How to Entertain a Newborn

One of the best-and only-ways to play with your newborn is through stimulus-response games, where you present him with various objects or sensations and wait for a reaction. And, yes-staring blankly is considered a reaction. The following games focus on sensory development:

Newborns' eyes can focus best on objects ten to twelve inches away from their faces, and they can't see colors.

Clubs and Spades
Get a deck of cards, separate out the clubs and spades, and hold them in front of your baby's face. Slowly fan them out, bring them back in, and fan them out again. Show him a royal flush and see if his poker face holds.

Hearing is fully developed in newborns, and they seem to prefer high-pitched voices to low ones, which is presumably why people use baby talk.

Sound Tracking
On one side of the baby, crinkle a bag, shake a can of nuts, and jingle your keys until he turns his head to the sound, then do the same on the other side.

Touch is the first sense that starts developing in the womb, and by birth is well developed. Some areas are more responsive than others, with the palms of the hands, the bottoms of the feet, and the area around the mouth being the most sensitive.

The Texture Buffet
Gently rub different areas of your baby's skin with objects of varying textures. You can use a clean damp sponge, a silk tie, the fur lining of a glove, and a bicycle pump to blow air on him.

Newborns have a keen sense of smell, and within the first couple of days show a distinct preference for the scent of their mothers' milk.

Fridge Inventory
Take a bunch of odoriferous foods out of the fridge-cheese, onions, pickles, and fish are good choices-and hold them up to your newborn's nose. Wait for a reaction. If you aren't sure if the yogurt has gone bad, maybe his face will give you the answer.

Your baby's taste buds began developing in the womb, and he now will show a distinct preference for sweet tastes rather than sour ones. But seeing as babies can't have anything but breast milk or formula for around six months, you'll have to curb your impulse to have him suck on a lemon wedge.

From BE PREPARED by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Haydn. Copyright © 2004 by Gary Greenberg and Jeannie Haydn. Reprinted by permission of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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