One of the things I Googled most in the first few weeks after having my son was how to entertain a newborn, or what to “do” with a newborn when they’re awake. It might sound somewhat pathetic but I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one.
Babies are… Well I wouldn’t say boring per se, but let’s face it, it’s quite hard to interact with them. They can’t hold anything, they can’t talk, they can’t move around by themselves, and they aren’t particularly communicative in general, so when you’re new to it all and have no idea what to do, it’s easy to feel at a loss.
My son is just under 3 months old and spends a looot of time awake – throughout the day his naps tend to be very short and his wake windows are long. Earlier on, I would feel as though I’m not doing enough or worry if I’m doing too much, and would get concerned that he’s spending so much time awake. But as long as he’s calm and happy, then I guess I must be doing something right, so I thought I’d share some of my favourite “activities” which have worked really well for us.
The best thing about them is that they require little to no equipment and very little effort – which is perfect because preserving energy is great when sleep deprived, right? 😀
So anyway, here they are:
1. Talking to him – All. The. Time.
I don’t get baby-talk. It’s just not for me. I don’t have it in me to look at my son and say “googoo gaagaa” or any other gibberish crap. What I am good at, though, is talking (we all know I’m a chatterbox) – which is actually GREAT for babies because it helps enhance their understanding of language and communication and is just beneficial for their cognitive development altogether.
Having said that, I do, of course, speak slowly, in a higher pitch, and in a sort of sing-songy tone. And when Ben oohs and aahs, I always repeat the sounds he makes, because I’ve read that it’s also highly beneficial for them to hear their sounds repeated, and it encourages them to keep trying. He’s discovering lots of new sounds lately and it’s beautiful to watch him get excited over it.
So how do I speak to him? I tell him what I’m doing, I explain everything that he’s looking at, I tell him how much I love him and that I will still love him when he’s a grumpy teenager who’s too cool to like his mum, I apologise when I lose my patience and explain that mummy is a human too and doesn’t always get it right but I promise that I’m doing my best. So pretty much anything and everything. And when he’s chatty, I always give him time to “respond”, as though we’re having a conversation.
I also love making up songs and rhymes about what we’re doing, for example, when giving him a bath or changing his nappy. It helps to keep him entertained (he used to hate them and now absolutely LOVES them) – so I try to keep them as animated as possible.
2. Reading to him
As though I don’t talk to him enough, I also read to him plenty! I have a selection of sensory, counting, and story books and I read about 4 a day to him. And I don’t just read them either – sometimes when he’s very alert or just generally excited about the book, I also explain everything that we can see in the pictures.
Reading to babies is extremely beneficial for them, and even though it may seem silly or awkward at first, it’s actually great fun and so beautiful to watch them get intrigued and excited by it.
3. Making Faces and Sounds
I know I said I don’t do the baby talk thing, but I do love watching his reaction to the different sounds I make for him, ranging from high pitched lip trills, tongue clicks, and blowing raspberries to (very crappy) beatboxing and pretty much anything else I can think of.
I also love mimicking his many facial expressions and wiggling my eyebrows, pulling out my tongue, and giving loads of huge beaming smiles – maybe even over a game of peekaboo. He always gives me a big bright smile back, so clearly he enjoys it too. 🙂
4. Exercise & Dancing
Some baby exercises are more than just a great way to keep them occupied, but they’re also helpful for them. Cycling their legs can help relieve gas, and tummy time or helping them to sit up can help strengthen their muscles. I’ve made up some lame songs for these too and he loves them. He also loves it when I make him dance, moving his arms to the beat or just wiggling around.
And there’s loads of exercises you can do with a baby too – keeps them entertained (or the movement might even put them to sleep) and they make for great weights. My current go-tos are squats, overhead lifts, or some plain ol’ dancing around to my favourite songs. This works whether he’s calm or fussy, and even helps to keep me calm when he’s fussy, so it’s a win-win! 😀
NB: Don’t do any of these too soon after a feed. Take it from me. 🙂
5. Music & Singing
When it comes to choosing the music for both dancing around or singing to him, I don’t even feel bad to say that we hardly ever put on nursery rhymes. I do put some on occasionally, or The (Original) Wiggles, but most of the time it’s my own personal playlist which includes blues, gospel, rock, pop, musical theatre, and indie music.
Ben absolutely loves it when I sing to him, and it often gets him chatting too, almost like he’s trying to join in. His absolute favourite song for me to sing to him is Agadoo by Black Lace, which came about from him making an “agaa” sound. Because I am who I am. 😂 But hey, it works!
I wonder if he’ll be a singer too. ❤
6. Showing him around
Ben loves being walked with, and loooves observing his surroundings, so we like to walk around the house slowly and stop by a few of his favourite spots, which include mirrors, frames, plants, and other ornaments. There’s one particular plant – actually a specific branch on one of our ZZ plants, that he absolutely adores for some reason. It’s even stopped him from crying. No idea what’s so incredible about it but he just loves to look at it, and sometimes I spice things up by poking it and making it wobble a bit.
7. Eye Contact
When he’s calm, I love to just lay him down or hold him on me and make eye contact with him. He could stare into my eyes for ages – and it’s so easy to get carried away watching tv or using my phone, so I make the effort to forget everything and just gaze back at him, while smiling and stroking his face or holding his hand, and maybe even speaking or singing to him quietly. Makes for some pretty special bonding time. ❤
8. Help Develop his Fine Motor Skills
Another thing I enjoy doing when he’s calm but alert and focussed is working on fine motor skills like following moving objects with his eyes and head, and touching and grabbing different textures. I hold up soft toys, comforters, a baby mirror, my hands, or have him look at me or anything else (like his beloved zamioculcas) and move from side to side slowly allowing him to follow.
For feeling different textures, I give him things like comforters, sensory toys, teething rings, muslin cloths, blankets, my fingers, or anything else that’ll fit in his tiny hands for him to feel and hold onto. His favourite thing to grab, of course, is my hair, which I far from encourage, but he always seems to find a way. 🙃
9. Bath time
Since Ben loves bath time so much, we try to milk it as much as possible – and though I wouldn’t exactly consider it to be entertainment per se, it’s become a major part of his bedtime routine and a sort of family activity which we all enjoy and look forward to. We currently bathe him every other day and I end it with a mini baby massage. It’s the perfect way to get him nice and relaxed before his last feed, and it’s always filled with lots of smiles. 🙂
The way I see it, it’s much easier to entertain a bored baby than to calm an overstimulated one, so I tend to go with the “less is more” approach. Especially since he spends so much time awake, I no longer try to keep him occupied all the time.
Sometimes I just sit him on my lap and read my own book or take a scroll through social media, chat with friends, or watch tv. And that’s okay. Considering that I do all of the above and more, I don’t even feel bad about taking some time to myself with him on me, especially since I’ll be busy catching up with housework and other more important things in the few minutes that he sleeps.
He likes to be on me or near me, so keeping him in the pram, baby gym, or high chair for more than a few minutes isn’t particularly an option, and he hates being in the sling – so I need to get creative sometimes. I love holding him and spending all this time with him though, and I know that it won’t be long before it all changes and he no longer relies on me for comfort.
So those are some of my favourite things to do with Ben. The days can be long, tiring, and lonely, but doing all of this helps to make them a bit easier.
I hope you found these interesting or maybe even helpful! Let me know if you did, and be sure to share your favourite things to do with your little ones!
Until next time,