We’ve gotten this question quite a few times this past year, specifically from new dads who are unsure about what to do or how to play with their newborn.
To be honest, this is an interesting question to answer. For one, the definition of “fun” is completely subjective. Second, most “fun” activities we’re asked about depend on developmental skills that babies won’t acquire for months or even years. For example, you may not be able to toss your baby into the air safely until they develop good head and neck control (3 months). A child can’t properly throw a ball until they have appropriate trunk and shoulder stability (12-18 months), or catch a ball until they have appropriate hand-eye coordination, motor planning, and body/spatial awareness (2-3 years).
Perhaps a better question is:
How can I share similar interests with my baby?
Form a bond with baby –Bonding helps your child develop a sense of emotional attachment and security with you. Ways to bond would be during tummy time play, reading aloud to them, taking them out for a walk, bathing/diaper changing; pretty much any time you are with that baby, you are bonding. You just need to find that time.
Don’t wait until your child is in the toddler/school-aged stage to spend one-on-one time with them. This can be difficult if your kid is starting to show parental preference (which is normal), but don’t take it personally.
Expose them to your interests – At birth, babies are like sponges, soaking up all the sensory information around them to make sense of it all. That means you can expose them to whatever interests you have or activities you do. So, if you like baseball, watch a game with them on your lap. Talk to them about the sport, even if they may not understand it. Show them a baseball or a glove and let them interact with it. Find kids board books, shows, or movies about a baseball/softball player they can identify with. Eventually, as they age, the experiences will all come together and hold a special meaning in your relationship.
Build a foundation for fun – The first year is a whirlwind of baby milestone achievements. This is a great opportunity to work on the motor, language, and cognitive skills they’ll need to participate in activities with you later. Starting at 2 months, engage their attention and visual skills by tracking toys with their eyes. Work on rolling around 3-4 months so it improves their strength, coordination, and balance. Talk to them and do facial expressions that will encourage vocalizations and social interactions at 3 months of age. Really think about the building blocks needed for kids to physically play. Don’t try to rush them, but be an active role model to help them figure it out.
We understand how powerful the Field of Dreams “throwing the ball around with dad” idea is, but it doesn’t just happen overnight. You really do have to start small. And even though these developmental steps may not be as exciting or as mentally stimulating for you, for your kid, it’s larger than life.