunity to just sit with her! Take time to listen, look, touch, hold, stroke, cuddle and talk to your baby. Giving your newborn face-to-face time is important. Research has shown that newborns, 2-5 days old, prefer to look at faces that engage them with direct contact rather than faces with an averted gaze. Your face is conveying information about your emotional state; Is Daddy happy? What’s mommy looking at now? Eye contact with your baby is important.

  • Diaper Time!

Include your baby while changing her diaper by talking about what you are doing. Mention what is going on, the parts of the body and what you will do next. Your baby may not understand you now but will eventually learn to pick up on your cues, when you say “Almost done” or “I’m putting your clean diaper on” she knows what’s going on. Talking to your baby during diaper time also tells her what diaper time is about! This may be obvious but some parents can go through the whole process merely saying “hold on”,”just a sec”,”don’t cry” without explaining what’s happening. You may ask why this is important. You can totally change the experience your child has about diaper changing by telling her what’s happening early on. As your child gets older and begins to make sense of your words the experience will be less of a struggle and actually a pretty smooth experience with your child understanding the purpose and process of diaper time.

You can also keep your baby entertained by singing to her or placing a secure mirror along or above the changing table so she can have a good view when being changed. Try having your baby experience different textures like a feather or soft cloth on her tummy. Remember to tell her what you are doing.

  • Bottle or Breast Feeding

Whether you are bottle feeding or breast-feeding, these are precious times to be physically close to your baby.  Use this time to talk with your baby, hold her unoccupied hand or massage her feet. If you are bottle feeding it is recommended that you “switch sides” as a breast-feeding mother would. The reason for this is that research shows there may be more advantages to breast-feeding than nutrition. With bottle feeding babies, parents usually hold their baby on a preferred side which usually stimulates one side of your baby. However, when you switch sides during breast-feeding, both sides (left and right) of your baby are stimulated as you hold her hand, massage her foot and she shifts her eye gaze. When you naturally let your child cross her midline (an invisible line down the center of the body) you are helping build a part in her brain called the corpus callosum which connects the right and left sides together and helps them communicate. You can also stimulate crossing the midline by playing with a rattle at other times.

Other research has suggested that children who are breast-fed may have higher IQs because their mothers tend to communicate and be more verbal than bottle-feeding parents. Feeding time is a great time to bond and just get to know each other. Leave your TV, cellphone or other distractions and spend this time alone with your baby and remember to talk to her.

  • Imitating

Scientists previously (and wrongly) thought that newborns lacked the ability to imitate and that this ability wasn’t developed until babies were 8-12 months old. However, latest research has shown that a newborn as young as 12-21 days can imitate facial expressions like opening her mouth. Imitation is important to people because that’s how we learn how to interact with others. Knowing that babies are capable of mimicking actions may mean they are capable of social learning. When your baby sees you do something and attempts to imitate it or is thinking about it, she does this by using special cells called mirror neurons. Scientists believe these cells are responsible for learning through observation; how children learn to kick a ball, hold a cup or why we yawn when someone else yawns.  So when your baby is watching she is also learning!

When your baby is in a happy and alert state play around with her by changing your facial expression. Bring your face close to your baby and stick out your tongue or open your mouth and hold this for a while, your baby may imitate your expression! You can also encourage her communication by saying “oooooooh. Can you say Oooooh?” wait and see if she imitates you. Try different sounds with your baby.

Remember that children develop skills at different times so remember not to alarmed if your baby isn’t mimicking every thing you do or doesn’t seem engaged by your face. Give her time and revisit these ideas later.

  • Tummy Time 

We usually place babies on their backs, but it’s important to give them some tummy time as well. Tummy time helps develop your baby’s physical skills, she gets to practice raising her head which develops her neck muscles, she also puts some weight on her arms and upper body getting ready for crawling, she gets to kick and move her feet more freely than if she’s in a chair.

Place your baby on a soft surface and lie down next to her so that she is facing you. Keep her entertained by talking to her, singing to her, playing with your facial expressions and encouraging her attempts at movement. Do this for a few minutes several times a day till your baby becomes more comfortable in this position. Once she starts raising her head a bit you can add a mat with a mirror (usually found at toy stores) so she can look at herself and place a few toys just out of  her reach to give her a chance to reach out and grab them and keep her entertained . Try to notice when your baby is most comfortable with this activity; after nap, after a diaper change,etc.. Once your baby is a bit older and starts raising her head you can also place her on your stomach and watch her crawl over and investigate your face.

