Thursday, October 12, 2023

Playing for Milestones at 3 Months

Now that baby is starting to master bottle feeding, sleeping, and eye gaze, many parents start to wonder about the next milestones. In this post, we'll discuss those milestones and cover some FUN ways to help baby achieve them.

At three months, babies average 14 to 17 hours of sleep daily! Some may sleep up to seven hours at night, and nap two to three times a day. They typically eat every two to four hours, some lasting longer at night. Here's a quick list of what else baby may do at this age: 

Bring hands to mouth
Turn in direction of a sound
LOL. Yes, baby may surprise you by laughing out loud. Can you resist laughing back? So ADORBS.
Roll from tummy to back (usually by surprise)
Lift head 90 degrees while laying on tummy
Start stringing together vowel sounds -- Ahhhh, Oooo!
Grasp presented toys that are easy to hold on to 
Enjoy looking at pictures as you turn pages to read to baby (If baby can stay awake!)

And how can you help baby at this stage?

  • Hugs! Studies show that hugs help with cognitive development, so give baby all the hugs!
  • Provide play times with baby gyms, mats, and sensory toys (music, lights, voice, movement) that respond to baby's touch and movement
  • Sing songs to baby, using different voice tones, and give some fun surprise endings
  • Raspberries (not to eat, but you know, blowing those vibrating lips on baby's hands, cheeks, neck, tummy. . . it's a tickle and a kiss all in one)
  • Help baby clap hands, especially to a song or rhyme
  • Take baby outside to see new things
  • Tummy time, help baby reach for toy from prone position
  • Lay baby on a play mat to reach for items and to kick freely or at an object/toy
  • Provide a child safe mirror for baby to see him/herself
  • Provide mobile or other interesting item for where you lay baby (swing, crib, mat on floor) 
  • Entice baby to interest in the things you've provided and play together

Friday, October 18, 2019


It's simple to us. We feel hungry. We grab a bite and eat it. 

We may take it for granted, but for a newborn, eating is a huge accomplishment! 

We see it happen so naturally in newborns, it seems simple. Newborn puppies find their mama’s teat before they can open their eyes, latch on and feed instinctively. Newborn humans typically need to be fed within the first hour of birth. Off they go, it's a 


Thanks to

If you're lucky, all will go well with those mealtimes. You'll be looking for ways to make meaningful, bonding, quality times. Here are some suggestions to support fun during these mealtime frenzies:

  • Set the feeding area up for comfort! Bring a pillow or two nearby in case you need a quick adjustment. Don’t forget the remote control, a drink and perhaps a snack for yourself. Create a place you can prop your feet up.
  • Set the mood with appropriate lighting and sound. Music is preferable to television, as it frees you to watch baby and respond to her signs during the meal. However, this is not the time to play blaring rap or heavy metal music. Music with a steady rhythm is shown to be calming, whereas irregular rhythm (like jazz) stimulates the nervous system. If you do watch television, be aware of what you’re watching while feeding your baby. If the show is suspenseful (yes, baby feels your body tension) or even just too loud, baby won’t be able to maintain the right alertness level. Perhaps you think baby sleeps through these loud or scary shows, so it doesn’t matter. Newborns will fall asleep if they are OVER-AROUSED as easily  as if they are tired. You don’t want to over-arouse baby, and you don’t want to put baby to sleep during mealtime. Adjust the environment to find the just-right stimulation that supports baby’s ability to calmly complete mealtime.

  • If you’re inclined to hum or sing, go ahead! Mealtime is a good time to do the things that support your happiness and help baby feel happy, too. Watch baby’s body and face for signs of contentment. Enjoy them together. A recent scientific study found that mother's voice helps normalize (ie., modulate) baby's arousal state. If baby's stressed, it calms. If baby's too groggy, it alerts. Find this study here.

  • Interact with eye contact and facial expression as suits the two of you. At first, newborns cannot establish eye to eye gaze, but they may try to focus on your face briefly. This develops readily in the first couple of months, so it won’t be long until baby wants to engage with you eye to eye. These times can really touch your heart. Smiles start to be shared, as do other facial expressions, even during feeding. These back and forth playful exchanges of love and contentment are super-healthy—for both of you! If you're uncomfortable with eye contact, now is the time to get some practice for yourself! Baby won't judge you, so go ahead and give it a try. 
Thanks to
Sweet baby gazing time!

But sometimes things aren't so simple. If you're having any trouble with mealtime, read on. . . 

Photo courtesy of

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Playing with Baby Builds Strong Connections

How do you play with a tiny infant? Is it important?

Many people seem to think that all tiny babies do is eat, sleep and decorate their diapers! Though this is much of what we observe, another important milestone forms in early infancy:


Healthy attachment between parents, caregivers and baby directly correlates to the child's social and emotional development later in life--according to many experts in the Infant Mental Health (IMH) field.*

But how does attachment happen? Fortunately, most of it comes naturally with parental instinct! Our nurture instincts lead us to create a place of safety, warmth and comfort for baby. We're naturally wired to respond to baby's signals when she needs feeding, changing, or rest. Yet many new parents wonder how to connect with baby, especially when baby doesn't yet maintain good eye contact, smile or return facial expressions. So, here we will mention again--


Here are a couple of suggestions for playful interactions and strategies that help build attachment (and thereby, good learning and development) for infants.

