You can help encourage your baby’s amazing development. Along with good nutrition, many simple activities that are part of your everyday love and care will help him grow and learn.
Make eye contact with your baby. And talk to him often. You’ll notice him observing you carefully when he’s awake and alert.
Rotate toys. Give him different objects to engage with. Try everything from measuring spoons and cups to soft blocks and cloth books.
Play peekaboo. Hide your face behind your hands or a blanket. At first your baby won’t catch on and will be surprised to see you each time you reappear, but this game helps him begin to understand the concept of object permanence.
Try a track-the-rattle game. Hold a rattle about eight inches from your baby’s face and off to the side. Shake it to draw his attention, then begin to move it slowly across his line of vision. The goal is to have him follow it with his eyes. At first, he may have trouble keeping his focus when it crosses the midline of his face. If he loses focus, shake the rattle to re-engage his attention.
Change the decor. Hang an unbreakable, baby-safe mirror or colorful pictures near your baby’s changing table or crib, switching the display from time to time, so he has lots to look at.
Continue tummy time. When your baby is awake and alert, lay him on his stomach so he can look around. Place an interesting toy in front of him so he’ll want to raise his head to check it out. You might also move the toy from side to side to promote the development of his neck muscles and allow him to practice the most basic movements involved in rolling over.
Challenge his reach. Place a toy slightly out of reach and to the side of your baby when he’s on his stomach. In his attempts to reach it, he may figure out how to roll over.
Work on balance. Prop your baby in a sitting position, supported by cushions, a firm U-shaped pillow, or the inside corner of a sofa. This posture helps him develop the muscles he needs to balance when seated. Keep a close eye on him and make sure his back stays fairly straight. Shake a rattle or sing to capture his attention and keep him entertained while sitting.
Explore senses. Place a rattle in your baby’s hand. He’ll learn from feeling its weight and hearing its sound. (Sensory experience will help him learn about the physical world.)
Play a cause-and-effect game. Dress your baby in socks with little bells or rattles sewn onto them (be sure they’re attached securely and that he’s under direct supervision when he wears them). When he kicks, he’ll hear the sound and begin to learn that his movement is what causes the jingling or rattling effect.
Encourage conversation. When your baby coos or makes other sounds, coo back and show your excitement. Your reply encourages him to talk to you more.
Talk his language. Help your baby learn about speech patterns by using “parent-ese” (also called baby language) if it comes naturally to you. Babies are particularly responsive to this speech pattern: extra stress at the start of words and a raised ending as in a question (“HEL-lo, SWEET-ie! HOW ARE you this MORN-ing?”). Your baby may also respond more to Mom’s voice because of its higher pitch.
Speak another language. If you speak a second language, use it freely around your baby. Babies have a remarkable ability to pick up more than one language, and bilingual babies reach the same communication milestones as other babies, at the same time; there’s no need to worry about confusing him or causing speech delays.
Read to your baby often. Try picture books with pleasant rhymes. It’s not necessary to read them from beginning to end. You might cover just a few pages, pointing out certain images: “Look at the sun” “Look at the flower,” “What’s this? A doggie!”
Laugh with your baby when he laughs. Not only does this encourage further laughter, it begins to teach him the back and forth of conversation.
Bring him comfort. To help build your baby’s sense of security, pick him up and hold him often, and respond quickly when he’s in distress.
Soothe him with massage. Your baby isn’t too old for baby massage. Be gentle, using a bit of baby oil and making sure he stays warm. This activity promotes bonding and strengthens his sense of security.