After the initial excitement of bringing home a newborn fades, you might find yourself wondering…what do you do all day with a baby? Since most infants don’t start crawling or even sitting up on their own until after six months, it’s not always easy to think of activities for them. For the most part, all an infant that young needs is to be loved, fed, and kept safe. There are no particular toys you have to buy, or skills they need to intentionally practice. Still, it can make your life more fun to try out different activities, and give your baby some extra stimulation in the process.
Below are some ideas for what to do with your baby based on my own experiences and those of other parents. These tips are tailored to 4-6-month-olds, but infants vary widely in their development and temperament, so younger or older babies may still enjoy them, and it may take some trial-and-error to figure out what yours responds to most.
To that end, here are six easy, no pressure ways to bond with your baby:
1. Create surprising sounds and movements with household objects
You can’t underestimate how exciting ordinary things can be to a baby. The simplest change to their day-to-day, like a new object, or even an old object moved or used in a new way, is a source of novelty. I’ve often found that shaking things or moving them quickly in front of a baby can get a squeal out of them. Once, I shook a bag of pistachio shells in front of our baby, and she went absolutely nuts (pun intended). You could try shaking a can of coffee beans, or a bag of coins, or dangle a wind chime over their head. Even just scratching or tapping on surfaces with your own fingernails might be interesting. (A form of baby ASMR, perhaps?)
2. Toys that make sounds are a big hit
Our baby’s favorite toy in her first six months, hands down, was soft “baby crinkle paper,” which you can buy for less than $15. It’s also small, light, and easy to throw into a diaper bag. Rattles and music toys were also a big hit. Basically, anything that makes sounds—especially if babies can control those sounds themselves.
This PB&J inspired toy is perfect for engaging your baby on-the-go and at home. It features a peanut butter and jelly jar with a rattle, textured plastic grapes and peanuts, and more.
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3. Put on a variety show
Okay, maybe not an actual variety show…but a makeshift one that consists of you doing Zumba to a YouTube workout video, or just dancing and signing while you cook. I’m a big fan of any bonding activity that doubles as a way to get things done for yourself. If a baby is happy to be strapped into a bouncer for a while, it can sometimes work to multitask by getting in some cardio or cleaning while periodically making eye contact with them (and maybe some silly faces while you’re at it).
4. Take tours of your home
When you look at your home through your baby’s eyes, there may be a lot more to stop and admire, from a leafy houseplant you can help them touch, to a floor length mirror that’s fun to sit in front of, to a laundry basket or empty diaper box they can sit in while you nudge them around the floor. Curious Baby Activity Cards gave me the idea to create a “magic carpet ride” by pulling a baby (slowly) along the floor. Others love wearing their babies in a carrier on their chest or back as they do chores. Once they’re crawling, babies sometimes like following you as you slowly walk or drag a broom or Swiffer along the floor.
5. Video chat with relatives
While experts generally advise against “screen time” like TV and tablets for infants, research suggests that the one exception is video chatting with loved ones. Because the person on the other side of the call is engaging and responding, children process the conversation differently than they do TV. On the caregiver’s side, it can help you pass the time while catching up with a friend or relative.
6. Take them out on the town
Before our baby was walking, parents would often advise me to take advantage of the fact that going out to restaurants is easier when a child is still immobile. If you’re parenting a newborn, you might be thinking, “Easy…? ‘Scuse me?”, and of course, it depends on the child, but I did find that our baby often enjoyed being carted around at that stage. Before they turned 6 months, we had gone to a botanical garden, several museums, many cafés, and even one cross-country flight. Even if an outing proved a bit of a disaster, it was worth it to me to get out of the house, and I’d like to think our baby enjoyed the change of scenery as well.