Baby’s needs and abilities will change along with growth, but active playtime is extremely important during the first year, when the brain is developing at a fast rate. Always keep your baby’s physical and mental development in mind when playing together, and remember — you can have fun, too! Some things to think about as you play:
* Don’t stick baby in a playpen for too long. Take her out and let her explore the room. Babies love to crawl over things, so put some pillows down and let baby navigate her way around them.
Release your inner child
When your baby is able to crawl, get down and crawl with her — kids love it when you’re down on their level.
Give baby a workout
It’s important for baby to develop her muscles, and you can show her how. Wiggle your toes, stretch your arms and shake a rattle, so that baby will mimic your movements. Work those arm muscles by giving baby light and small toys to pick up or hold on to. Make sure she's getting enough tummy time; pediatrician Cheryl Wu, MD, says baby has to be on her front to practice using her arms and holding her chest up — a precursor to crawling.
Change it up
Stimulate baby’s mind in different ways — don’t just stick to the same old toys all the time. Blow bubbles at your baby in the park or show baby how you can build different things with soft blocks. In the early months, baby will watch more than play, of course, but you can stimulate reflexes, imagination, and awareness simply by showing her how you play.
*Crack open a good book!
* Don’t underestimate the power of reading to your baby, who naturally loves the sound of mommy’s voice. Pediatrician Preeti Parikh, MD, encourages parents to read to baby by at least six months. Baby has a short attention span, though, so be sure to have plenty of interactive books on your bookshelf. Touch and feel, lift-a-flap and scanimation books are especially fun.