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How to Play with a Newborn

How to Play with a Newborn

Although your little one isn’t yet ready for puzzles or games or maybe even able to hold a toy for that matter, there are still benefits to “playing” and engaging with your newborn even in the first few weeks of life. 

We called on Jill Lerman, Early childhood educator and founder of Jillybeans NYC, to fill us in on the best ways to engage and play with babies ages 0-4 months old. The best part? Many of them don’t require any special props, toys, or materials at all! 

Sensory Play

Sensory play is for all ages, and it is best to start young! Babies engage primarily through touch, so the more varying types of textures you can introduce, the better. Try placing items with various textures under your little one for them to explore during tummy time. Clothing, towels, blankets, scarves, or sheets in materials like fleece, cotton, cashmere, or non-synthetic silk work great! Another favorite early sensory activity? Lay your baby on their back with their feet dipped in a shallow tray filled with water and let the exploration begin! 

Visual Play

A baby’s sense of sight grows quickly in the first year, particularly in the first four months, and there are many activities you can do to foster and support this growth. Try playing together in front of a mirror. An acrylic locker mirror is both shatter-proof and the perfect size! Mirror play is an amazing method for your little one’s cognitive development and focus. Babies love looking at their reflections, and really, who wouldn’t want to look at those adorable faces?


Hearing is one of your baby’s strongest senses from the time they’re born. The links between music and brain development in babies is well supported, so one of the best ways to engage is to sing to your baby. Simple children’s songs with movements like the “Itsy Bitsy Spider'' are more than just fun. Moving your baby’s arms and legs through the choreographed motions aids in the development of important skills like crossing the midline or fine motor strengthening. Playing music is also a great tool! Play the music that you most enjoy dancing and singing along to. It may even influence your baby’s future music preferences! Looking for a playlist? Jill recommends "Acoustic Coverson Spotify, which has relaxing versions of both recent releases and classics.  

 Talk to Them

Some of the best ways to engage with your baby are the simplest ones, like talking to them! Where to begin? Start with just narrating what you’re doing. “Okay, it’s time for me to change your diaper. I’m going to get the wipes, and a fresh diaper, and….” While your little one may not be able to respond back with words, your conversation is still having a big impact on their future language development.

About Jill Lerman

Jill is an early childhood educator and developmental play expert. She has worked in early childhood education for over ten years, both as a preschool teacher and in her business Jillybeans NYC, which provides classes and events for babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Her approach is tailored to each child’s unique engagement style. Jill provides simple ways for parents to facilitate interaction and play, and helps remove a layer of stress around working toward early developmental milestones. To learn more about Jill and Jillybeans NYC, visit her Instagram, @jillybeansnyc or her website, jillybeansnyc.com.  
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