Welcome to the first months of your new baby! Forget about the middle of the night feedings and not brushing your teeth for days. Now is the most exciting time as you get to know your baby. Unfortunately, my son Chunbao spent his first 1.5 months in the NICU so playing with him was somewhat limited. Luckily, we were taught by physical therapists on activities we can do with our bedridden son. When we brought him home, we continue to receive PT sessions and learned myriads ways to play with our little boy so that he doesn’t miss his developmental milestones. But first, let’s start with some milestones to look out for.
0-3 month milestones
Baby’s development is usually categorized into 3 buckets – motor, sensory and social. Here are some major milestones.
- 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
- Eyes follow a moving object
- Recognizes familiar object
- Turns head toward direction of a sound
- Watches faces intently
- Smile at familiar faces
- Recognize familiar objects and people at a distance
- Begins to babble
Do not get bogged down if your baby is “delayed”. Not reaching a milestone does not mean a lower IQ. It has to do with muscle tone. When Chunbao was in the NICU, his therapist told us that he will have delays because of extended hospital stay and constrained to a harness for his hip issue. But, cognitive speaking he is perfectly normal *big relief*
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 neighbor’s son didn’t start walking until he was 14 months. They are both walking, jumping, super hyper, perfectly normal kids now.
However, to encourage babies development and parental bonding there are 2 major activities you should be doing (if not already ☺) with your newborn.
Activities to do for reaching developmental milestones
Before we begin, I want to emphasize the importance of a play mat. If you have hard floors, you definitely need a play mat for your baby to lay, roll, crawl, and fall. There are a couple of times I put Chunbao down too fast that he bumped his head on the floor. Thank god for the half-an-inch thick mat, he didn’t even weep. ?
If you have carpet, more the reason to have a play mat. There are just tons of dust, molds, fungi, and other respiratory irritants for your baby’s developing respiratory system.
For Chunbao, we love this amazing mat because it is non-toxic and one-piece. It’s basically like a giant yoga mat except for way cuter design 😀 This mat is also reversible with 2 different designs. There are many designs to choose from but I highly recommend the green country town. It is not as busy as the other designs and it’s just more soothing and appealing to the eye (and our home:) Another reason I decided to go with this mat is it’s so easy to clean. Unlike the conventional puzzle-like playmats, you don’t need to worry about dust getting trapped in between cracks.
After a visit to our home, a couple of my mommy friends snagged it the very next day!!
Do you know that healthy babies can start doing tummy time the day they are born? Although safe-sleep means putting 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.
Doing this regularly will help strengthen the muscles in his neck. It also will help prevent your baby from developing a flat spot on the back of his head.AAP
Tummy Time Activities
- Chest – to- chest – You can do this sitting upright or lying down. This is my favorite activity (and my sons favorite too) because we get to see each other’s faces 🙂
- Support with Boppy pillow – For infants that can’t support themselves on the tummy, use a Boppy to give them a boost. My son had 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.
- Fun toys – When baby is on the floor or supported with Boppy, put a toy in front of him and engage him in play. You can also have your baby follow the toy by moving the toy off the floor to help strengthen his neck muscle.
Having fun with toys on tummy time thanks to Skip Hop Explore-and-More Amazing Arch Activity Gym!
- Lap time – Place baby face down across your laps. Rocking your legs can also help to calm your baby down in this position.
Infants love faces, especially your face! Make eye contact, have your baby study your face and turn to your voice encourages his social development. I’ve also printed out some faces cards to put alongside Chunbao’s playpen. He enjoyed studying these little faces when he was on tummy time.
Brillbaby has tons of FREE infant simulation cards for download 🙂
Other than the two most important activities to do with your infant as mentioned above, here are additional play ideas broken down for 0~1-month-old, 2 months, and 3-month-old baby.
0~1-month-old baby play ideas:
- Reading to your baby from picture books that offer short sentences.
- Give baby a light massage starting from the shoulders, work down to her fingers, then move down to her torso and feet.
- Bicycling your baby’s legs.
- Offer baby dissimilar object to look at. For example, show her a round ball and a flat plate or cold towel and a warm bottle.
- Introduce new objects to her and watch her expression. For example, attach a new toy to an existing one.
2-month-old baby play ideas:
- Bring a toy to get your baby’s attention, then move it out of his sigh. Wait a couple of seconds and bring the toy back into his field of vision.
- Move toys slightly around the baby to help him reach for them.
- Imitate your baby’s sound with a high pitched voice. The more you repeat her sounds, the more she’ll repeat yours.
