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The playtime needs of a baby

Believe it or not, your baby may seem oblivious to you, but the little one actually yearns interaction and loves to play. As babies enter the second month of life, they become noticeably more interested in the world around them. Read on…

While little babies will not likely be able to kick a ball around or play with dolls, they do hunger for any form of attention or interaction. At this stage, play is not so much about toys as it is about back-and-forth gesturing. It can be anything from singing a song to your baby to cooing and smiling back and forth with him. Loving and playful experiences like these help in the healthy development of a baby.

Fun ways to interact with your baby in the early months

  • Offer interesting objects for your baby to look at. You will see that as you move an object slowly from side to side, your baby will follow it with his eyes. This is called tracking and is one of the first ways that young babies explore the world while building their visual skills.
  • You can also try placing your baby nearby enough to hit or kick a mobile or rattle. Over the next couple of weeks, baby will connect the act of kicking with the sounds the mobile makes when struck. This helps in understanding cause-and-effect, and also in discovering the fun in making some noise!
  • Interactions can also take place through routines like talking and singing during bath times. Try adding a daily massage for your baby after baths or before bedtime. This also helps baby bond with you.
  • Share books together, either by reading them to your baby or just letting baby gaze at the pictures. When your baby gets just a little older, he or she will probably take the lead – grabbing the book and gumming it – while you inquire on how it tastes!
  • Offer interesting objects to touch. You can bring the objects close so your baby can touch them and begin to learn about how different objects feel. Exploring objects by looking, and later by feeling, also helps babies discover how different objects work and what they do.

Even babies need a break

Parents may find themselves confused about their babies’ responses as they play. It’s not uncommon for a baby to be having loads of fun one minute, and crying for no reason the next. If you’re wondering what could have happened, it could just be that your baby reached his limit for stimulation and was telling you he needed a break.

Babies have their own individual ways of responding to stimulation – light, sound, touch, activity. Some can take in a lot of stimulation before they reach hteir limit. Other babies get overwhelmed very quickly by what may seem to be just a small amount of stimulation (like brightening the lights in the room). There’s no right or wrong way to be. A baby’s ability to manage stimulation is based on his unique wiring.

Some common “I need a break” signals include:

  • turning his head away
  • arching his back
  • closing his eyes or falling asleep
  • crying
  • fussing or making “fussy” sounds
  • hiccupping

When you see these kinds of signals, put the toys away and perhaps rock and sing quietly to your little one. Keep in mind that even eye contact can be very stimulating for young babies, so just snuggling against your chest may be just what your baby needs. The most important is that you yourself are always calm. Remember, you’re learning too, and it’s all about trial and error.

If your baby is falling asleep, let it be. You can also swaddle him or her for comfort. The idea is to reduce the amount of stimulation – sights, sounds, touches, and movements around and let the little one chill.

You’ll know your baby is ready to play again when his expression is calm and clear-eyed, when he meets your gaze, moves his arms or legs, turns toward you, or makes sounds. Watching your baby to see how he reacts to, manages, and responds to stimulation gives you very useful information. You can begin to understand:

  • What and how much play your baby enjoys
  • How to recognize when baby needs a break
  • How to comfort your distressed baby

Don’t worry if you don’t get it right immediately. Learning about your baby’s individual needs and temperament takes time. Eventually the two of you will get more “in sync.”

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