Parent Question:  I'm doing the play, eat, and sleep routine well with my two month old. I have the eat and sleep part of the equation down pat now, but I really don't know what I'm supposed to do the play part of the trilogy. I want to know how to best stimulate my baby's development with play but don't have any idea how? Can you help? 

Thanks for your question it is one of the most misunderstood parts when it comes to newborn babies.  Just by the very word ‘play’ you logically think it means that you need to have some great ideas and strategies to stimulate your baby in a way that will satisfy, stimulate and promote their development.  In fact it is this very word ‘play’ that leads to a great deal of confusion for parents and ends in very overtired babies.

I explain to parents in quite a depth at my expectant parent workshops just what the play part of the equation is.  For a baby of 0 – 6 weeks there is in fact ‘ NO PLAY TIME AT ALL’!  Life for a 0 – 6-week-old baby is feed - sleep; feed - sleep; feed - sleep;

From 6 weeks onwards ‘play’ basically consists of 10 minutes and no more of talking to you and making social contact.  If you are lucky you may get this time just before a feed and this is quite precious as your baby is well rested and at their optimal mood for a chat.  Interestingly enough this is usually girls rather than boys interested in chatting even at 6 weeks.  If your baby demands to go straight to a feed, usually boys, more interested in having a full tummy before a chat even at 6 weeks, then chat time aka play time is after a feed.

A colleague and friend of mine, Dr. Brian Symons promotes this ‘chat’ time as happy awake time.  He describes this to parents as time up, when they are happy and it certainly has an end.  Then end is when they tire, grizzle, yawn, rub their eyes, or become restless.  Act straight away to put your baby to bed with a little wind down time first.

The best book I can direct you to and one of only two I recommend for the first 6 months of life is Baby Talk by Dr. Sally Ward.  Sally has brilliant, simple yet groundbreaking ideas and strategies of ‘play’ for babies from birth to 4 years of age.  As your baby gets older their awake time increases and then you have more time to introduce formal or more structured play.  However, I would not really recommend that you need to do any ‘formal play’ for at least the first 3 months – 12 weeks.  Having time to bond, connect, chat and smile with you and other family a member is all that is needed.  Enjoy this time.

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