Always closely monitor your baby while she is on her tummy on the floor as some babies may rest their face right on the floor which could restrict breathing!

  • Peek-a-Boo!

An all time favorite, babies love to play Peek-a-Boo!  Playing Peek-a-boo teaches your baby that just because something isn’t there doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, this is known as object permanence. This is a the first stage to mental representation which is a step in functions requiring memory.

When your baby is facing you, hide your face with your hands or with a cloth then remove the cloth and say “Boo!” and smile. In the beginning your baby will be surprised, as you continue she will learn to expect your smiling face and smile back at you.

I hope this post gave you some practical and useful ideas on things to do with your newborn 🙂

This post was inspired by Bright from the start by Jill Stamm and 365 Games Smart Babies Play by Sheila Ellison & Susan Ferdinandi.
Preparing your Toddler for the Baby!

Preparing your Toddler for the Baby!

Congratulations! You’ve just received wonderful news that you’re going to be parents…again! Having a new baby is an exciting and wonderful time, how can you prepare your toddler to share this amazing event?

First, you have to start way before baby is born. Try to avoid having your toddler feel that any significant changes in her routine are because of the baby. Gently and slowly easing into your new expected routine should avoid association.

Time

Providing time is important for your toddler, your baby and yourselves!

  • Enroll your toddler in a preschool or playgroup. At least for the first few months,it will be difficult handling having two children at the same time. Having your toddler join a preschool allows you some free time during the day to focus on your baby’s needs. Make time for this before the baby is born since it’s going to take your toddler some time (maybe a couple of months) to feel secure in his daycare and spend the whole day there.
  • Babysitter for your toddler or baby. Try to see if family members or friends are willing to baby sit either child so you can get to spend some one on one time with the other. Maybe grandparents can take your baby for the morning while you attend your toddler’s baby gym class. It might be a good idea to find out who is willing to help so you can have realistic expectations.
  • Time as a couple. Dealing with two children (or more) can be overwhelming at times. Days can go by without you, as a couple, spending quality time together. Try to arrange with family members or friends if they are willing to care for one (or both) of your children while you go for a movie, dinner or just sit at home for a couple of hours.
  • Time as a family. Just because your having a new baby doesn’t mean you have to give individual attention to each child alone. You can expect to have family outings as well. Go to child friendly places like the park, zoo, playgroup (some of them have activities for parents and children together), your local bookstore may have children’s activities like story time on the weekends.

Realistic Expectations 

Try to give your toddler realistic expectations about life with a baby. Answer questions truthfully as much as possible and expose your toddler to real life situations that can help him or her become familiar with the idea of becoming a brother or sister.

  • Meet other babies. Visit friends or family members who have a baby. With experience your toddler will start understanding what a baby is, how she’s different from him and slowly what to expect.
  • Meet other older siblings. Point out other toddlers you may know who have a baby sibling.
  • Read. Read books on having a baby brother or sister. This can give your toddler an idea about what to expect.
  • Avoid false promises. Don’t tell your toddler that the baby will be his friend as soon as she’s born. Is the baby going to play ball or hide and seek with him? No. At least for the first few months your toddler will learn that baby plays in a different way. You can prepare your toddler that baby likes to play with a rattle, sing songs, sleep and will cry when upset.
  • Answer questions. Your child will have many questions about the baby. Where is she from? I once heard  a 3-year-old ask if his mommy had swallowed him before she got pregnant 🙂 What will she be like? Try to be as honest as you can without going into too much detail that is beyond your toddler’s comprehension.

Preparing & Involving your Toddler

You may need to change things in your routine before your baby arrives or move your toddler to a new room. How do you prepare and involve your toddler in all these pre-baby changes?

