Easy and Engaging Play Ideas for Newborns


Janey Strong

You’re home with your sweet newborn and in between all the bouts of snuggling, sleeping and feeding, your little miracle needs to play.  But, how exactly do you play with a newborn? Before I lay out some easy and engaging play ideas for newborns, let’s talk about how and why babies need play.

First, baby play does not need to be complicated!  It’s a shame that the endless marketing we’re surrounded by suggests that baby play includes lots of “things”.  But, engaging and brain-building baby play doesn’t require loads of gear or loud, battery operated toys.  When it comes to baby play, less is always more. 

Secondly, Newborns are taking in their new world and learning about their body at an alarming rate.  In fact, studies show that more than one million new neural connections are formed every second in the first few years of life (Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University).  Take a moment and let that sink in – so much is happening, right?!

Babies learn about the world around them through all of their senses.  When you think about baby play, think, “How can I introduce their environment to them in a new way? How can they see, hear, feel, smell or taste something new or different?”.  When you engage their senses through talking, reading, singing and playing as a result more connections and development occurs.

One of the most powerful and engaging forms of “play” with a newborn is using your beautiful voice through talking, reading and singing.  But, these 8 Simple and Engaging Play Ideas listed below, will give you a chance to rest your voice and have a cup of coffee.  While these ideas don’t require any direct participation from you, your care and undivided attention are always required.

Check out these easy and engaging play ideas for newborns, below.

1. The Sensory Bag

This is such a versatile activity and can be tailored to any age baby. 

What you’ll need : Gallon Ziploc Bag, Fillers: Water, Ice, Beans, Rice – go crazy and use your imagination!  I recommend you add something fun & colorful such as pom-poms, glitter, beads, etc.  Make sure to avoid sharp objects that might pierce the bag or hurt little fingers.  

For 0-4 Months, tape the bag down on the floor with durable tape (like duct tape ) for tummy time. For a sitter or stander, tape the bag to the wall or door and they can play in sitting or standing position.  Photo @acraftyliving

Baby playing tummy with a sensory bag on floor

2. Black & White Cards

What You’ll Need : White paper or card stock & a black a Sharpie

Draw shapes, stripes and designs on the white cards – you can paste these cards on a tissue box or shoe box so they stand independently OR just prop them up for something interesting & engaging to look at during tummy time. 

Pro tip:  You can download free templates from Pinterest and print them out!  Easy peasy!!  Or use any high contrast books that you have!

3. The Book Circle

What You’ll Need : Board Books!

In tummy time, place books around your baby in a semicircle.  This is something fun and engaging to look at (encourages visual tracking, as well trunk & neck rotation).

4. Ribbons or Loofah hanging from Play Gym

What You’ll Need : Ribbon or bath loofahs, Play Gym.

Tie colorful ribbons or loofahs to the play gym so they hang down right in front of the baby.  They will have fun grabbing and swatting at these fun objects.  Photo @littlelifelonglearners

Baby laying back under a play gym with loofahs hanging down

5. White Lights in a Box

What You’ll Need :  A Cardboard box, white lights, a knife or screwdriver.

Cut off one side of the box to create a nice open environment.  Then use a knife or screw driver to make little holes in the top of the box.  Poke the lights through the top of the box.  Photo @lovevery

This is a very stimulating and engaging environment for your sweet baby.

Baby laying on her back in a box looking up at white lights

6. Mirror Play

What You’ll Need : A mirror & some toys.

Baby’s LOVE looking at themselves!  Place the mirror on the floor with some different toys and let your baby play on their tummy.   Photo @babyplayhacks

Baby playing stomach playing on a mirror with toys

7. Balloon on the Foot

What You’ll Need : A helium balloon, string or ribbon, and cute baby.

Tie the balloon to your baby’s foot and watch them kick and play & learn the very beginning stages of cause & effect – babies LOVE this!

Photo @literacyforlittles

Baby laying on back with a balloon tied to her foot

8. Ducks in a Pan

What You’ll Need : A shallow plastic bin or cookie sheet – rubber duckys or any rubber bath toys, play mat and a towel.

This is a great activity to extend tummy time – they can splash in the water, grab at the ducks and just have a great sensory experience.  Close supervision required. Photo @littlelifelonglearners

Baby on tummy play with water and rubber duckys

These easy play ideas for newborns will help lengthen and make tummy time more enjoyable. They create loads of sensory output and neural connections for your babe as well as entertain and delight. Win/Win! Please click on each of the photos to checkout some of our favorite play accounts on Instagram.

Remember, keep it SIMPLE, keep it EASY and PLAY ON!

If you’d like more simple and easy play ideas you can download 25 of them here.

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