Q: What are the best ways to play with a 3-month-old baby?
A: It's time to break out the baby gym! Around now, your baby will start having more control over her arms and legs and better hand-eye coordination. Watching and interacting with moving objects helps boost these skills, so offer your baby toys that encourage her to reach, grab, and swipe, like mobiles or gyms that dangle above her head. Change the toys and the direction you place her so there's always something new to see and do.
Tummy time is also important right now. While your baby is on her belly, try holding up black-and-white puppets or brightly colored toys that make sounds. As you play, slowly move them out of baby's field of vision to encourage her to lift and turn her head. Practicing these lifts strengthens your baby's neck, chest, and rib-cage muscles, which will help develop the breathing patterns she'll need to talk one day, and boost her upper-body strength for skills like rolling over and sitting up.
Many babies at this age also love their hands and feet, and can often entertain themselves for quite some time playing games with them. If this is the case, offer your baby some hand and foot rattles. She'll probably be thrilled to discover all the sounds she can make all by herself. --Jennifer Halpern, PhD
Originally published in the November 1999 issue of Parents magazine. Updated 2009.