Q: What are the best ways to play with a 1-month-old baby?
A: It may not look like it, but babies are born playful. Even though a 1-month-old may not interact much, there's a lot you can do to stimulate your baby and lay the groundwork for future play. Because their vision is still pretty fuzzy (your baby can see just beyond arm's length), babies this age are most interested in Mom and Dad's faces, simple black-and-white drawings and geometric pictures (for contrast), and toys that are easy to grasp and that make noise, such as thin, smooth rings and rattles.
At this early stage the best game may simply be interacting with you, so hold your baby up close to your face (so she can focus) and have a nice chat. Talk and sing even when you're busy with other household chores, since he'll learn to track you by sight and sound. Tummy time is another great opportunity for play. Roll a colorful, noisy ball in front of your baby or shake a rattle to encourage him to turn his head, which will boost neck strength. Who knows, you may even spark a smile soon enough.
Just be sure not to overdo it. As long as your baby is happy and engaged, then let the play continue, but if she becomes fussy, it's time to stop and enjoy some quiet time, offer to breastfeed, or put him down for a nap. --Jennifer Halpern, PhD
Originally published in the November 1999 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009.