21 Brain-Boosting Developmental Activities For Infants (0-3 months)

by Holly
infant sensory activities

Developmental Activities For Infants You Should Be Doing Everyday

Having a baby is an exciting time! There are so many things to learn and do, and it can be difficult to know where to start. If you’re looking for some guidance on developmental activities for infants, you’ve come to the right place.
We’ll cover everything from tummy time to ways to encourage your little one’s burgeoning independence.

As a mom who is fortunate to have worked with so many child developmental specialists for our NICU baby, I have learned so many ways to play with our infant so that he doesn’t miss his developmental milestones.

Now with Baby #2, we never ran out of learning, sensory, and brain developmental activities.

In this post, I’ll show you some fun developmental activities for your baby so that you can better help your child reach her developmental milestones!

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I’ll receive a commission if you purchase through my link, at no extra cost to you. Please read full disclosure here.

This post is all about developmental activities for infants (0-3-month-olds).

0-3 Month Developmental Milestones

Before we dive into baby learning activities, it’s important to know what are the developmental milestones so that you can focus on the areas your baby might need more work on.

Baby’s development is usually categorized into 3 buckets – motor, sensory and social. Here are some major milestones by 3 months old.

Motor development

  • Raises head when on tummy
  • Supports upper body with arms when on tummy
  • Bring hands to mouth
  • Opens and shuts hands
  • Grasps for objects when placed close to baby’s hands
  • Stretches and kicks legs when lying on the back

Sensory development

  • Eyes follow a moving object
  • Recognizes familiar object
  • Turns head toward direction of a sound

Social development

  • Watches faces intently
  • Smile at familiar faces
  • Recognize familiar objects and people at a distance
  • Begins to babble
developmental activities for infants

Do not get bogged down if your baby is “delayed”. Not reaching a milestone doesn’t mean your baby is not smart. Also, “delayed” for now doesn’t mean delayed forever.

Babies just develop at a different pace. Just like my niece started to walk at 10 months and my son didn’t start walking until he was 18 months old. They are both walking, jumping, super hyper, perfectly normal kids now.

To encourage learning and parental bonding, there are 21 developmental activities for infants you should be doing (if not already) with your newborn.

Save, print, and pin to your Pinterest so you can refer to this list of play ideas again.

21 Developmental Activities For Infants

1. Chest -To-Chest Tummy Time

Do you know that healthy babies can start doing tummy time the day they are born?

Although safe-sleep means putting the baby to sleep on his back, being on track for development means playing on his tummy. The American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends tummy time 2~3 times a day for 3~5 minutes.

The easiest and most engaging way for a newborn to practice tummy time is by putting her on your chest. You can do this sitting upright (like kangaroo care) or lying down. This is my favorite activity (and my son’s favorite too) because we get to see each other’s faces.

2. Tummy Time on the Boppy pillow

developmental activities for infants

For infants who can’t support themselves on the tummy, use a Boppy pillow to give them a boost.

My son had a weak muscle tone (due to his stay in the NICU) so he was doing tummy time on the Boppy for months before he can barely support himself on the mat.

3. Use toys to strenghen neck and core muscles

infant sensory activities

When baby is on the floor or supported with Boppy, put a toy in front of her and engage her in play. You can also have your baby follow the toy by moving the toy off the floor to help strengthen her neck and core muscles.

If your baby still hates tummy time, give this Splashin’kids water mat a try. Madi used to hate being on her tummy. With this water mat, she’ll try to poke the sea creators and didn’t realize she’s working on those neck and core muscles!

4. Show lots of faces to your baby

infant sensory activities

Infants love faces, especially your face!

Make eye contact, have your baby study your face, and turn to your voice to encourage his social development.

I’ve also printed out some faces cards to put alongside my baby’s playpen. They both enjoyed studying these little faces when they were on tummy time.

Brillbaby has tons of FREE infant simulation cards for download 🙂

5. Read to your baby from picture books that offer short sentences

developmental activities for infants

Just because your baby isn’t speaking doesn’t mean she isn’t learning language. The more you talk to her, the sooner she’ll develop language skills.

Make it a routine to read books to your baby every day. Watch her respond with eye contact and body language such as kicking her legs and flapping her arms,

6. Play Peek-a-Boo

Stimulate your baby’s thinking skills by playing Peek-a-Boo with him during nursing or holding time. While smiling and talking to him, cover your face with a cloth. Continue talking to him, then remove the cloth and smile. Watch his eyes widen as you magically appear.

