In the first few months of a baby’s life, they are learning so much! As a parent or caregiver, you probably wonder how you can help a 3-month-old baby’s development. In this post, I will share sensory and learning activities that are fun and appropriate for a 3-month-old.
It’s important to remember that every baby develops at their own pace. These activities are developmentally-appropriate for babies 2 months to 4 months old (and beyond!). Explore the milestones for 3-month-olds below for more information.
Every baby will have their own preferences and things they enjoy. Pay close attention to your baby while you play together. You’ll quickly discover the types of activities they enjoy. I recommend learning about the benefits of sensory play for babies and stages of play theory too!
Always closely supervise your baby while they play!
Gross Motor Activities
Skills Targeted: Moving arms and legs, swiping at toys, holding head up during tummy time, lifting onto elbows/forearms during tummy time, bringing hands to mouth
A 3-month-old baby is still building the neck strength to hold their head with control. They build control and strength in their arms to reach for toys and lift up during tummy time. A 3-month-old is also developing the torso strength and body control to eventually roll over.
Fine Motor Activities
Skills Targeted: Swiping at toys, noticing own hands, holding toys
Babies will develop gross motor skills before they can refine fine motor skills. Spending time on the floor exploring how their arms and legs move will help a baby learn to use and control their hands. 3-month-olds are practicing opening and closing their hands. They are also learning to hold toys that caregivers hand them.
Skills Targeted: Smiling, making eye contact, cooing and making new sounds, making sounds back and forth with others, watching faces
At 3 months old, a baby learns to use nonverbal actions and sounds to interact with others. By watching a caregiver’s face, a baby memorizes the facial and mouth movements people use to communicate. They will begin to serve and return sounds to learn the rhythm of conversations.
Skills Targeted: Smiling, chuckling, making eye contact/sounds/movements to catch someone’s attention, calming when soothed, turning towards voices, watching faces, noticing own hands, bringing hands to mouth, making sounds back and forth with others
Along with language skills, a 3-month-old baby is developing social skills such as smiling, reacting to voices, and making eye contact. 3-month-olds are slowly learning to manage emotions when comforted by caregivers. They are also building self-awareness as they show interest in their own hands and bring their hands to their mouths.
Skills Targeted: Swiping at toys, watching toys and movement in the environment, noticing own hands, bringing hands to mouth, making eye contact/sounds/movements to catch someone’s attention
A 3-month-old baby is learning how they can impact their environment. They will observe their environment to learn about objects and routines. They are just learning to use their body to solve problems, like stretching an arm toward a toy. 3-month-olds also start understanding cause and effect. They discover how their sounds, actions, and smiles make caregivers respond. For example, a smile and a coo can get an adult to smile and talk back.
Skills Targeted: Moving arms and legs, swiping at toys, turning head to sounds, watching toys and movement in the environment, bringing hands to mouth, holding toys
A 3-month-old baby is still new to the world, so all experiences are sensory experiences. Babies begin to build awareness of how their body exists in space at this age. They are developing the use of their hands to hold and explore objects. 3-month-olds will react to sounds in their environment and focus on moving objects.
Skills Targeted: Watching books and movement of pages turning, smiling, cooing and making other sounds, reaching towards book
The goal of sharing books with a 3-month-old is to make reading part of a daily routine. Cuddling with a baby while reading and smiling together over a book at playtime creates a positive association with books. It’s never too early to instill a love of books.
Skills Targeted: Responding to sounds, cooing and making other new sounds, moving arms and legs
For a 3-month-old, music activities are a fun, sensory experience. A soothing lullaby and rocking can calm them. They will smile and chuckle during fun action songs or fingerplays. Dancing while being held will stimulate a baby’s proprioceptive and vestibular senses , too! Plus, songs are an incredible way to introduce language.
Skills Targeted: Watching objects and movements in the environment
For a 3-month-old baby, just being outdoors is a sensory learning experience. They can feel the warm sun, hear birds, and see shadows moving. Babies are building an understanding that there is more world beyond their home or childcare.
Popular Questions about 3-Month-Olds & Play
What milestones happen when a baby is 3 months old?
Remember, every baby will reach milestones at their own pace. You can use the CDC milestone tracker app or checklists to follow your baby’s development. Talk to the pediatrician if you are concerned about your baby’s development.
What should a 3-month-old do in a day?
Create a daily schedule for your 3-month-old, including feeding, diapering, sleeping, and bathing routines. Between basic care routines, your baby can play in a safe space on the floor. 3-month-olds need plenty of time to play on the floor, on their backs and on their bellies.
Your 3-month-old can play in a safe space alone, with you nearby to supervise. You should also make time to cuddle and play with your baby throughout the day.
Try to minimize the time your 3-month-old spends in bouncy seats or swings. Screen time is also not recommended for babies.
How often should you play with a 3-month-old?
The amount of playtime will be different for each baby. Your baby also needs time each day when you play with them. Add the amount of playtime that works for your baby’s daily schedule. Playtime is best when your baby isn’t sleepy or hungry.
Your baby can also play alone in a safe space on the floor, with you nearby supervising.
You can include storytimes, songs, and “talking” back and forth to diapering, feeding, bathing, and bedtime routines to add more play!
What exercises can I do with my 3-month-old baby?
3-month-old babies need to spend time on their tummies every day. Tummy time helps babies strengthen their torso and upper body muscles.
You can gently bend and move your baby’s arms, hands, legs, and feet. While you do this, talk to your baby or sing a song like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes.” You can also read a board book such as Whose Knees are These? or Whose Toes are Those?
Your 3-month-old may also enjoy “standing” on your lap while you securely hold them under their arms. Only do this activity if your baby can hold their head steady.