How to play with your newborn

Your baby will enjoy seeing the world from a different perspective during tummy time.
Your baby will enjoy seeing the world from a different perspective during tummy time. Photo: Getty Images

Your tiny bundle has arrived! Once you've got the hang of newborn basics – feeding, changing, sleeping and bathing – you might be wondering how to engage in playtime together. Even though they're immobile and are still a while away from speaking, there are plenty of ways you can engage and communicate with your newborn to stimulate their physical, cognitive and emotional development.

Tummy time

It's important for newborns to spend time on their tummy every day to ensure they gain strength in their neck, back, shoulders, arms and legs. You can turn tummy time into playtime by placing appealing toys or a small, safe mirror within your baby's reach as they lie on their front. You could also lie opposite your baby during tummy time – babies love faces (especially familiar ones like yours!) and their sight will soon develop so they can 'lock' their gaze on you. This is also a lovely chance to connect emotionally.

During tummy time, your newborn will enjoy seeing the world from a different perspective, instead of lying on their back looking at the ceiling. Regular tummy time develops neck muscles, leading to head control, and as your baby's arm muscles get stronger, they'll push up using their forearms. What an impressive physical feat!

Black and white images

At birth, your baby is near-sighted, they can't focus their eyes together, and their vision is fuzzy. For this reason, they are drawn to bold, black and white images because they are the easiest to see.

You can stimulate your baby's vision by showing them black-and-white images during playtime. Look at cloth and board books, as well as friezes and mobiles that feature simple, bold patterns and shapes. 

Play gyms

Your baby won't be able to grasp objects until about three months of age, but they will be able to swipe or 'bat' hanging toys in preparation for grasping. Place your baby on their back under a play gym from birth to stimulate their sight, and as the weeks spin by, they'll start to reach out for the hanging toys, encouraging touch. This is also the start of developing their hand-eye coordination skills.


Bouncer toy bars, plus pram and car seat toys, also present play opportunities for batting and swiping.

Read, sing, talk, touch!

Reading, singing and talking to your newborn stimulates their brain, laying the foundations for the development of speech and language. Show your baby simple picture books and describe the images; gently stroke or massage your baby's body as you sing lullabies and nursery rhymes; and simply chat to your baby as you go about your day together.

These simple forms of play are beautiful ways to build your baby's social and emotional skills.