How to play with a newborn?
December 7, 2006 12:33 PM   Subscribe

Any ideas for interacting with a newborn?

Our son is five weeks old and finally starting to have some chunks of awake/aware time in between his many naps and feedings. I'd like to interact with him more and start engaging him in some simple play, but so far, he's not responding much beyond a confused stare. He's not really focusing on toys or other objects (beyond human faces, and one can only wiggle one's nose and stick out one's tongue so much). One song in particular seems to soothe him when he's fussy, but he doesn't seem to have much reaction to other music. Any other parents -- or aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends -- have any ideas on meaningful interaction with a child this little?
posted by justonegirl to Human Relations (35 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Until about two months they really don't do much of anything at all. Just give him some time.
posted by zeoslap at 12:38 PM on December 7, 2006

Also to give you a hint as to why he looks confused take a peek here to see what he can see (not much at all for a while)
posted by zeoslap at 12:40 PM on December 7, 2006

You just basically stare at each other for about 2 months. Really. I find it really wonderful, others find it boring as hell.
posted by tristeza at 12:51 PM on December 7, 2006

A friend gave me Baby Play as a shower gift, and there are some good suggestions there. My son also loved looking at the photos when he was a young toddler.

But the fun isn't really going to start until the 2 1/2-3 month mark. Your sprog is too busy now learning the basics of existing in the non-womb world. Best wishes!
posted by maryh at 1:00 PM on December 7, 2006

Hold him till your arms ache and then hold him some more. You don't need to make faces or really "do" anything. Just hold him. I swear, when my daughter was born, I just held her and stared at her for weeeeeeks. Nothing else got done. I just stared and stared and held her and held her.
posted by Sassyfras at 1:03 PM on December 7, 2006

I find it really wonderful, others find it boring as hell.

I was recently discussing this with a new father -- people love to just stare at their fireplace, too, it's not that stuff -- or babies -- have to move to be interesting
posted by matteo at 1:03 PM on December 7, 2006

I would sing a lot to my daughter. I would also play games with her feet... well, Irish step dancing, to be exact. I would also read out loud to her from whatever book I was reading. I think it was during this stage of her life that I developed a habit of making sound effects for just about everything, but it's something she does today and we bond over it (she's three).
posted by frecklefaerie at 1:14 PM on December 7, 2006

You could search for "newborn play" for suggestions. Newborns love to look at faces, but they aren't able to see much beyond 12-18". The confusion you refer to may be intense concentration as he tries to make sense of his world.

Talk and sing to him (he loves to hear the sound of your voice), take him outside for a walk, hang a brightly colored mobile, play peek-a-boo, give him plenty of cuddle time.

When my nephew was this age I got the biggest kick out of watching these subtle changing expressions on his face and responding with expressions of exaggerated surprise or delight or laughter. Sometimes his eyes would only widen or squint in response, but he always seemed fascinated by this "game".
posted by zoel at 1:17 PM on December 7, 2006

I have a 3-month-old son and I did nothing but stare at him constantly for the first few weeks (when he wasn't nursing or sleeping, which is still most of the time).

Try singing him the alphabet in as many languages that you know and look for signs of interest at certain sounds. Then make up songs with those sounds. If you're exaggerated with your mouth movement this may be entertaining to him.

Also try holding him up as though to mimic standing, pumping his legs as though he were "running" (this can also help ease colic pain), gently rotating his arms, stroking his head and cheeks, etc.

Oh, and congratulations. He's beautiful.
posted by mezzanayne at 1:17 PM on December 7, 2006

Fall asleep with him sleeping on your chest. He'll be too big for it in approximately no time at all.

And just hold him - it is amazing how fast kids grow and how much you'll forget due to sleep deprivation and everything else. Hold him and just bask in his tinyness before he's four and a half feet tall and asking for another pack of Pokemon cards.
posted by GuyZero at 1:28 PM on December 7, 2006 [2 favorites]

I like to talk a lot to kids, of any age. Just talk normally, not the goo-goo ga-ga baby voice, just your normal speaking voice. Comment on what he is doing, ask him if he is able to understand English yet, critique the drapes, whatever.

