How to begin early learning with your newborn through play

As we got closer to Louie’s arrival, I knew I  wanted to have some strategies on hand so that I could start “playtime” with him shortly after arriving home from the hospital. I was also super excited to be able to play and bond with MY own baby!!!! When I worked as a Developmental Therapist, I became even more aware of the importance of early learning – beginning with newborns. Some people find it silly that one would think to do anything with newborns other than to feed and let them sleep. The truth is, they need to be engaged in their physical, social, emotional.

I did my research about play with newborns and I found a lot of 0-3 activities and that was great but I really was looking for specifically brand spanking new baby play ideas…like, just brought you home ideas. 

I already had most of the materials/items at home (or from my registry) and if I didn’t, I tried to make them #savingmoneyfordiapers. You can do these in the smallest spurts of time throughout the day. As your baby grows, these can be modified (that’s a different post).

I began introducing these activities during Louie’s first two weeks of life. Here’s how and why: 

Read: READ READ READ!!!! If you aren’t able to do anything at all, just make sure you read story books to your baby every day ! Believe it or not, reading books to newborns promotes and prepares them for learning, thinking, and language. Studies have shown that when a child is read to as a newborn, they gain a larger vocabulary. Aside from that, it helps your baby learn to distinguish rhythms, tones and even emotions! It’s also a wonderful opportunity to bond with your baby and establish routines. Showing your child to have a love for books is investing in the education and future of your child. I can just go on and on and on about the benefits! 🙂 There are so many great books out there, these are some of the ones we love reading to Louie: It’s Okay To Be DifferentLove From the Very Hungry CaterpillarIf I were a Penguin.

Black & White books/Cards: One of the best ways to stimulate your baby visually is through black and white pictures. Their vision is limited and they can only see from a short distance (10-15 in) and they can’t see color either. Seeing black and white not only helps strengthen their vision but also allows them to be a part of and discover their brand new world. Put them near the changing table, prop them up on either side of baby during tummy time, or take a look together while just hanging out. I made black and white cards for Louie while I was pregnant because I was feeling artsy, but not so artsy because I used google to help me with image ideas but if you’re not down for that, check out these  A-DOR-ABLE cards! In case you need ideas, here are some great black and white books: Hello Baby, Baby Animals Black and WhiteCloth Book.


Tummy time: This may sound surprising but it’s true, you can start tummy time as early as your baby’s first days of life. At this stage, while your baby is awake, you can practice putting him/her on their tummy for 30-60 second spurts. Try putting an enticing toy or picture on either side of them to capture their attention. If your baby does not enjoy it then start very small and then build your way up and make sure you give them lots of breaks in between. Tummy time strengthens your baby’s motor skills and strengthens all the core muscles in their body that will later prepare them with: rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, running. Also, tummy time isn’t just limited to lying on the floor. It can be on your chest, on an exercise ball, and so much more. Check out OT Mama’s 7 tips for making tummy time less miserable.

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Louie was just days old in these pictures! He was SO LITTLE!!

Talking/Singing: Talking and Singing with your newborn not only expands their idea of communication and vocabulary, it also helps build healthy relationships and social skills by showing them to listen, play and that it’s okay to be silly. Making eye contact while talking to your baby shows them that you are listening and engaging. I talk to Louie all day, I make sure to tell him what is happening in the moment and what happens next “I’m going to change your diaper and then get you ready to go to target” (the best store in all the land).  I also sing Old MacDonald way too much but he just loves those animal sounds and we get very silly! Find songs you feel comfortable with singing, I do slip in JT songs from time to time! Just know you will look silly but it’s okay, your sweet baby will not look at you with judgey eyes…they only have hearts for you! If you don’t know any songs, youtube is a great place to start searching.

Mirror: Mirrors help your baby focus and learn to track images. They also trick them into staying in tummy time just for a little longer (don’t tell Louie!). Seriously, they have so much fun looking into their reflection! We used a regular full length mirror and laid it horizontally and we also have this cute one  in our family room.


Mobile: Mobile’s are extremely interesting for newborns, they look at the way it moves and sometimes will try to reach for it. It was so neat to see Louie engaged in the visual stimulation from the mobile. I used this  black and white mobile that I received from my registry and also a simple cloud mobile for over his crib. I went with neutral colors because I didn’t want to overstimulate him with a ton of color – this was just my preference. I am a huge believer in creating soothing, yet fun spaces.  I did plan to make different mobiles to switch out but I still haven’t gotten there yet (this may be a future DIY)

Please remember, I had no idea I would start a blog so these pictures are real, unplanned, and in the moment. I hope someone finds this helpful!! Thanks for reading!


2 thoughts on “How to begin early learning with your newborn through play”

  1. Excelllent article!!! Thank you so much for this useful and interesting information!! Had no idea how important tummy time was (or that this concept even existed) and now I’m going to try all these tips with my baby in a couple of months when he arrives!!! Thank you Mini Mama!!


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