- Help your baby roll from back to tummy by gently swinging one of his legs over the other.
- Slowly move toys in a circular motion and see if he tries to follow it with his eyes.
- Offer baby lots of interesting and dissimilar things to grasp and explore with his mouth. For example, he’ll learn that dry washcloth is rough and dry. A chilled teether is cold and firm. If he mouths a small stuffed animal, he’ll discover furriness and softness.
3-month-old baby play ideas:
- Give baby plenty of propped-up sitting time and tummy time.
- Help the baby discovers cause and effect by placing 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.
- Be creative in making different noises to your baby. Gurgle, blow bubbles, make raspberries, puff your mouth, whistle, make teeth noises, and so on.
- Offer him a variety of toys that are easy to hold. 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!
- Make noise with a toy behind the baby’s field of vision. Watch him try to turn his head and eyes to find it.
Tried and tested developmental toys for 0-3 months
Good toys for a 0-3 month old infant include music box, baby gyms, mobiles that play music, unbreakable mirrors, and toys with different textures. I tend to favor toys that grow with the baby because it saves money and space! To this day, my 8 month old still plays with his oballs, activity mat, and music box mentioned below.
My son LOVES to grab onto his Oball. In fact, this is the very first toy we used to train him on grabbing. The honeycomb pattern makes grabbing and holding easy for infants. He’s a bit older now and still plays with it.
These are not really a “toy” but it is a must for babies younger than 3 months old. The high contrast black and white colors stimulate baby’s visual development.
These cards are really well made. Thick and durable. My son started chewing on them and they are still going strong! What I love about this set is its really cute illustrations (with many design sets to choose from). It comes in a set of 6 pictures and the reverse is a negative of the front. We flip these around every couple of days to get the most out of this set.
I think that Boppy is one of the genius baby inventions! Besides being a nursing pillow, it can be used to play in so many different ways. Prop this under your infant to help with tummy time (like this picture here =) It can be used as a lounger to help your baby prepare for sitting. When your baby is older, you can wrap the pillow in front of him to encourage reaching for toys while sitting.
This is the most versatile toy ever! It can be used as a toy, a teether, or link toys to another. They usually come brightly colored and have different patterns. As a toy and teether, your baby can explore the different patterns with his hands and mouth. We mostly use it to link small toys to our Skip Hop activity gym.
Look at how he’s reaching for the dangling Oball and rattle!
What I love about this specific spiral is the 4 different toys attached to it. All the toys have different textures and make different noises. The bee crinkles. The little piggy (reverse is a cow) has a bell inside. The rings clap with one another. The sun’s reverse side is a mirror. We attached this spiral toy onto Chunbao’s infant car seat (he’s now upgraded to a convertible car seat). Now, it’s just a part of his crib.
If there is one toy I absolutely need to have, it’s the Amazing Arch Activity Gym by Skip Hop. This is not the newest and latest model in the activity gym world (aka less expensive), but it works the best. The arch can be positioned overhead for newborn exploration. Or, bring it down for tummy time and seating up.
The whimsical creatures are super cute. There are 20 developmental activities that include sound-activated dancing fox, pull-string peekaboo owl that hoots, hanging hedgehog musical teether, rolling ball that lights up (it’s the green ball in the below picture), crinkle flaps, and more! On the back of the mirror is an insert for smartphone. This means lots of cute pictures and videos while your baby is playing on this gym! This gym is BPA-free, PVC-free, and Phthalate-free. The mat can be easily removed and machine washed.
Chunbao loves this shaker because it is lightweight, colorful and interesting shapes for him to grab. As a mommy, I love it because it’s light and small. This is a staple in the diaper bag.
(This picture is taking from the camera compartment of the Skip Hop Explore-and-More Amazing Arch Activity Gym BTW. How cool is that!)
This is one of those toys that grow with the baby. We have not yet used the rest of the Piano/entertainment center because Chunbao is still too young, but have been using the detachable music box since he came home. The microphone and tambourine can be detached; they can be attached to the piano entertainment center. There are 2 sound levels and 3 types of music – short-play, long-play or baby make the music. There are also 3 songs to encourage learning.
I have to say that this music box is a life changer! Unlike most other music boxes that require certain interaction in order to keep the music going, this particular music box plays continuous music (I think it automatically shuts off after 30 minutes or so). We usually just leave my son in his playpen, turn on this music box and off we go with our chores!
Playing with your baby not only helps with her development but also encourages parental bonding. So, how do you play with your 0~3 month baby?
Related post: Developmental activities for a smarter baby (3-6 months)