Top 9 Newborn Play Activities

Tips from Akron, Ohio’s #1 Newborn Photographer

You did it – you made it through pregnancy and now you have a sweet little newborn! You powered through childbirth like the warrior that you are. You survived your first days of parenthood in the hospital. And now…it’s just you and this new life. And, at least at first, feeding and sleeping and diaper changing is pretty much all you can imagine doing for you and your newborn.

But every day you settle more into a routine and little by little you find some time. And you might be wondering – what should I do with my newborn? How do I play with a newborn? Are there particular things you should be doing for their development?

The good news is: you don’t really have to do much. Newborns sleep most of the time. And since they are completely brand new-every aspect of life is a huge lesson for them to learn. But there are some small things you can do to enrich your little one and I’m here to tell you about some of them!

You’ll notice that as baby grows, they will start gradually having more periods of alertness. This is the time you want to take advantage of (no matter how fleeting it may be at first!) When they’re fed and not quite sleepy yet, try out some of these ideas. Just make sure to read their cues and wrap it up if they seem overly tired or cranky. And take the following options and mix them up! More variety leads to more well-rounded learning:


This is one of the simplest and best things you can do with your newborn: literally just spending some face time with them! You can prop them up in your lap (I like to put my legs up and have them recline against them) or have them lay on you, tummy to tummy. Then just talk to your baby, use different pitches and inflections, and play with sounds. You can make different faces at them, stick your tongue out, and imitate anything they do or the sounds they make. This is also a great opportunity to get some snuggles and kisses in-peak newborn sweetness.


Tummy time (always under supervision!) is a daily recommended activity starting as soon as 1 day old: it’s integral for building baby’s strength and motor skills that they’ll need as they grow and develop! But-many little babies aren’t super big fans. One way to keep tummy time fun and interesting is to change up the location. Newborns can do tummy time on a designated mat-these sometimes have specific textures, images, and toys – or just a simple blanket on the floor. You can also prop them up on a breastfeeding pillow (having their heads more elevated allows them to see more which makes for a more pleasant experience!) or, in the same vein, have them up on the couch with you on the ground so that you end up at each other’s face level. Another great option is to have tummy time on you or another beloved caregiver: baby can lay on your belly or even over your legs. 

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Even though tummy time gets all the attention, there are benefits to laying your baby down on their back for playtime too! An activity gym or mobile or something similar where there are toys hanging above them helps your baby learn visual fixation and tracking, how their motions can affect change, and eventually work on their ability to grab and even start to rock side to side (a building block to rolling). 


While your newborn is lying down you can engage with them physically! Count each of their little toes (this little piggy, anyone?), pedal their legs (especially good if they’re in that newborn gassy phase), give them tickles, and stretch and move their little arms and legs all around. Giving a gentle (but still firm – they’re less fragile than they seem!) baby massage is also a nice and soothing activity that can boost oxytocin and bond you and your sweet little one even closer. These activities will help them learn where their limbs are in space and the fact that they’re attached to them!


Literally, you can just explore your surroundings together! Give your newborn a tour of your house, pointing out what everything is and their colors, shapes, or any sounds they might make. Put their little hands on different objects to experience different textures (such as a soft blanket, the cool metal of the refrigerator, the grass in your backyard, etc.) If you keep this up, they’ll be chatting back to you in no time!


There are few things more engaging for your newborn than the sound of your voice, especially when you sing. You can sing classic lullabies, a favorite tune, or anything you make up! It can be soothing and soft or silly and lively-either way prepare to receive some adorable coos and smiles in response! As an extension of that, you can also DANCE with your baby! That can either mean that you literally hold them up and make them dance (I find making a baby wiggle along to “Shake Your Groove Thing” to be a particular hit) or that you cradle them in your arms as you dance around. Turns out, babies love music just as much as anyone. 

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It seems unbelievable, but you can absolutely start playing games with your newborn! The older they get, the more interested they’ll become and they may even engender some of those first laughs (and who doesn’t love baby giggles?) Some of the games I’m referencing are things like how big is baby (sooo big!), peek-a-boo, and really any nursery rhymes, particularly ones that use touch: such as pat-a-cake. 


It’s never too early to foster a love of reading. Reading frequently from a very early age promotes brain development and increases vocabulary! And your baby will love hearing your voice and any variations in inflection as well as looking at any cute or colorful pictures (just make sure to hold the book close to their face, newborns can’t see very far away at first!)


Your newborn is just happy to be with you. They’re already soaking up every moment of this new life and are constantly learning and developing with or without a concentrated effort. It’s so important to relax and enjoy your time together as a new family and really just focus on learning each other and this new normal. 

Nothing should take away from this special new bond you are forming. I’m passionate about capturing these moments for my families and doing so in a way that strengthens them. That’s why I take care of all the details and all you need to do is show up and enjoy each other while I snap away and preserve these memories forever. 

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Take it from one of my recent clients, Abby Rotolo:

“I’m a new mom who missed the boat in scheduling newborn photos ahead of time and contacted Amanda last minute. She was able to get us in an open slot in her schedule within 48 hours. Initially, I was expecting this to be a hectic and stressful experience because of time constraints and a fussy newborn going through a growth spurt and cluster feeding; however, my experience was nothing short of easy and relaxing. Amanda sent over the info in an organized and efficient manner and she and her assistant were ready to go when we got there. She was so patient, kind, and nurturing with my son the whole time. Not only did she do great with him, but she kept me engaged and involved in the whole process, as well. Our pictures are stunning and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. Will definitely be going back!

I would be honored to be the photographer to help capture these precious first moments with you and your sweet little one! Click here to schedule a quick, easy consultation with me to get started!

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