7. Offer lots of visial stimulation

To encourage your baby’s cognitive development, make his world visually interesting. Place colorful pictures on the walls and ceiling near his crib. Hang mobiles that move, make sounds and are visually stimulating.

8. Offer your baby dissimilar object to look at

To help with your baby’s perceptual development, offer her dissimilar objects to look at, listen to, and touch. For example, show her a round ball and a flat plate or cold towel, and a warm bottle, and so on.

She’ll learn concepts through experience and comparison, and she’ll soon be able to recognize objects based on shape, color, size, and number.

9. Introduce new objects to your baby and watch her expression

Keep your baby’s world fresh to stimulate her increasing curiosity, For example, attach something new to the mobile over her crib and watch her body language. Sher her a new rattle during feeding time, and she may stop nursing for a moment to study the interesting object.

RELATED POST: The Ultimate Guide To The Most Popular Infant Toys In 2022

10. Play Here-It-Is game

You can help increase your baby’s memory by playing Here-It-Is. Bring a brightly colored object to get your baby’s attention, then move it out of his sight. Wait a couple of seconds and bring the toy back into his field of vision. Say the object’s name to reinforce the connection.

11. Move toys slightly around the baby to help him reach for them

12. Engage your baby in “conversations”

Talk to your baby, then pause and wait for her to vocalize. When she does imitate her sounds with a high-pitched voice and an animated face. The more you repeat her sounds, the more she’ll repeat yours.

13. Play tactile games

Help your baby learn about various textures, temperatures, and sensations. Find objects that are hard and soft, such as a block and a pillow. Find ones that are smooth and rough, such as a towel and a velcro strap. Look for ones that are cool and warm, such as a plastic toy and a hand.

14. Help your baby develop circular eye coordination

As your baby begins to follow circular movements, you can help develop this ability by holding a brightly colored object about 12 inches from his face. Slowly move toys in a circular motion and see if he tries to follow it with his eyes. He probably won’t make full circles yet, but this skill will develop rapidly over the next months.

15. Offer baby lots of interesting things to grasp and explore with his mouth

Mouthing objects are great for sensory development. A teether is ideal since it’s small, safe, and clean, but other objects are fine too. If he puts a chilled teether in his mouth he’ll learn about cold and firm. If he mouths a small stuffed animal, he’ll discover furriness and softness.

stimulation for babies 0 3 months

16. Move interesting objects up and down in your baby’s field of vision.

Increase your baby’s capacity for vertical tracking by moving interesting objects up and down in his field of vision. As his head control increases, he’s better able to follow an item vertically. To keep him interested, occasionally choose a different object.

17. Help your baby discover cause-and-effect

Place a toy that makes noise when squeezed (like Sofie la giraffe teether) in her hand. Squeeze it for her and watch her reaction. She’ll soon be squeezing herself in an attempt to make the noise.

18. Be creative in making different noises to your baby

Coordinating the parts of the mouth for speech is tricky business – and lots of fun! Practice a variety of sounds with your baby while she’s facing you. Gurgle, blow bubbles, blow raspberries, puff your mouth, whistle, and so on. Be creative, she’ll be fascinated, and soon she’ll be making those sounds herself.

19. Develop grasping skills by offering a variety of toys that are easy to hold

baby brain development activities

As your baby’s ability to grasp objects increases, he needs lots of fun things to hold.

Offer him a variety of toys that are easy to hold and let him explore. When he drops an object, offer him a different one. Then offer him another object while’s he’s holding something else. See what he does!

20. Play who’s talking guessing game

Ask another family member to join you. Prop your baby up so he can see both of you. Cover your mouth, and have one person speak. Watch your baby try to figure out who’s speaking by making eye contact with the speaker.

21. Comfort and contact

Continue making time each day for physical comfort and contact. Infant massage is a wonderful way to do this. After bathing, warm up some baby oil (we use this organic baby massage oil) by rubbing it between your palms. Rub it into your baby’s skin, starting with the legs, calves, back, chest, and then arms. Pay special attention to the hands and fingers to encourage your baby’s awareness of this fine motor ability.

It’s never too early to start boosting your child’s brainpower! The developmental activities suggested in this post can help get your little one started on the right track. Be sure to share with other parents and caregivers, so they can help provide a stimulating environment for the baby as well.

What are your baby’s favorite playtime activities? Let me know by leaving a message below.

21 Brain-Boosting Developmental Activities For Infants (0-3 months)

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1 comment

Emma September 10 - 2:41 pm

These were great ideas! I’ve always struggled trying to figure out how to “play” with my newborn.


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