Month 1: Top 10 Sensory Activities for your Newborn


6 min read

As an Occupational Therapist and a Mom I have put together top activities for your newborn baby. These activities will focus on strengthening their cognitive (mind) and motor (movement) development.

Hello world! My name is Josh or at least I believe that’s what it is as my mom and dad keep calling me that. I was a little stressed when I got my eviction notice. It was a friendly notice that it’s time to meet mom and dad face to face. I must say, the nice cozy and warm bubble I called home for 9 months was getting cramped.
So this month has been an eye opener. Everything is so bright and loud. My eyes have a mind of their own as they keep darting in different directions. Living here is a little tough. All I want to do is to cuddle with mom and dad. Things still don’t always go my way… the other day I accidentally peed in my mouth. Yuk! I really don’t know what that thing is doing!
I enjoy when mom and dad take me outside for a walk. Obviously I hang there strapped to dad’s hairy chest. When inside I hang out in my zoo (play mat) and occasionally dad takes me flying … ohh and let’s not forget tummy time. Oh yeah! It’s not always fun as my head doesn’t follow my directions . Maybe when I get stronger it will be under my full command.
Ok… off to sleep I go. Talk to you next month.
— Lots of smiles, Josh

I hope you enjoyed Josh’s 1st month story. Birth is a huge event that changes everything. This parenting thing will be a roller coaster of emotions for parents and the baby. Hang in there mom & dad.  You got this!!

Development: Newborn

Newborn Palmar reflex
Newborn Palmar reflex

As a new parent, the 1st month can become a bit of a haze. Taking on the role of a parent takes time. Here are a few things that your newborn will be doing in their 1st month:

  • Sleep, sleep and more sleep. Newborns can sleep up to 15 or 16 hours a day.
  • Your newborn is born with many survival reflexes. As they mature, these newborn reflexes are replaced with more purposeful ones. Examples of few survival reflexes include:
    • a suck-swallow reflex that helps him feed,
    • a palmar grasp which allows your child to squeeze your finger that you place in his palm.
  • They have weak neck strength and they can’t support their head while upright.
  • Your newborn can see up to 8 to 12 inches away and loves to look at human faces.
  • They also like to look at high contrast objects.
  • Your newborn is able to recognize familiar voices.
  • They cry to communicate. Take a look at The Happiest Baby on the Block to learn how to deal with this form of communication.

Activities for your newborn

The never-ending cycle of feeding, changing diapers and sleep can get exhausting pretty fast. But when your child is available for activities don’t skip on it. Make the most of this time. These sensory activities will help to ensure a healthy development both mentally and physically.

Here are top 10 activities for the 1st month of your baby’s life. These activities have been tried and tested. They will also support your baby’s healthy development.

1. Tummy time

Tummy time activity for newborn
Josh doing his daily Tummy time activity

This is an important activity for your baby. It helps to build coordination and strengthens your baby’s neck, shoulders, arms and trunk. These muscles help with the motor skills such as rolling over, crawling, pulling self up and sitting up. Read more about Tummy Time with your newborn.

2. Face to face time

Activity for newborn: Face to face time
Josh and I Face to face time

Research has identified that infants have shown preference for looking at human faces. They enjoy looking at open eyes and smiling faces. So take that time to look at your baby, smile at your baby. Make funny faces and noises. Be creative and follow your little ones cues to what they enjoy.

3. Cuddle time

Activities for newborn: Cuddle time
Cuddle time with Josh as he sleeps

I love my cuddle time with my son. You can cuddle with your newborn and watch that beautiful bond grow between the two of you. There are many benefits to holding and cuddling with your baby. It helps to boost healthy psychological and physical development. Babies who get frequent cuddling tend to sleep better, manage stress more easily and have better autonomic functions such as heart rate and temperature. Make sure that your partner gets on the cuddling action to also help them develop a bond.

For more information on cuddle time I recommend you read The Effect of Human Contact on Newborn Babies.

4. Singing to your newborn

Everything goes here. Whether these include nursery rhymes or songs that you make up on the go. You can include them while you are cuddling, walking, changing their diaper or giving them a bath. Singing can be used to sooth, entertain and create that special bond. It is also a great start to their language development. Bonus!

5. Talking to your newborn

Activities for newborn: Daddy talking with Josh
Daddy talking with Josh

This lays down the foundations for language development. It doesn’t matter what you say just that you talk to them in a clear and concise manner. What to say?

  • You can narrate your cooking process in the kitchen, or
  • Describe all that is around you when you take them for a walk.

Feel free to also use the high pitch voice which newborns are drawn to. Just make sure you don’t mispronounce words to avoid any speech difficulties in the future. For more information, here are few websites worth looking over:

6. Massage

This is such an amazing activity that has a wide range of benefits. The latest research shows that infant massage helps with the parent-baby bond development. Just like adults, it also helps them get more relaxed and sleep better. Massaging stimulates the development of their main systems. Those include the nervous system, circulatory system, respiratory system, elimination system and immune system. It also helps with pain relief. Here is a video that lists the Benefits of Infant Massage: https://www.youtube.com/watch?t=104&v=RkIalx53qVM

When my son was born I completed a massage class to learn how to massage him properly. But, with YouTube, you can find plenty of resources with tips on how to do this. You don’t need to attend a class. It’s not that hard.

7. Lay him on his back

Laying on the back
Laying on the back

I wrote a lot about tummy time before, but playing with your baby while they are on their back is also important. Newborns have no concept of what their arms and legs are. By laying him down on his back he will have the opportunity to explore his hands and feet. This helps with eye hand and eye foot coordination. You can encourage his interest by playing games with his arms and feet.

For example:

  • Playing ‘this little piggy’ and counting his toes.
  • For hands you can sing a finger song such as ‘Tommy Thumb’ and massage each finger as you sing.

Basically any game or song that includes moving his arms and legs will suffice.

8. Movement

Give your newborn opportunity to be moved in different directions. This can be done in many different ways. You can rock or lift your baby (up, down, side to side, round and round). You can:

  • Move your baby fast and slow. Make sure you stop every minute or so to let his body register the movements and to make sure your baby is not over stimulated.
  • You can carry your baby in a sling or a baby carrier (ensure you use appropriate head support). Movement helps with the development of their vestibular system, which is responsible for the awareness of our body in space.

9. Bicycle ride

This activity involves placing your newborn on his back and moving your baby’s legs in a bicycle motion. It helps to ease any gas from the tummy and tone their muscles to prepare for crawling and walking.

10. Going for a walk outside

This is a great activity that has many benefits for you and your baby. Both of you will get the much needed Vitamin D. You get exercise. Your baby will get an opportunity to stimulate their other senses by seeing, hearing and feeling the wind on their face.

I really hope that you find these activities useful. Have fun and enjoy building their foundations.

Remember: Each baby develops at their own pace. If your child is not ready or not interested in these months’ activities, just try them again in a few weeks.

~ Urszula

Disclaimer: The activities in this blog are intended for sensory play. They are not a replacement for treatment of children with Sensory Processing Disorder, are not medical advice and should not be used in place of the care of a medical doctor or other qualified healthcare professional. These activities should be facilitated and supervised by an adult. All activities are to be performed at your own risk and in no event shall Sensory Lifestyle be liable for any damages.

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