Movement Ideas for Newborns

3-2009Sparkplug-4133By Rachael Carnes

Congratulations on the birth of your little mover and shaker!

There are gentle and easy movement activities for every day with a newborn baby. Movement play can be an especially helpful way for fathers and other caregivers to make a physical connection to the child. For the birthing woman, safe and appropriate movement (check with your physician before beginning any postpartum exercise program) can hasten recovery and relieve some of the aches and pains that seem to accumulate with lack-of-sleep and stress of being a busy new mom!

Some childhood experts refer to the first three months as the “4th trimester”, and certainly, the newborn’s needs are the focus of the whole family. But these little ones are far from helpless! Communicative, social and ready for experiences, newborns may seem like fragile little birds, but they are actually fairly hearty souls. Just imagine what they had to do to get here!

Peaceful and relaxed dancing, infant massage, rocking and swaying and the physical connection of time-in-arms can assist newborns in making the transition into this dazzling new world. Welcome little cuties! Let’s boogie!

Ten Time-honored movement activities for newborns and caregivers:


Babies love time-in-arms and you can feel great about all the fantastic nurturance you’re giving your little one every time you cuddle, snuggle, feed, feed, feed and soothe him! When they’re tiny, it seems like you hold them every minute, and that’s not far from the truth!


Encourage ‘tummy time’! Get down on your baby’s level, making eye-contact and playing with a ribbon, toy, rattle, or other interesting objects. Play peek-a-boo, or let baby look at herself in a mirror. If possible, allow your baby time on her tummy every day. Play with rhyming songs with movement and gestures. Maybe learn some new ones from parents of different cultures to teach to your child. Talk and sing to baby!


baby on your lap as you cuddle and sing. Swing baby in a blanket, side-to-side and back-and-forth. Rock baby face down on a rolled towel or beach ball. Sing silly songs or rhymes as you bicycle baby’s legs and swim baby’s arms. Try stretching baby’s limbs as you make eye-contact with her. With your favorite music or your own melodious voice, dance with your baby:
rock, sway, swing, swoop and turn.


for baby before naps, during diapering, after bath or whenever you both need a little relaxation


like an airplane, a wallaby, even a sack of potatos. Carry baby in a front pack, sling or in your arms as you do light household tasks. Hold your baby in different ways as you waltz, swoop, turn, skip, glide, wiggle, balance and bounce. Explore different ways of moving with your baby. Change the way she faces, her level, direction, pathways and relationship to you as you move through the space. Baby will enjoy the rhythm of your movement and the variety of motion.


like tickling baby with a feather, or gently rubbing baby with a smooth stone, a soft blanket or a tickly finger. Let your baby play with a variety of sensory experiences – simple toys like scarves, balls and ribbons can be fun, and encourage kinesthetic awareness as your baby grows and develops.


Dance with your baby in front of a mirror. She will love playing with this other cute and exciting baby! Or better yet, find a friend with another little one and play with letting the babies see and dance with each other.


Listen to many kinds of music and sounds with your baby. Even little babies can hold simple instruments and play with making sounds. Help your baby to feel different rhythms. Can you carry a tune? Or talk in a modulated way? Babies love this, too!


Include mom, dad and other family members in playing with baby through movement. Cuddle, tickle, coo, sing, whisper, laugh and enjoy your baby!


Part of moving is stillness, and early on, you can use movement to establish a time in your day for quiet, contemplative cuddling, massage or just being with your baby. Maybe you could have a special song the two of you sing then, or a place you both lie down together for a little rest. The newborn phase is a busy time, full of feedings and diapers and new things every day. Quiet movement together can help both caregiver and baby to relax their bodies and assimilate all the new information they’re both receiving!

These are some ideas for you to print out and maybe put on your fridge or by the chair where you seem to be spending your day underneath your baby. It’s terrific if you get around to trying a new movement idea once a day. Sometimes grandparents, fathers and friends like to get in on the act, because of course one of the great joys of having a little one in your life is the excuse to act silly and have fun!

© 2003-2017 Rachael Carnes