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The Best Ways to Play with Your Newborn

Get him on his tummy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends placing your baby on his stomach two to three times a day in order to strengthen his neck muscles, starting with the day you bring him home. Place toys just slightly out of reach so he can try to swat at them. Start with three to five minutes, and work up to an hour of tummy time a day. And if he wails when he’s on the floor? Place him on your chest and engage him with a toy or your voice.

Put bright-colored socks on his hands and feet. “One of the first skills babies develop is tracking things with their eyes,” explains Roni Leiderman, Ph.D., dean of the Mailman Segal Institute for Early Childhood Studies at Nova Southeastern University in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Bright, busy fingers and feet will definitely capture his attention.

Do peek-a-boo. This game teaches babies object permanence—the concept that people and things still exist, even when you can’t see them. “All of my kids loved this classic fave starting when they were a couple of months old,” says Kim Kempinski, a mom of three from Phoenix, Arizona. “We would put blankies on our heads and pull them away. Worked like a charm every time!”

Break out a mirror. Babies love looking at faces. And why shouldn’t they? There’s a cutie pie staring right back at them! You can also stand in front of a mirror together and mug it up.

Sing, sing a song. “Your baby loves to hear your voice,” says Leiderman, “because he recognizes it from when he was in utero.” Jaime Robinson, a mom of two from Alpharetta, Georgia, sings "Hush Little Baby " to her 1-month-old—inserting whatever catches her eye for the “Mama’s gonna buy you a...” part. Says Robinson, “Last time, we ‘bought’ a lawn mower, falling leaves, and an angry cat!”

Get down. Not sure what to do today? Just hang out with your baby on the floor. It doesn’t matter whether you’re shaking a rattle, making funny noises, or just gazing into each other’s eyes, says Leiderman: “In the end, you are the best toy for your baby.”

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