Look, Look Away

This game is a pre-cursor to Peek-a-boo. Here's how to play:

  1. Before baby can maintain eye gaze or track you around the room, watch for times when she seems to be in a quiet-alert state
  2. Bring your face closer to hers until she seems to gaze at you. She may not discern your eyes for eye-to-eye contact, but that's okay. 
  3. Smile and speak comfortingly about anything that comes to mind (hopefully positive things like, "Hi Sweetheart, I'm so glad to see you!" or "Here's Mama (Dada, Nana, whichever), I'm right here. . . I'm here for you."). 
  4. Then move your head from baby's midline slightly off to one side, then to the other. This slight movement helps baby begin to recognize that she can track you in her visual field by moving her head to maintain contact. 
  5. Watch all along for baby diverting her gaze. When she looks away, you look away. Pull your face back a bit to give her a rest. 
  6. When she looks back toward you, move in again to play the game again.
  7. Play this game with her in short spurts throughout each day. As she improves her focus and tracking skills, you'll notice she also improves her tracking skills and begins to imitate some of your facial gestures!
Heads Up!

This game helps strengthen attachment between you and baby, as well as strengthen baby's head control. Here's how to play:

  1. Before baby can hold his head up, provide him with head support in all positions and transitions. 
  2. When baby is in that calm-alert state, hold baby with his head on your shoulder but fully able to rest against your shoulder in an upright or slightly reclined position.
  3. Sit or stand up so that you're not resting back against the chair, and gently bounce baby up and down (while still secure in your arms against you) about 3-10 times (depending on baby's response). You want the bounces to be small and quick. This movement stimulates baby's muscles to activate.
  4. Observe for baby's response of starting to hold his own head more erect for a second or so. You may say, "Heads Up!" or "Time for Head Up!"
  5. Rest and praise baby for being so strong. 
  6. Repeat a few times throughout each day.
  7. As baby strengthens head control, be sure to only very gradually reduce your support for his head. Respecting his gradual changes and adjusting your level of stimulation, challenge and rest times builds both strength and attachment.

As baby grows he'll be ready to lift his head to turn it from side to side while on his belly, and then eventually to raise his head, propped on his forearms while laying on his belly. To promote this, you can play the same game but with baby laying on his belly on the bed, crosswise, and you kneeling on the floor right next to him, so your faces are level when he lifts his head to look at you!

Have you found a way to interact in a playful, fun manner with your newborn? Please share!


*Links to sources for this assumption follow:<428::AID-IMHJ2>3.0.CO;2-B


All photos today are courtesy of creative commons!

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Playing from the Start

It's true--when kids play, they learn. 

Think peek-a-boo, when infants start to learn that people exist even though gone from view. Think building blocks, where little ones begin some basic physics lessons on their own. Skip forward to the Alphabet Song, in which the fun of singing a rhyme makes all the difference in memorizing a sequence of 26 letters. These are just a few examples of the countless ways play is the way a child learns.

This blog is dedicated to sharing various ideas and resources to help us (the grown-ups) facilitate play as we teach our children.

But first, a word of caution. For play to truly be play, it must be voluntary to the child. Intrinsic motivation to play is essential. If we overly construct play, or impose it as mandatory, we lose the therapeutic nature of play. As adults, we can present playful activities and ideas. We can playfully invite, begin and even demonstrate activities. Ultimately, the child has the choice: to engage or not. The child may engage and then change our playful plans. We must sometimes abandon plan A, plan B, and even plan C, and simply follow the child's lead. These become opportunities for the child to teach us. When this happens, it's the best connection of all.

So, with the basic framework laid, let's get started!

We'll begin in a natural place: at the beginning. 👶This first section of posts will feature playful ideas and strategies to enjoy with baby even while in the womb or newborn. Here goes!

Won't you feel silly reading baby books to your baby while she's still inside you! Imagine that. You're sitting alone on a bench at the park, reading aloud to yourself, using your finest melodic tone of voice. They'll think you've gone batty! Who cares? Read with gusto, emotion and energy. Relish each word, each sensory experience and joy. Your baby is learning! The secret benefit--you'll feel better, too.

We know babies need swaddling. We know they need holding, feeding, and changing. We know they need us to interpret their stress signs so they get enough rest and time to adjust. When all the essentials are covered, they need play! This play activity helps baby develop body awareness, and supports auditory and tactile processing. You can do this activity while holding baby or when baby lays on the changing table, or even while you sit in front of baby and baby's resting in his cushion or infant seat.

Simply engage with baby, smiling and talking in your special style. Playfully teach baby the names of his basic body parts while you touch, tap or gently massage them. Risk being sing-song with your voice, perhaps singing the "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes" song, but adjusted to baby's tolerance level for volume, rate and tone. Then swaddle him back up and give him a gentle squeeze while you rock him, perhaps continuing to hum the song for a bit.

The link for the above song takes you to an amazing resource you'll want to explore, from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. Here's their main page:
Kids Environment Kids Health

NOW IT'S YOUR TURN! In the comments section, please share your experiences, links and resources so we'll have plenty of learning play ideas for infancy. Remember to like and follow the blog, and share it with others! Together, we'll fill the world with happy, well-loved children, who grow into happy, well-adjusted adults. We can make a difference in the future, and THE WAY IS PLAY!