There are so many everyday ways you can impact your baby’s development. In fact, no one has more influence on your baby than you. Along with providing the right nutrition, here are some simple activities you can do to encourage how he grows and learns.
Play simple hide-and-seek. Cover a toy with a blanket and let your baby search for it. He may not be ready to do this yet, but when he is, this game will help teach him about object permanence.
Practice tracking. Hold a rattle about eight inches from your baby’s face and off to the side, and encourage him to follow it with his eyes as you move it across his line of vision at different speeds. He will begin to bat at the object, though not yet with accurate aim.
Make mirror connections. Hold your baby in front of a mirror and look at your reflections together. He’ll begin to notice that the people in the mirror are moving in the same way the two of you are.
Continue swapping toys. From time to time, switch the toys on your baby’s bouncy seat or play bar. Choose toys that squeak, rattle, play music, and make other sounds. Wood or plastic blocks and rings are also good choices for your baby to handle. Try to vary toy shapes, sizes, and textures, such as smooth, bumpy, thin, and thick. Your baby will use his hands and mouth to explore them, and each contrast provides him with new information.
Begin bouncing. Gently hold your baby in a sitting position on your lap facing you and bounce him ever so slightly. Bouncing games are a good exercise for him now that he has head and neck control.
Strengthen sitting. Give your baby time to practice sitting up every day. He may be sitting on his own, supporting his body with his hands in front of him like a frog or tripod. If he’s not, use cushions, a firm U-shaped pillow. Always stay with your baby during these times and keep a close eye on him, surrounding him with soft pillows to cushion him in case he topples.
Teach him about feet. Hold your baby upright with his feet touching the floor so he can feel his weight on his feet.
Reward his reach. Place an intriguing toy slightly out of reach and to the side of your baby while he’s on his stomach.
Give a rattle. Place a rattle in your baby’s hand and encourage him to hold it. This practice helps him learn the feeling of its weight and movement. (He won’t yet be able to release it voluntarily.)
Share his story. Narrate the events of your baby’s day, using a warm, cheerful tone. Talk to him while he’s feeding, bathing, being changed, and so on.
Name his world. Say the names of the objects in your baby’s everyday world each time he encounters them: book, cat, Ma ma, bath, high chair.
Sing to your baby. Hearing words set to music is good language practice, too. You can sing anything from nursery rhymes to pop songs. Or sing to him about what you’re doing as you give him a bath or change his diaper—your baby won’t even care whether you can carry a tune.
Enjoy daily reading time. It’s not necessary to read him books 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!”
Encourage conversation. As your baby’s babbles become more complex and sound more and more like words and sentences, respond as if he is using clearly spoken language. Try to engage him in a back-and-forth conversation.
Pay attention to your baby’s likes and dislikes. Your baby’s personality will probably be more apparent now. Does he have a favorite toy or game? Try to bring what he loves into his play and interactions.
Dance with your baby. Being held close fosters your baby’s sense of security, while your swaying body relaxes him.
Rely on a soothing bedtime ritual. It will help teach your baby to settle down to sleep on his own. For example, feed him and sing to him more softly than when you put him down for naps. Put him in his bed on his back while he’s still awake but drowsy.