Have a Conversation (Sort Of)
Long before your baby says his first word, he's telling you what he needs -- with his cries, coos, gurgles, flailing fists, smiles, and grimaces. "If you coo or smile back at him in the early months, you'll teach him that the world is a friendly, happy place," says Craig T. Ramey, PhD, coauthor of Right from Birth. That will help instill in him a sense of trust, which is essential for getting along with others and, ultimately, forming friendships.
Researchers at York University, in Toronto, found that the more tuned in parents are to their babies' emotions and interests, the faster their little ones develop socially and cognitively. The takeaway: "If your baby smiles at you, acknowledge it -- 'Oh, you're smiling, you must be happy' -- and figure out what he's smiling at," says Maria Legerstee, PhD, who headed the York study. And when he turns his gaze away, try to find out what he's looking at ("That's called a camera. It's very shiny, isn't it?"). This shows him you understand his reaction.