  • Give a time line. When you first tell your toddler about the baby give him an understandable time line. For example say baby will arrive in the summer, after Christmas, after your birthday..etc
  • Don’t ask if he wanted a baby brother or sister. Your toddler can easily just say “No thank you!” when in reality this situation has no choice.
  • Use Technology. If possible show your toddler a picture of the baby’s ultrasound. 3D ultrasounds show a very realistic image!
  • Moving your toddler to a new room. Try to do this well in advance so that it’s not associated with the baby’s arrival. Have your toddler gradually move into his new room or bed without putting emphasis that this change is due to the baby.
  • Preparing baby’s new room. Involve your toddler in the room’s decoration by choosing wallpaper and items for baby’s space as well as his own. Your toddler can also make things for the baby that can hang in her room like paintings, pictures, collages..etc.
  • Avoid. Try to avoid making everything around the baby, give your toddler equal attention before the baby arrives as well. Also try to avoid introducing materialistic concepts like pointing out that you are also buying toys for your toddler. Instead maybe your toddler can give some of his baby toys to the baby. Ideas like baby arriving with a gift may create ideas of materialism . In reality you should encourage a sibling relationship and bond based on love and sharing. Pointing out that baby is smiling or trying to “talk” with your toddler may be a more bonding experience.

Reading with your Toddler

Here are some books that may be useful in showing your toddler what to expect during mommy’s pregnancy and after baby arrives.

Waiting for Baby (Board Book) 

“This is, after all, a book about “Waiting.” Excellent illustrations cover not being able to fit in Mommy’s lap, doctor visits, buying things for Baby, helping Daddy so Mommy can rest, being left behind when Mommy goes to hospital, seeing new baby for the first time. … Very good book for child 18 mo. to 5 years.” “The illustrations are beautiful and allow you to tell the story however you choose (there is no text). It’s a great way to personalize the “expecting a new baby” story. We talk about our doctor, our favorite toy store, our grandma coming to visit, ect. It’s also fun to hear how Dad tells the story.” (Parents’ testimonial on Amazon)

My New Baby (Board Book) 

“One of the very few books I have ever seen that shows the mom nursing, while the dad changes diapers and the little child (boy I think) helps. Then the dad goes for a walk in the Bjorn, does the cooking, and everyone looks happy, not worried or uncomfortable that a new baby has arrived like other books sometimes portray. TRULY a wonderful book. Great that it doesn’t have words, much nicer to make up your own.” (Parent’s testimonial on Amazon)

Painting!

Painting!

It’s never too early to start painting with your child. I’ve done painting activities with children as young as 9 months old! I’m sure even younger babies would also enjoy it.

Painting is of course a form of expression and creativity, for young children it’s a wonderful learning experience where they get to explore so many aspect. It’s a great way for your baby to get introduced to different textures,  mix and squish the paint, notice the effects of mixing colors, painting different surfaces; paper,wood or even themselves! You can paint outdoors or indoors, using a brush, sponge, foam, cotton or their little fingers, hands or feet ! You can put paint in cups to dip into or little bottles so they can squeeze out the paint and make squiggly patterns. It’s also an activity that develops young children’s large and fine motor skills,visual perceptual.

Keep in mind it’s not about the final product but about experiencing the process. An activity like painting fosters creativity which fosters your child’s mental growth by providing opportunities for trying out new ideas and new ways of thinking and problem solving. Try not to judge,direct,compare or guess your child’s creative project, this may influence your child in taking your direction of thought instead of her own! “A little assistance and direction can be helpful, but be careful not to interfere with your children’s creative explorations.Avoid dominating the play. Play should be the result of the children’s ideas and not directed by the adult. “*

Make sure you use  toxic free paint and give your baby ample room and supplies (don’t give too many choices in the beginning it may be overwhelming). Children work well in defined spaces so you can spread a mat or plastic sheet (used by painters) and put all your supplies and paper on it. It’s most likely your baby will stay within that defined area and focus on exploring all the material! It’s likely your baby will need a bath right after 🙂

While your thinking of this activity take a look at this inspiring video of Aelita Andre, a 4-year-old who has just opened her art exhibition in Manhattan last June.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=23hWMvSrZx8&feature=related]

Great Resources

  • Read more on creativity and play here
  • For some creative play ideas check out the featured blogs on the Links & Blogs page 

*Website: The Whole Child (pbs) : Creativity and Play, Fostering Creativity

Image by jkurl11