Entertaining your baby is one of the most enjoyable things to do as a new mum. All of the games and activities you’re doing with your newborn helps them learn about the world around them, as well as how to communicate with it.
From touch and taste to sight, smell and sound, all your baby’s senses are being stimulated by what’s around them, and they’re always watching and listening carefully to what’s going on - and commenting on it, in their own way. Even when you’d much prefer they were sleeping peacefully!
These are a few of the favourite activities that are brilliant to do with your baby that help to nurture and encourage healthy development.
An unborn baby can hear by about 17 weeks old (in the womb!). Crazy, right? I had no idea. This means you can start early when it comes to trying to shape their musical tastes… Talking to your baby, singing to them and playing them music doesn’t have to wait till they are born. You can stimulate their hearing before they’ve even arrived.
When your baby is born, keep reading and singing to your baby (or as close to singing as you can get, in my case), as well as play them music. This will be comforting and familiar to them, as well as stimulating and enjoyable! A baby can’t yet see very well, so when they’re awake, hold them close so they can see your face and see you smiling at them. They’ll soon be able to reciprocate!
Sound & Vision
A baby is trying very hard, from the outset, to communicate with you. Just because babies can’t speak, doesn’t mean they’re not feeling the range of emotions we all do. Imagine how frustrating it is to not be able to simply say you’re hungry, have a sore throat or tummy ache, need to go to the bathroom, are overtired or just want a reassuring cuddle - how annoying for baby!
The sooner you can help your baby communicate more fully with you, the happier your baby will be. Any activity that helps to develop their speech and communication skills is therefore really valuable.
A great way to do this is is using colourful picture books for children. Read out slowly and aloud, whilst pointing to everything you see, telling your baby what it is. This works well when your baby is around 2-3 months onwards when their vision is a little better. Sound out letters from the alphabet to them and let your baby watch your mouth make the shapes of the words and letters. So, if you’re pointing to a cat, say the word “cat” but also sound out the letters whilst you mouth them clearly “c, c, c, c, a, a, a, a, t, t, t, t, cat”.
Obviously baby won’t be able to learn to say these words immediately, (and might wonder what on earth you’re doing) all babies develop at different speeds, but everything sinks and babies love to copy what they see. Over the months they will find it easier to pick up speech and vocabulary after getting this early practice in with you.
Touch and Texture
Babies love tactile objects. They’re learning to grasp and grab things (and also to bring things to their mouth, especially stuff that doesn’t belong there), developing their hand eye coordination.
Research shows sensory play can help build nerve connections in the brain’s pathways which in turn boosts cognitive ability. This makes it easier for the child to complete more complex learning tasks, enhances and helps to develop memory.
Sensory play can often help to calm anxious or frustrated children by relaxing them and giving them something to focus on. It also helps to support language development, fine and gross motor skills, problem solving and social interaction. It also helps children learn sensory attributes like hot, cold, sticky, dry, rough, smooth etc...
Sensory toys are perfect for this but you don’t need to buy anything new or fancy. You could even try making your own like this sensory board here. There are also some great baby products out there, I may be biased but I love the Matchstick Monkey teethers for helping baby learn to develop motor skills and hand eye coordination!
I also love finding lots of natural objects for sensory play. You could use uncooked rice, different wooden shapes, sisal carpet, smooth stones, textured paper and sand.