Baby Activities: What to Do at Home with a Newborn

A child care teacher reading to an infant

Are you home with a newborn and wondering how to spend those precious moments together? Our early childhood experts offer baby activity ideas.

Most of us anxiously await the birth or adoption of a new child. We made it through labor and delivery or through the long adoption process. Daily life is starting to settle in a bit. We eagerly anticipated maternity or paternity leave. Now we are home with our baby. So what do we do all day?

In those first days and weeks with a newborn, care and vigilance is our primary focus. Feeding, rocking, and diaper changes occupy our days. Getting a shower is an accomplishment. Our first trip to the grocery store with or without our baby is a big event. But eventually we settle into a bit of a routine based on our newborns schedule.

So when you do get some blocks of time when your baby is fed, diapered, awake, and content, how can you best spend this precious time with your baby?

Baby Play & Activity Ideas

Remember that every child is different. Part of adjusting to a newborn is learning our new childs cycles, rhythms, and needs. If we have a baby who sleeps only a little, our days will be very different from parents whose child sleeps a lot.

The goal is that you are learning to know your baby and your baby is learning to know you. She or he is learning what you look like, smell like, feel like; that you are trustworthy and dependable; that he or she is cared for and loved; that there is some predictability in life; that others besides you may also be trustworthy.

  • A good starting point is to follow your babys lead. Watch what she is interested in and follow up on that. If your baby turns and looks when he hears a rattle, for example, repeat the sound again.
  • Babies learn language through the reciprocity of communication. Your baby coos, you coo back. Your baby waves her arms, you wave back.
  • Faces are of great interest to babies. Your baby may enjoy looking into your eyes. Eye contact is a key way to connect with your baby. Try to keep looking and say sweet things to your baby. “I love looking at you. I love spending time with you. It is so great to have you in our family.” While your baby wont initially understand the words, your tone is important. And listening to your words will eventually help your baby make a connection between what you say and the meaning.
  • Lay out a quilt and get on the floor with your baby. Present toys or mirrors to look at. Opportunities like this for “tummy time” help strengthen your babys trunk, neck, and arm muscles. Some babies dont like a lot of time on their tummies. Start for just a few minutes and build up. Always closely supervise, and move your child to the crib on his back if he happens to fall asleep on his tummy.
  • Read to your newborn. Hold your baby on your lap and look at a board book together. Point to pictures in the book and name them.
  • Provide interesting things for your child to view, touch, smell. For example, provide different surfaces for tummy time  sometimes a quilt, sometimes the carpet  and let your child experience the different textures. Name them (“this quilt is softer than the carpet”). Bring different things to smell within close, safe proximity always holding onto them yourself. Talk about what you have (e.g., “This cinnamon smells really good”).
  • Carry your child around your house and show him or her things and name them. (“This is where our dog sleeps. And this is where we store the dishes. I see cups and plates and bowls…”). If you have never done this before, you may feel silly at first, but it is a great way for your child to learn your voice and lay the foundation for speech development.
  • Offer as much “holding” time as you can. There is no such thing as the old concept of “spoiling,” and your baby and you will both benefit from the close physical contact.
  • Sing to your baby. Whether you think you have a nice voice or not, your child will enjoy listening to your voice as you sing simple songs or recite rhymes you remember from your childhood.
  • Play “love games.” Say, “Now I am going to kiss you. I love you so much,” as you gently swoop in to give kisses.
  • If you find that you have almost no uninterrupted time, use the time when you are doing caregiving routines (feeding, bathing, changing diapers) to sing, talk, and make eye contact.

Enjoy these precious days. Maternity and paternity leaves go more quickly than we expect.

More on This Topic

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

About The Bright Horizons Parenting Newsletter

Teacher reading to a toddler boy and girl

Whether you’re looking for parenting advice, or trying to figure out how to bring learning from the classroom to the family room, let Bright Horizons early education experts be your trusted, knowledgeable resource. Get our weekly newsletter for all things early child development—from the benefits of pretend play to at-home STEM activities, and teaching kindness—along with encouragement for every stage of your parenting journey.