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Cuddling and cooing with your newborn baby will be entertaining for you, but what’s entertaining for your baby?
If you remember that your baby’s sensory system is still developing, you’ll be able to provide hours of entertainment using ordinary household items.
You can also provide entertainment for a baby when you’re traveling using these same strategies.
Keeping a Newborn Entertained
Make your face entertaining. Your baby will be delighted by your funny faces, and may try to imitate you if she can.
Making funny sounds, sticking out your tongue, or twisting your face into a funny shape will be entertaining for a baby.
Babies love to be talked to and have their attention focused on you.
You are likely your newborn baby’s favorite toy.
Wiggle the baby’s limbs.
A baby can be entertained by his own body, if you help him.
Try laying the baby on his back, and help him clap his hands together gently.
You can also hold his feet and pedal his feet back and forth as if riding a bicycle.
Talk or sing with your baby while you’re wiggling his body, or make funny faces.
Try pressing your lips against the baby’s skin and blowing.
This will make an entertaining sound and sensation for the baby.
Offer interesting things to look at.
Keeping toys and mobiles with strongly contrasting colors (black, red, white) will help keep a baby’s attention and stimulate his developing sense of vision.
Brightly colored pictures, contrasting patterns, and things that move are entertaining for a baby to look at.
The newborn baby’s visual sense is still developing, and he’s able to best focus on things 8–12 inches (20.3–30.5 cm) from his face.
Farther away, his vision will be blurry.
You can also hold an object in front of your baby’s face, and slowly move it back and forth.
The baby’s gaze will likely follow the object happily.
Babies enjoy looking at themselves, so you can offer a mirror for the baby to gaze at her own reflection.
Choose one for children, which are made from durable and safe materials, rather than glass.
Remember that your face is also an “interesting object” for your baby, and will be one of your newborn’s favorite toys.
Find a noisemaker.
Most babies love to explore sounds.
For example, get a set of plastic keys and jingle them in front of the baby.
A baby is easily entertained by something like this.
If you can’t find a set of keys, try a toy that shakes or rattles.
Other noisemakers include plastic rattles, maracas, or homemade rattles that you make yourself out of a tupperware container filled with dried rice or beans.
Make sure your container is closed tightly so that no choking hazards are released.
Allow your newborn to close his fingers around a rattle, and he’ll slowly start to connect his body motion with the rattling sound.
Sing songs with your baby.
Your voice will be the most soothing sound for your baby early on.
Babies and infants love repetition too, so making little musical sounds over and over will be very entertaining.
For example, repeat the baby’s name in a “sing-songy” voice, pitching your voice first high, then low.
Rocking your baby as you sing will make the activity more engaging for the baby.
Whatever you sing frequently to your baby will help soothe and entertain him during fussy times.
If you know how to sing traditional childhood lullabies, you’ll be more entertained, but know that babies will be happy to hear your voice singing or humming anything.
Your baby may not have the physical coordination necessary to play early childhood games like “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” but she will likely enjoy your singing and silly facial expressions.
Keeping an Infant Entertained
Play “Peek-a-Boo” to teach object permanence.
Babies aren’t born with the idea of object permanence; that is, something still exists even though it can’t be seen.
That means that for a baby, when you are in another room, you might never come back.
Understandably, this is scary for a baby!
You can start to teach your baby the idea that things continue to exist even when the baby can’t see them by playing “Peek-a-Boo.”
Most babies love to play “Peek-a-Boo” with their caregiver, starting at the age of about 4 months.
Whether you play “Peek-a-Boo” with your hands covering your face, with a blanket, or with something else (such as a towel or a scarf), is less important than the routine of covering your face and then uncovering it.
Playing “Peek-a-Boo” teaches your baby not to be anxious because you’ll come back, no matter what.
You can teach older babies to lift the blanket up and down himself/herself.
Even though your baby might be a long way from learning to read for himself, he will enjoy hearing your voice and developing the language part of his brain.
Try using different voices, tones, pitches, gruffness, and accents to make it more entertaining.
Point at and name each thing on a page.
Babies tend to love repetition, so don’t be afraid of reading a book too frequently.
As your baby gets older, start to encourage him to turn the pages of the book on his own.
Thicker pages will help support his fine motor coordination.
Encourage playing with food.
Once a child is around 6 months old, you might try playing with food.
Food can be an entertaining activity even when not at meal times.
Place the baby in a high chair with a secure tray.
You’ll want to stay close by, but a high chair will provide a safe place for your baby to be while she entertains herself.
For example, put a few spoonfuls of yogurt directly on the high chair tray makes for fun “finger painting” for a baby.
You can put ice cubes onto her tray to play with as they melt.
Make sure you take the ice cubes away by the time they get small enough to put into her mouth.
Playing with rice or pasta noodles makes for good fun as well.
Non-food toys at a high chair might include the metal rings from canning jars, which can be chewed, stacked, banged or rolled around on her tray.
Just be sure there are no sharp edges on items you give to your baby.
A baby might also enjoy playing with utensils such as wooden spoons, rubber spatulas, or silicone brushes.
Play with soap foam
If your baby doesn’t like to put new things into her mouth, soap foam can be a great toy to play with.
To make nontoxic soap foam, you can a few tablespoons of water to ¼ cup of nontoxic liquid bath soap (such as Babyganics foaming dish and bottle soap), and then mix these ingredients with a hand mixer.
You’ll quickly have a bowlful of soft foam for a baby to play with.
You can also use shaving foam for this kind of play, but some babies don’t care for the smell.
Put the baby and the foam on a towel or another soft surface for easy cleanup.
This is another activity that could easily be done in the high chair.
Make a water table
Because a lot of a baby’s entertainment comes from sensory exploration, water tables make for wonderful entertainment.
A childcare center might have a professionally-made water table, but at home you can make a water table simply by putting a sturdy, shallow tray of warm water on the high chair tray.
You’ll want to make sure that the water tray isn’t likely to be pushed off the high chair tray.
Try making the water more interesting by adding a few drops of food coloring.
If playing with toys at the water table is more interesting than simply splashing at the water with her hands, bring in some bath toys.
Never leave a baby alone when playing with water or in a bathtub, even if the water is shallow.
Give the baby some pots and pans.
If you’re in the kitchen, it will be easy to provide ordinary household items like pots, spoons, plastic containers, empty boxes, etc. for your baby’s entertainment.
If the baby is older, he’ll be be interested in exploring the items, seeing what they sound like when they’re banged against the floor or each other.
Younger babies may be more interested in learning what they smell and taste like.
You’ll want to make sure that the items are clean enough to be put into your baby’s mouth.
Make sure you never give your baby anything that he can break, or which might have small parts that could present a choking hazard.