Simple Sensory Newborn Baby Play - Rub & Clap

newborn baby play from a pediatric OT.

If you're like most new parents, at some point you'll find yourself in a brief lull between diaper changes and laundry and feeding and burping and you'll wonder something along the lines of...

What can I do WITH my baby

when I'm not doing FOR my baby? 

Perfect for when youre not sure what to do with your baby.

Playing with an infant doesn't come naturally to most new parents. Until baby can hold toys and sit up, it can be tough to think of ways to have fun and interact and can be very easy to leave your little one in Baby Holding Devices for most of her awake time.

I'm excited to share with you baby play activities that I've used in my work as a pediatric Occupational Therapist and in my own home with my babies. Here's a super simple way to interact with your little one from the first week of life until...well, my toddler is still enjoying this one! Which also makes it a great game to play with siblings and new babies.

Rub & Clap Play

This is a fun way to interact with baby that gives her lots of sensory input to her skin (tactile sensory input) and to the pressure and stretch receptors in her muscles and joints (proprioceptive sensory input) as you rub and clap her hands and feet together. You'll also give her brain simultaneous information from the left and right sides of her body, which is great for developing communication between the two sides of her brain. 

Through “play” (movement and interaction with surroundings) your baby is developing a mental map of her body.

This mental map is the foundation for alllll the milestones to come. So get playing, friends!

Child development nerd tip: If your little one is a few weeks old, you might notice that it's hard to make eye contact with your baby even though you're facing each other. That's because newborns haven't yet developed the ability to hold their head in the middle. Typically we see this ability to hold the head steady in the center around 2-3 months of age.  As I discuss at length in The Flat Head Syndrome Fix, it's important to notice if your little one prefers to turn her head in one direction more than the other. Catching and addressing minor asymmetries like this early can prevent head flattening and more significant muscle tightness. 

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