New to Bounty?
Babies have a tiny attention span during their first year – often it's five minutes, at most – but there are still fun ways you can stimulate their senses with play.
If you're too frazzled to think of new activities and life is blending into baby groundhog day, add variety to your week with these simple-to-remember sanity savers.
They'll make keeping your baby entertained seem like child's play.
MONDAY IS FOR:
From nursery rhymes to reggae find out what rings your baby's bell. Try a different CD each week and even have a gentle dance. "You can also make music with pots and pans," says Kellie, mum to Ben (5 months). "Lids are symbols and pots and wooden spoons make drums – then sing loud like rock stars!"
These are great for capturing bub's attention and for visual stimulation. Visit the Our House website for inspiration and instructions on how to make your own.
Gentle exercises can help baby move on to the next stage of development – rolling, sitting or crawling. "Initially, encourage her just to hold toys and be familiar with them in her hand," says Paediatric Occupational Therapist Julianne Castle. "Then, to promote reaching and eye-hand coordination, hold toys out at a stretch."
Some chores can be a big adventure for baby. "We spend ages looking at the trees and plants before collecting the mail," says Kate, mum to Sophie (9 months). "Then we sit and open the letters together. She loves the envelopes with the plastic fronts. Occasionally there's a magazine she can flick through while I examine the bills!"
Babies are fascinated with faces so a non-glass baby mirror provides lots of entertainment. "Position baby on your lap facing the mirror so you can see her reaction but also facilitate movement and positioning of her hands," suggests Julianne. Or walk baby around to different mirrors in the house and wave to the people you see there – no doubt they'll wave back!
TUESDAY IS FOR:
Put baby on her mat or rocker and place her teddies in a circle around her. Introduce baby to each 'guest' and chat about the latest book you and bub have read, or game you have played. To make it more educational, point out teddy's eyes, nose, mouth and other body parts.
Take baby around the house and make up a story about anything that grabs her interest. "Katya is mesmerised by ceiling lights, so while she's staring at one I tell her about the magic light that cast a spell over the beautiful princess and made her unable to look away– the only way to rescue her was with a kiss, and of course I give her a kiss!" Bianca, mum to Katya (2 months).
Keep a colourful box (you can buy cute ones from $2 shops) for new items to introduce to baby. Make a big deal out of opening the box and letting baby play with hats, brushes (tooth and hair), keys and jewellery (bracelets and necklaces). Then select another group of items to go in for next week's unveiling.
Your baby is busy using all her senses to explore the world and touch is no exception – just don't be scared of a little mess! "Babies love tactile play, such as sand play, water play, or even feeling stewed fruit or mashed potato," suggests Julianne.
21st century bubs love playing with old remotes, mobile phones and even unplugged computer keyboards – so many buttons! (Give them a clean first and remove any batteries or small parts.)
WEDNESDAY IS FOR:
Your closet is full of baby fun. Let her feel fabrics such as leather, silk, fur and velvet, and play with belts, hats and bags. Older bubs might enjoy sitting in the wardrobe with you while you shine a flashlight around.
What noise does it make?
This favourite baby game introduces the animal kingdom. For example, ask baby, 'What noise does a sheep make?' and then respond with a 'baa'. Continue with as many animals as you can think of.
At a loss for new ideas? The internet has loads of baby songs, games, activities, nursery rhymes (so you can stop humming some of the lines!) and even competitions where you can win great baby products.
Whisk bub away on safari to all the windows in the house and talk to her about the view – is it raining? Can you see trees? People? Cars? Make noises associated with what you see – whistle if you see birds or make 'vroom vroom' noises for cars.
"Maxi loves to play 'Where Is Monkey?', a hide-and-seek game where I partially hide his favourite toy Monkey and he has great joy finding it. We play it over and over again and he'd climb over (and under) all sorts of obstacles to find it," says Jo, mum to Maxwell (10 months).
THURSDAY IS FOR:
Trying a new toy
"The best toys give a range of experiences and address as many of the areas of sensory input as possible," says Julianne. They don't need to be expensive: choose ones that are colourful, make noise (especially when touched) and have a range of different textures. Julianne suggests rattles and mobiles for newborns, balls for all ages, blocks, play dough, musical toys and bubbles.
One of the earliest games to play with baby is sticking out your tongue (it's been proven that even newborns are capable of mimicking this), but it doesn't get old for older bubs either. It's also an important skill as imitation will be the basis of a lot of your baby's learning. When she gets older you can progress to clicking your tongue, moving it from side to side and blowing raspberries.
Games that involve gentle tickling such as Round and Round the Garden and This Little Piggy are great for teaching baby anticipation and body awareness – they also tend to illicit those gorgeous baby giggles.
Cardboard boxes, cushions and chair legs can all be used to make a tunnel obstacle course for babies to roll or crawl through.
Babies love a change of perspective and by using blankets and muslins you can make your own snug little world to visit for a short time. It's also a great time to play Peekaboo with the blanket corner.
FRIDAY IS FOR:
Invite another mum and bub over for a playdate. It's good for baby to interact with other people and she'll probably rediscover any toys she's lost interest in once there's another bub to 'share' with.
Teach baby about different family members through photographs. 'Visit' any on walls or the fridge and explain who the person is. You can also show her albums and even make her one of friends, family and pets.
Fun and games
"The best games are interactive as they motivate and build relationships and social skills," says Julianne. She suggests: hide and seek, peekaboo, games encouraging eye contact or a sound response and games that encourage movement to grow motor skills such as reaching, batting a toy or balloon, clapping bubbles, kicking a noisy toy or rolling a toy.
Babies love to explore and discover, so put some new toys or safe objects on their playmat or around the house for those already on the move. "I 'hide' exciting objects around places where Fraya can reach so she can 'find' them and be really proud when she knocks them down," says Ragna, mum to Fraya (11 months).
These are great for helping your bub to recognise common objects and become familiar with their name. Simply show the cards to baby one by one saying the name of the object. Because babies love contrast, black pictures on white cards are the most effective – you can print free ones at fun-baby-games-online.com.
You're also head of OH&S when it comes to bub's playtime, so…
Beware of choking and strangling hazards and anything that may be toxic.
Don't push baby. "Parents need to look for signs of over-stimulation such as turning away, crying, yawning and closing eyes," warns Julianne. Never make baby crawl into spaces she isn't comfortable with and ensure ventilation is adequate.
Be patient and remember that playtime is meant to be fun for both of you!
MAKE YOUR OWN FUN
Glove puppets: "Buy gloves from supermarkets that are tipped with different colours – green tips can be little frogs or yellow tips little birds. Or use a gardening glove with stickers, such as stars, on the fingertips, for singing, Twinkle Twinkle while you wiggle your fingers."
Musical shakers: "Use macaroni, rice, sugar or bottle tops to fill an empty Pringles container or the cardboard roll from paper towel — amazingly the pink lid from a skim milk bottle fits over the end of these (glue it on to be safe). Unlike bought toys you can change the contents of the shaker so baby learns to discriminate between sounds."
Scarves: "These are very versatile as you can entertain younger babies by throwing them in the air and letting them float gently down as baby watches, which is good for their space/time awareness. When baby gets older tie some scarves together and pop them in a tissue box for her to pull out."
Stockings: "Stuff some scrunched up paper inside for baby to feel through the material and listen to the sound, or put a tennis ball in the end and bounce it next to younger babies so they follow the sound."