3 to 6 Months
- What Your Baby Likes: Different views of his world, being silly with Mom and Dad, kicking, batting his arms.
- What's Behind the Smiles: He can now see greater distances and is beginning to understand what his little body is capable of, whether it's using his fingers to swat at a hanging toy on his bouncy seat or kicking his foot at his crib gym. "For the first time he's able to do things on his own, which is huge for him confidence-wise," says Gross. He'll like shaking, waving, and, yes, tasting, whatever he gets hold of.
- What You Can Do: Allow him time on his back and tummy so he can see things from different perspectives. Offer safe objects of varying textures -- a plush stuffed animal, a bumpy rubber teething ring, a chunky board book -- for him to touch. Your baby will like roly-poly toys that wobble back and forth because he can knock them from side to side.
With your baby on his back, look him in the eyes and ask, "How big are you?" Gently stretch his arms over his head and say, "So big!" He'll like the repetition of this game and the sensation of your moving his arms in a way he can't yet do on his own, Myers-Walls says. Showing your baby his reflection in a mirror might also produce a smile or two -- possibly even a giggle -- because babies love seeing baby faces. He doesn't yet fully get that he's the baby in the mirror, Myers-Walls says, but he'll like that as he moves, so does the baby before him.
Just being plain silly sparks some serious smiles, Barbara Isaacs found when her daughter Kate was this age. "One of the first things that made her laugh was gently putting her belly on top of our heads, almost like a hat draped over us," says Isaacs, of Lexington, Kentucky. "She cracked up hysterically."
As you play with your baby, he'll like hearing from you, so reciprocate his happy sounds. "If your baby is making a cooing sound, coo back," Grus says. This back-and-forth exchange helps foster attachment between you and your baby, Myers-Walls explains.