Many new fathers wonder what they can do with their babies, when most interaction (especially in the beginning) seems one-sided – a little like talking to yourself. However, think of yourself as your baby’s favourite toy.

Not only are you a source of fun, your interactions help your baby to learn with play being an essential part of normal child development.

Bring out your inner kid!

This is your chance to have some fun! Older babies in particular are fascinated by what’s going on around them like the sounds they can hear, colours or movements they can see, and the things they can feel. Try wearing a big hat like a sombrero, doing a silly dance in front of them, talking in a made up language or putting their hand on your mouth as you blow raspberries.

Chat to your baby

Sure, it might seem a little strange when they don’t understand a word you say, but you are helping your baby get used to your voice and understand language. Don’t worry if you start speaking in a high pitched voice – babies prefer this and will respond really well. You can talk to your baby by commentating on what you are doing (like a footy commentator) – e.g. now we are walking to the park; or by describing what is going on for your baby – e.g. you have a big smile so I can see that you love playing this game.

Get down to their level

Your baby will love it when you’re interacting with them at their level. Try lying by their side on their play mat. When they’re younger you might just chat to them or make silly sounds but as they get older you might start to show them different objects to hold or you might wriggle their arms and legs.

Let your baby look at your face and into your eyes

To your baby, your face is the most fascinating thing they have ever seen, so let them look at you. As your baby gets older, you might get them to giggle at the funny faces you pull.

Make baby care time fun

Baby care time gives you one-on-one time with your baby. Also, it’s a great chance to have fun together. Blow raspberries on your baby’s tummy during nappy changing time or sing songs to them when you’re giving them a bath.

Hold them in your arms for a cuddle

Babies love to be held for a cuddle and they like the sound of your calm heartbeat.

Play simple games with your baby

Games are fun for both you and your baby, and they also teach your baby skills like language and coordination. Try playing “can you copy me poking my tongue out?”

Look for ways to strengthen your bond with your baby

You can do this by thinking of how you will want to spend your time with your child as they grow. Many fathers like the idea of participating in sporting activities together. For example, if you love footy, you might start by taking your baby in a carrier to a local game, or take them to a park while you roll the ball around. If you love surfing, you might enrol them into swimming lessons, or take them for a walk along the beach to watch the surf.

Aim for short, regular quality interactions

Quality is better than quantity when it comes to interacting with your baby. This helps you and your baby bond. Also, babies can only take small chunks of entertainment at a time. Too much play can leave them feeling frazzled. Your baby won’t be able to tell you when they have had enough play time but they will use non-verbal cues – like turning their head away.

For more tips like these, why not check out Baby Steps, a free online program that aims to enhance the wellbeing of new mums and dads.