So you’ve brought baby home and probably spent the first month on the couch gazing adoringly at the beautiful gift in your arms.
But as your baby starts to become more aware and interested in their surroundings, maybe you’re feeling you want to do more … but what? If it’s a nice day and you have a garden, babies love nothing more than watching leaves flutter in the breeze or shadows move across a wall. But with the seasons turning and many of us at home for the duration, it’s great to have a few activities to keep your baby (and yourself!) amused in-between nappies and feeds and nappies and nap time and nappies.
We’ve turned to our expert for advice - the wonderful Emma from @play_at_home_mummy - for activities you can do with your young baby at home using bits and pieces you probably already have. An extra big thank you to gorgeous Adaline who is our model baby in all of these images.
1. Black and White Ribbons
Emma says: "Black and white are great colours for small babies because they’re high contrast. Babies see and focus on high contrast colours more easily than other colours, and also focus on circles more readily than any other picture/shape. They can also only focus on things around 30cm in front of their faces.
30cm is roughly that distance from the mother’s breast to her face, and babies focus on circles more readily as it enables them to find their mums breast more easily. Mother’s nipples will also darken in pregnancy to make the contrast between the nipple and breast greater, in order for the baby to focus on and find it! How amazing is nature?!!"
We love this wooden activity gym from Kmart - you'll see how versatile it is for a range of activities. Emma has created a baby safe space with a soft plat mat, a thick textured rug or lambskin and some acrylic mirror tiles attached to the wall. IKEA have something similar. The acrylic is a safe option for babies so they can't hurt themselves when they progress to whacking everything later.
2. Ribbons and Bells
After you've had fun with the ribbons, you might try adding bells.
Emma says "This would be great for babies up to about 4 months (just be wary of the bells as a choking hazard if they have begun mouthing).
Although babies can’t intentionally kick the bells at this point, when they involuntarily kicks their legs and hears the bells, it creates a connection between the action and noise. As they grow and develop more control over her movements, they will start to do this on purpose, and so begin to learn about cause and effect.
Babies learn best through sensory play - touching, hearing, tasting etc, and an activity like this, even for a baby this young (Adaline is 4 weeks here) stimulates the senses, in this case, her sense of sound."
3. Reading with Babies
Even from a very young age, babies love books and being read to. You might feel silly, but don't. The rhythm of your voice (soothing at any time) and brightly coloured pictures sets them up for language skills down the track and a life-long love of reading.
You can read one on one (a great way to give your baby extra attention, especially if you are otherwise busy in the day) or do as Emma has done here and use books at tummy time.
Emma says "Using books as a stimulus during tummy time ... has vastly improved the amount of time Adaline will happily be on her tummy, and it’s also improved the strength in her neck as she more readily holds it up to look at the books!
When looking for books to read with Adaline, I look for ones that:
- Have brightly contrasting colours and bold designs (her eyes are still drawn to high-contrast)
- Have pictures of faces/eyes - she’s very drawn to looking at faces right now, so any books with clear faces and eyes really draw her attention!
- Are short, repetitive, rhyming books - rhyme has been something that all the girls have adored as babies, because when reading it almost sounds like a song!
- Are books that encourage physical contact between parent and baby - for example the book ‘Ten Little Fingers and Ten Little Toes’ by Mem Fox - books that encourage you to touch or kiss your baby as you read are wonderful because babies thrive off loving touch!
- Are board books - because these ones are easy to prop up for babies to look at during tummy time and also endure the mouthing stage well!"
Books Babies Love:
Dear Zoo by Rod Campbell
That's Not My ... Series by Usborne Touchy Feely Books
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
Hairy Maclary by Lynley Dodd
Miffy by Dick Bruna
4. Bobbing Balloons
Here's that activity gym again! Seriously, this will be $18 well spent. AND Kmart will deliver it to you. This activity is a fun challenge for grabbing babies from about 4 months old.
Emma says: "The water gives the balloon weight, and the elastic means that it ‘bobs’ up and down when grabbed. Adeline loved exploring the cool texture of the water-filled balloon.
The water in the balloon means that the balloon is much less likely to pop than if it was filled with air, and makes it a great sensory experience as it’s cool and squishy to touch! I used hat elastic from Spotlight - it’s what I’ve been hanging her other toys and mobiles with!
This activity develops hand-eye coordination skills, and visual tracking (as the balloon bobs up and down)."
SAFETY - Never give a balloon to a mouthing child with teeth, as sharp objects will pierce the balloon. Also make sure baby’s nails are short before doing this. Don’t use a water balloon - a regular balloon filled with water is much less likely to pop (water balloons are made thinner than regular ones). Supervise your child constantly during this activity. Be aware that balloons pose a choking hazard and take the necessary precautions.
5. Baby Face Frames
Emma has used frames from IKEA for this simple activity, but you could also just stick the pictures to a wall or window.
Emma says "Babies are naturally drawn to faces because they learn so much about social interaction through watching people’s expressions and hearing people talk so I thought I would print out some close ups of our faces (mum, dad, sisters and herself) for her to look at during floor time!
Adaline loved them she was smiling at them and chatting away. They’re great for looking at when she’s on her tummy as they encourage her to lift her head to build her neck and abdominal muscles."
6. Baby Sensory Bag
These are activities are proof that children don't need expensive toys to be entertained (something to remember even as they get older). Sensory bags are brilliant for whatever you've got around the house. As your baby grows, you can even make sensory bottles out of plastic water bottles to carry out and about - excellent for the car.
You can create themed bags - Under the Sea, Space, Rainbow - or just keep it simple.
Emma says "All I did was put Pom Poms, water, blue food dye and glitter into a zip lock bag!
There are heaps of different things you can fill these with, and it’s also a great way for them to explore colour and texture while they have tummy time!"
- Double bag it so that it doesn’t get pierced easily.
- Make sure baby’s nails are short.
- Use a laminating pouch instead (if you have one), because these can’t be popped by baby nails!
All these activities have been reproduced with permission. If you love these and want more, or you have older children too, be sure to check out Emma's Instagram @play_at_home_mummy for literally hundreds of amazing ideas.