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Engaging Your Newborn Baby: 5 Simple Tips for Interacting with Your Baby

As a new parent, chances are that you have spent countless hours just gazing into your newborn’s eyes. However, between nonstop feedings, washing copious amounts of laundry, all of those diaper changes , and trying to sneak in a nap, some new parents may feel left in the dark when it comes to play time.  As your baby starts to become more interactive daily, you may quietly think to yourself, “Well, now what?”.

mom and infant playing

Here are some simple activities you can do with your baby throughout the day to help lay the appropriate foundation for language development:

Never underestimate the power of a smile

Babies love to look at faces. Even at an early age, they are able to be easily engaged and will focus on exaggerated facial expressions for a brief period of time. Therefore, take moments throughout the day to block off some face-to-face time. You will be amazed at how attentive your baby is during these times, and you will see him/her start to attempt to imitate the facial movements you make (especially with your tongue). They’ll get a kick out of seeing you smile, and how can you resist staring back at that adorable little toothless grin?

Turn bath time into play time

Bath time provides many opportunities for sensory exploration, so help maximize this time as much as you can by offering various textures of objects (washcloth, bubbles, water toys etc.) that contain different sensory properties. Talk about how the items look and feel, and even sing to your child during this time as well. Your baby will be calmed by the warmth of the water and soothed by the sound of your voice. Also, try to time bath time immediately before putting your child to bed in order to establish a nighttime routine.

Introduce books

You will help to facilitate a lifelong love of reading and literature when you introduce books at an early age. Provide your child with plenty of soft books and board books, which contain many bright and colorful pictures. Touch and feel books are perfect for this age, as they allow your child to be more interactive as well. Also, keep the books brief, as your little one is not exactly ready for a novel anyway. Short and simple books containing repetition are perfect for infants.

The importance of exercise

Any PT will tell you about the importance of tummy time, so help make this activity more fun and interactive for your child by providing various toys and objects for them to interact with. Try placing a child-friendly mirror directly in front of them, as your baby will love looking that the “other” baby staring back. Also, help encourage babies to follow your voice by moving to either side of them. Even at a young age, children are able to identify their parent’s voices, so by simply changing your position in relation to your baby, you will be enhancing this skill. You can also play simple games, such as peek-a-boo when facing your child, in order to keep them engaged.

Talk, talk, talk

Talk to your child throughout the day, especially when completing familiar activities such as washing the dishes, doing the laundry, and cooking dinner. Doing so will help to expose your child to the language associated with these activities. Though the “conversations” with your baby will seem very one-sided at first, over time you will notice that your baby will attempt to chime in when you are speaking. You will be able to quickly observe the give-and-take, as your child will quiet when you begin talking, then “comment” after you speak.

As a new parent, it can be completely overwhelming trying to juggle all of your responsibilities, so just remember to breathe! Don’t feel as though you have to do everything right off the bat. As you and your baby settle into a routine, you will notice that you are able to find some extra time to sneak in these activities.  By introducing just a couple of these ideas throughout the day, you will quickly notice that your child becomes more engaged during these times and will start to anticipate the activities as well.  Congratulations and welcome to the exciting world of parenthood!

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Learning Through Play Time with Your Toddler

Play time provides a natural context for early language learning and is also important for the development of social communication skills. Childrentoddler playing learn through play and often practice newly acquired language skills and words during play time.

There are three stages of play development:

  1. The first stage is referred to as “self-related” symbolic play. This type of play can be observed between 12-18 months. This type of pretend play mimics daily activities using real objects. A child at this stage of developmental play typically plays alone. For example, a child will pick up a cup and pretend to drink.
  2. From 18-24 months, a toddlers’ play progresses to “other-related” symbolic play. The child is still using real objects, but will perform the action on multiple play toys. For example, the child will use the cup to give a drink to a doll, offer a sip to the bear, and finally have a drink herself.
  3. The final stage of play development is “planned” symbolic play. This stage of developmental play emerges between 24-30 months of age. Play behaviors include using one object to represent another, such as using a stick for a spoon. At this stage, the child has also begun to plan out play sequences by gathering all necessary props prior to engaging in a play routine. She might use a doll or other play toys as the agents of the play action. For example, the child will have the doll give the bear a drink.

Suggestions for Toys:

  • 12-18 monthstoy kitchen set, toy garage set, zoo animals. All of these toys provide multiple opportunities for parents to sequence a variety of play time routines for the child to imitate. This is where we as parents and caregivers must dive into our inner child and start using our imagination!!
  • 18-24 monthspuzzles, farm set, pretend painter’s/doctor set. These toys provide the child with multiple opportunities to start acting out and initiating their own play routines and to use their own imagination, as well as allowing for multiple play partners and toys to be used. Be prepared to clean up a big mess!

Following these guidelines should  help you use age-appropriate play with your child. Developing play skills will expand your child’s language and social communication.

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