Typically a newborn baby spends most of the day sleeping, increasing their alert periods over the first couple months. After logging sufficient hours marveling at the fact that a new person lives in their home, many parents ask the same question: What do I DO with my baby?
There’s no need to spend every minute of your baby’s awake time on brain-building activities; simply holding, wearing, and talking to your little one is the best thing for them. However, if you need a little more structure in your day (raise your hands, list-makers!) here are some age-appropriate newborn activities designed by educators.
Reading aloud may feel silly when you’re new to it, but it’s a great way to practice routines. When your baby is a little older, routines are important because they appeal to your child’s internal sense of order. For example, if you always read, then sing, then put on white noise before you put your baby down for bed, they will come to know those are signals for sleep. An older toddler will enjoy a routine such as putting out placemats and silverware before a meal because they know what comes next — eating!
If you like routines, too, consider linking a book session to another activity such as waking up from a mid-day snooze. Whenever your baby wakes up, change their diaper and tell them it’s story time.
You can really read anything out loud because your voice and language are a point of reference for your baby, making them feel safe and secure.
For reading to newborns, the Monti Kids Learning Team suggests a very simple book of pictures without words. Show your baby the pictures and talk freely about what you see. “This dog has white fur. He reminds me of Lola who lives next door! Maybe later we’ll go for a walk and we’ll see Lola.”
High-contrast images, which you can find in cards designed for newborns, are designed to engage their developing vision.
Research shows that babies are attracted to the edges of images, where the borders meet the white space, so Monti Kids has created this set of two-sided cards to offer compelling material for newborns.
Hold the cards about a foot away from your baby’s eyes to give them the best opportunity to focus. Try different positions so that your baby practices turning their head from left to right, building their neck strength.
If your baby looks away, they’ve had enough. If they seem to be focusing, its okay to be quiet and simply let them work on their ability to be alert and concentrating. You don’t always have to be talking to them!
Tummy time, often dreaded by new parents because it produces discomfort in their baby, doesn’t have to be long and it doesn’t have to take place on the floor!
The goal is to strengthen your baby’s upper body and give them a break from laying on their back. You can place them on your lap, hold them in the football position, or let them lay on your chest while you are reclined. When they lift their head up, they’re doing it!
Your baby may grunt or squeak as they exert effort. That’s pretty normal; we grunt when we lift a heavy chair, too! Feel free to pick them up when they become truly frustrated.
Over the first few months, they will increasingly be able to enjoy looking around from this perspective and then you can set up a mirror to encourage their stamina. They love to see what’s reflected back in it!
Add tummy time to your daily activities — just 5 or 10 seconds at a time is fine to start!
When you offer your baby one rattle — on a clutter-free playmat or blanket — you can really encourage sensory exploration.
Place the rattle into your newborn’s hand so they can experience the texture. At this stage, their grasp is involuntary; they won’t be able control when they let go of it.
Over time, they will bring it to their mouth, a favorite (and logical!) way to explore a new item. Filled with nerve endings, your baby’s lips and tongue will be the primary way to explore a new toy for quite a while.
Giving your baby time and space to experience a new material or toy encourages repetition (they may use a scratching motion on the surface over and over again) and concentration. These are your baby’s modes of learning.
A rattle that makes a sound is offering something new, too: cause and effect. Your baby won’t really catch on to purposefully shaking or throwing something to witness the results for a couple of months, but feel free to talk about it with them anyway!
Because your baby’s grasp is weak, you can introduce them to new toys by brushing them against their finger tips. This activity is for toys that they’ll soon be strong enough to hold on their own.
Put together a basket of three or four items and rotate through them, holding them up where your little one can see them and then helping them use their fingers and palms to experiences the textures.
Your baby is collecting information about the weight, temperature, and hardness of the object as well.
The Monti Kids Learning Team has designed a collection of rattles that will offer variety to your baby and hold their interest over time, but you can incorporate household objects, such as socks or cloth napkins, too!
Creating a daily schedule
By adding these activities between sleeping, feeding, and changing sessions, you’ll be able to notice the tiny changes in your little one’s development as they gain strength in their neck and shoulders, focus their gaze for longer periods of time, and enjoy being awake and alert as they absorb the world around them.
Many parents are hungry for newborn activities, so take comfort in knowing you’re not alone in wondering, “What should I DO with my baby?”
Montessori Newborn Kitthoughtfully designed, developmentally appropriate toys and support for parents in the early days
- Mirror and Card Stand
- Black and White Card Set
- Crochet Ball
- Wooden Rattle
- Silicone Teether
- Wooden Book
- Cloth Basket