Brain games for your newborn
Did you know newborns need brain stimulation and learning games?
These activities are basic, fun and a very big deal for your little baby’s brain!
Some of these activities will also seem really obvious – you’re probably doing them already – but isn’t it nice to feel, at least occasionally, like the things you do instinctively make you an expert?! Sometimes partners can feel a bit left out in the newborn phase – especially if you are breastfeeding – but these are all activities in which your partner can play head coach or grab some bonding time with Tot while you are grabbing a nap!
Tummy time: a few minutes supervised time on a playmat on the floor on his stomach. Place a black and white toy or a couple of colorful blocks in a position where your baby can gaze at them. Note: you must supervise tummy time closely, babies can get stuck face-down and – especially if they are tired – won’t be able to move their head or cry out. Tummy time is great training for crawling and gives your baby an opportunity to kick those legs and lift that head. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics says “supervised, awake tummy time is recommended to facilitate development and to minimize development of positional plagiocephaly.” (Plagiocephaly is a medical term for “flat head”).
Cuddles and kisses: holding your baby and rocking him, singing a song, kissing him and talking are all stimulating ways to let your baby know that you are a safe and secure person to be with.
Having a chat: talking to your baby helps your baby develop an ear for language, understand your tones and eventually encourage him to talk back! It doesn’t matter what you say, just be warm and engaging, teach your baby about your world. Take your baby on a tour of his new home, chat to him about what you’re doing as you change his diaper or give him a bath.
Music: babies love music and it doesn’t have to be “kiddy music” – research has shown that listening to a variety of music is great for little brains. Trying listening to quieter, more soothing music during periods when your baby is feeding or getting a bit tired, and up tempo music when your baby is playing or being very energetic. (Here’s some ideas on getting started: how to introduce your Tot to classical music ) .
Eye tracking: hold an object in your hand that is easy for your little baby to see. Newborns don’t have great eyesight – make it high contrast, not very detailed and hold it less than 8 inches from your baby’s face. Slowly move the object from one side of your baby’s face to the other – allow your baby time to follow the object with her eyes – and then back again. “Tracking” objects with his eyes is good training for little eyes that need practice moving together and focusing on objects, but it very tiring. Only do this for a few minutes and then move onto something less stimulating.
Making faces: by eight weeks of age your baby can distinguish features on a face, and babies love to look at faces! Hold your baby in your lap and practice making faces where your baby can focus on different areas of your face (e.g. smile and poke out your tongue, open your mouth really wide and raise your eyebrows, blink your eyes).
Tactile stimulation: expose your baby to different tactile sensations by rubbing your baby’s hand or arm with different materials – for example satin or wool. There are also lots of books designed for babies that feature different “touchy” fabrics that you can gently touch your baby’s hand to. Similarly, allowing your baby to lie outside on the grass where he can feel the texture of the grass with his feet or lying him bare-legged on a fluffy towel or mat will be stimulating experiences for him.