When you first bring a new baby home you are focused on meeting their physical needs, they just seems to eat and sleep. But after the first few days babies need to sleep less and you might suddenly find yourself wondering how to entertain them. Read on for some play ideas, perfect for the early weeks.
You are the best toy your baby has
Forget all those expensive educational gadgets, the very best toy for a young baby is a loving adult. Your baby will be able to see your face well if you hold them cradled in your arms or in a sitting position on your lap (with head well supported). You can talk, laugh, sing, even read a story and your baby will enjoy the interaction.
Watch the world
Hold your little one in an upright position so they can see the world go by, either facing forwards or gazing over your shoulder, and move around the house. They will love the movement and take everything in. Try to vary the view by looking out of windows, at mirrors, or at any high contrast items like sunlight on a wall. While they can only focus clearly on objects a foot away, a young baby will still enjoy the rough outlines, shapes and shadows that they can see across the room.
A baby can view the world from a whole new angle when in a bouncy chair or on a play mat. Just make sure that they are safe - do up the straps on a chair and never put your baby on a raised surface.
Even a very little one will enjoy a baby gym or play mat. They might not be reaching for objects yet but they will like to look at them as they move. By 5 weeks or so you might notice that your baby reaches for objects or waves the arm near his bell. At first this is accidental but if you watch you will see that he gradually learns how to make the bell ring. It is also important that your little one spends some time on her tummy, and this can be done right from the start. Many babies love tummy time, especially if you lie down next to the mat so that you can gaze at each other while you play.
There are hundreds of toys made for babies in black and white. Little ones do enjoy high contrast images and will love to stare at these toys, but don't feel you need to fill the house with them, one or two is enough. Other useful baby toys include bells, both the kind that hang from a play mat and shakers. You can ring a bell for your baby and she will enjoy the sound, over time she will learn to turn towards the sound and follow it as you move the bell from one side to the other.
Gently does it
Generally the more you can hold, cuddle and talk to your baby during playtimes the better. But don't let this make you feel guilty for every second your baby is awake and not in your arms! It is also important for them to have some time to play independently, just looking around in peaceful contentment. Pop your little one on the play mat or in a bouncy chair for a few minutes and if she is content, let her play. We all need some time out and babies can easily be overstimulated, especially when the extended family drop by to meet your new arrival!