I've yet to find a child that doesn't fall under my spell. Don't talk down to them, they'll appreciate that you aren't patronizing them.
posted by Meatbomb at 1:34 PM on December 7, 2006

The innocent, do nothing stage will only last for a few more weeks and then you're in for a lifetime of activity.

I too remember feeling the same way with my newborn. Wishing I could do more to interact with her. Wondering if there was something I could do for "fun". The truth is, they are really just adjusting to the world around them.

Now, my daughter is 20 months old and having conversations with me and running around the house. In a flash you'll be looking back and wondering wher your newborn went.
posted by Gooney at 1:36 PM on December 7, 2006

He may not be able to see you very well, but he can hear and smell you. Talk to him and cuddle him so he gets attached to the sound of your voice and your particular mommy smell. He'll be less lump-like (and more fun) in no time.
posted by mostlymartha at 1:42 PM on December 7, 2006

Try tickling him - I have an absolutely adorable photo of my nephew, with a huge mouth-wide-open grin, as his mother is tickling him at about 5 weeks old. It was also really fun to watch him unsuccessfully try and suck his thumb for a few weeks until he finally got it at 7/8(?) weeks.
posted by jacalata at 1:45 PM on December 7, 2006

Taking my daughter to Gymboree taught me a bunch of songs and activities for infants. Most local centers let you do one free trial class, so even if you don't want to join you can just stop in to pick up ideas.
posted by jrossi4r at 1:53 PM on December 7, 2006

Prior to the kid starting to talk, to be able to communicate with him better you could try baby signing (google: baby sign language.) My UK collegue taught his daughter sign language before she could talk. I was amazed. It seems its not a concept that's caught on particularly, but it could be fun and hugely rewarding.
posted by urbanwhaleshark at 2:18 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

I liked to sit with my legs up on an ottoman or recliner and rest my babies on my legs. You get a great view of them, and it's a perfect vantage for playing with toes and legs and fingers and tummies.

One of my favorite things with my son was watching VH1 classics in the morning. I'd wiggle his feet to the music and sing along. I think he was still too young to really react at this stage, but it was fun for me and stimulating for him.
posted by saffry at 2:38 PM on December 7, 2006

I took a course in baby massage when my son (now 7 months) was a bit younger than that. It gave me a routine to run through with him once or twice a day, and I still use it now. You can't always do the whole routine but even if you only get to do the legs or the arms it is fun.
posted by Cuke at 3:19 PM on December 7, 2006

Should have added that I also do a mom/baby yoga class with him. If there is one in your area I would recommend that as well. There are infants as young as 4 weeks in the course I'm in now.
posted by Cuke at 3:21 PM on December 7, 2006

Another vote for massage, that felt like a kind of communication and was something our baby definitely enjoyed.

And movement in general, as long as the feel secure, is something they like.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 4:19 PM on December 7, 2006

Very strongly graphic black and white patterns: like zebra stripes, checker boards, etc. These get their attention before almost any other visual stimulus.
posted by Rumple at 5:26 PM on December 7, 2006

Take lots of photos. This stage passes quickly, and you'll be amazed when he's older, how you can see his "grown up" face in his "baby" face, even though, right now, you have *no idea* what he'll look like when he's older.

And, what meatbomb said.
posted by Alt F4 at 5:32 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

I'm thirding the massage advice. My mom took an infant massage class when my oldest sister was born and loved it. And now I actually work at the non-profit that holds the class. It's a great way to connect with your newborn :D
posted by nerdcore at 5:34 PM on December 7, 2006

Hugs, kisses, singing, talking. It's never to early to start reading or telling stories, and any chance to hear your voice, be close to you, smell you, and touch you is a very good thing.
posted by Songdog at 5:39 PM on December 7, 2006

Hey Meatbomb - while talking is better than not talking, there's a PBS commercial going around that says that varying the tones in your voice (like people do when they talk to babies) actually does help kids learn speech.
posted by IndigoRain at 6:21 PM on December 7, 2006

As others have said: Fall asleep with him sleeping on your chest. Hold him, rock him - sing. Spend alot of time staring into his eyes (this is very important bonding thing!).

