Newborn Advice for Dads

New dad tip #4: Go ahead, horse around

You watch as your wife gently, tenderly handles your precious cargo with caresses and whispers; meanwhile, you try to stymie your boyish urges to roughhouse and do loud, goofy impersonations. Don’t! The truth is, it’s crucial for your child to experience both forms of love and stimulation.

Your wife will make sure the baby gets plenty of soft, warm nurturing, leaving you free to embrace your new role as designated horsey-ride giver, tummy tickler, and human play structure (complete with swing, climbing wall, and slide) all rolled into one. Yes, you have to be safe, but it can still be lots of fun. Here, how to get physical . . .

Until she can hold her head up solo:

  • Bicycle her legs as she lies on her play mat (be prepared for gaseous emissions when you do this).
  • Entertain her with exaggerated facial expressions as she enjoys tummy time (feel free to gesticulate widely, and stick out your tongue if this earns giggles or grins).
  • Bounce with her on an exercise ball or minitrampoline (be sure to support her head and neck carefully).
  • Strap her into a front carrier and take her for a lively stroll, complete with commentary and/or silly songs.
  • Play the “I’m going to pretend to tickle you” game and see just how easily you can make her squirm.
  • Throw a (preferably clean) burp cloth over your head and let the manic peekaboo marathon begin.
  • In a standing position, hold one arm as if you were cupping a football to your ribcage and drape her over it, facedown. Cradling her head in your hand (and holding her body firmly with the other hand), rock her swiftly from side to side, with musical accompaniment.

Once she’s mastered head and neck control:

  • Sit with one leg crossed over the other, and hold her hands as she sits on the top, flexed foot. Gently kick your foot out and back, and watch as she enjoys her first pretend pony ride.
  • Lie on your back and tuck your knees to your chest, then place baby on your shins and hold her securely. Rock back and forth and make airplane noises. Eventually you can extend your legs and graduate to the full-blown rocket launch, but probably not until she can sit up solo.
  • Place her on your chest and hold her securely as you do crunches. She won’t realize her primary purpose is adding weight; she’ll just enjoy the ride.
  • Enroll her in infant swimming classes and tell your wife that this is your domain. She’ll appreciate the hour-long break as well as the opportunity not to put on a swimsuit in public.
  • Make yourself into a human swing, leaning over at your waist and creating a “seat” for baby’s bottom with your hands. Swing arms gently back and forth.
  • Gently toss baby up into the air and catch her. Do not do this on concrete or when your wife is at home, or even in the country. She will faint on the spot even though it is really fun and kids love it.