When to Begin?
OK, you might be thinking about when should you begin to play with Baby. It can begin slowly and sensitively soon after birth. As you interact with Baby, he will be absorbing your playfulness through your sensitive tone of speech, your cheery smile, your use of touch as he listens, watches and feels your fun loving warmth. For example, when you are talking with Baby, you will be telling him how precious he is, such as 'Oh, you have such a beautiful little nose, here is a gentle kiss for it ... oh what a lovely kiss ... I am such a lucky Mummy/Daddy' and so on.
Such playful interactions continue and will increase as Baby develops. During the early weeks the Bond With Baby rhymes and playtime songs can be gradually introduced e.g. during nappy/diaper change and after feeding (discussed in Caregiving Routines). While Baby's early responses to you will be subtle, such as movement of his lips vocalising 'contented' sounds, and perhaps little wriggles of body movement, he is telling you how much he is enjoying this, and soon he will be able to smile back ... then giggle ... and reach out to touch you as you begin to 'charge up' the fun together! Having fun with Baby as he laughs at your 'silliness' will be a daily delight.
Exploratory play activities can also be introduced as Baby develops and spends more time awake ... especially being energised after a sleep and a feed!
- 'Up-beat' play includes you singing playsongs with Baby as you have fun performing the actions, playing tickly games, clapping rhymes, knee-jogging, peek-a-boo and dancing with Baby (from Songs, Rhymes and Music).
- 'Exploratory' types of activities encourage Baby's discovery and enable him to practise his developing skills as he interacts with play objects and toys. For example, by practising to hold a rattle Baby is developing his hand grip, then further developing this, he will take the rattle to his mouth to discover its 'taste' and then discovers that shaking it is great fun as he looks at you as if to say, 'Look at me! How clever am I?'.
As you and Baby get into the swing of playtime you will no doubt develop some type of 'rhythm' to it. For example, by the time Baby is 2-3 months old you could begin with upbeat rhymes/playsongs or a little dance and then give him the freedom to discover his world with exploratory play, finishing off with some quiet time/relaxation (go to Let's Play → Play Activities Chart for play activity ideas).
How much time Baby spends playing during a day will depend on his development, mood, how tired he gets ... and how interested he is in what is going on. To begin, a 10 minute session may be enough for most babies during the early weeks. Playtime is very stimulating for babies as they are interacting and learning about their 'world'. Because of this they use up much energy and can tire quickly.
If Baby is showing tired signs during play, such as turning his head away to avoid your face-to-face contact or beginning to grizzle and yawn (as discussed in Caregiving Routines → Sleep-time) don't try to jolly him along. He is signaling to you as if to say 'OK, that was great but I've had enough now'. However, if you know that Baby is not tired, he could be restless/grumpy and simply needs a 'change of scenery'. So change the pace and do something else. It could be time for a walk.