Bath him, change him.

Oh yeah - make funny faces. Fish lips. Slowly. Wink, smile, nod, frown.

Enjoy. Once they start talkin' back, it's far more complicated.
posted by jkaczor at 8:54 PM on December 7, 2006

Rub your nose on the back of his neck, inhale.
Kiss each little toe.
Blow bubbles on his tummy.
Let him explore your face with his tiny hands.
Play some lovely classical music and waltz with him.

I miss those baby years...
posted by JujuB at 10:05 PM on December 7, 2006 [1 favorite]

Hey IndigoRain: The kid will learn to talk regardless, but you'll be that cool adult who always had the interesting and serious things to say, and that treated him differently.

I know at this age it doesn't make a big difference, but he'll soon appreciate it.
posted by Meatbomb at 10:59 PM on December 7, 2006

Meatbomb has a good point. While he's still this small, it's up to you to get into some good habits, like: walking him around town (infant carriers like the New Native or the Maya are nice at this age) and telling him about your nieghborhood; reading him books or anything you're interested in (he'll just love the sound of your voice, and not care that the content may be boring grown-up stuff); giving him massages and body movement excercises. A lot of this stuff is really more about you than him, but it teaches you to be generous with yourself. And once you see how important that is to a brand new person, you'll be glad you gave yourself the practice.
posted by maryh at 11:18 PM on December 7, 2006

I play poker with my 12 week old - I beat him every time, and it makes me feel better about myself. He tries all kinds of distracting facial expressions - but I can tell he's bluffing. He'll hopefully, appreciate how much he owes me later in life.
posted by strawberryviagra at 1:55 AM on December 8, 2006

There's a common belief (based, I suspect, on vague memories of Konrad Lorenz and all those ducklings following him around) that you have to 'do' something with your newborn, in order to 'bond' or 'imprint' properly. (And somewhere behind this is a view of babies as little consumers, parents as service-providers -- and a guilty feeling that you have to make your baby's consumer experience as varied and interesting as possible.)

In truth, you don't have to 'do' anything; you just have to 'be'. It is a glorious, exhilarating waste of time. Yes, take a course in baby massage, yes, read books and sing songs, yes, yes, these are all great suggestions. But the most important thing is to learn how to do nothing with your baby. In a society where 'wasting time' is widely regarded as grossly irresponsible -- what could be more subversive?
posted by verstegan at 3:05 AM on December 8, 2006 [3 favorites]

Reading aloud is good -- you can read "big" books while the baby sits in the crook of your arm, and the early bonding is nice. They won't see much, but they like sitting with you and hearing your voice. Our 1-yr old loved books from the beginning and now toddles over with one constantly. She's also pretty far ahead verbally (according to our pediatrician) -- knows tons of animals pictures, several words, and lots of signs as well (we are doing the baby sign thing).

But it's important to read books you like -- maybe childhood classics you've forgotten -- so that you enjoy yourself. You don't have to read board books til later, when they turn the pages, learn to focus on the pictures, etc.

We also did some dancing and singing with lots of leg cycling (of the baby).
posted by mdiskin at 4:15 AM on December 8, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone -- I appreciate all the ideas (and intend to try them out), as well as the reminder that it's OK to just relax and enjoy him at this stage in his life.
posted by justonegirl at 5:04 AM on December 8, 2006

posted by alby at 8:58 AM on December 8, 2006

I found that playing music you like and dancing/swaying with the baby to have been particularly rewarding & fun with my now 4 month old son. Same with singing songs that you enjoy - when he was a newborn I could totally get him to chill out by singing to him and now my son gets all wigglely and giddy when I sing Velvet Underground songs to him. Enjoy this time, you will look back fondly on it all too soon.
posted by echolalia67 at 7:38 PM on December 8, 2006

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