Playtime Guidelines

As your infant spends more time awake (about half the day is fairly typical at this age), you may be wondering how best to fill those hours. You're right to wonder. Interaction with you is key to how your baby's personality and intelligence will develop.

Here are some guidelines for making playtime with your baby as enjoyable and enriching as possible-for both of you:

Be natural. In the early months, don't try to teach your baby anything specific during the times you play together. Just have fun and be spontaneous. Infants are genetically prepared to be interested in the things they must learn at a given stage. At this point, they just need to learn how people move, talk, and react. Simply by doing what comes naturally-talking baby talk, exaggerating your facial gestures, and playing physical games like tickling and peekaboo-you are teaching your child about human behavior.

Help your baby learn. Your infant will begin to develop more mature head control in the next few weeks, so prop him up with some pillows so he can better observe the world. This is an example of noting your baby's development and helping it along. Watch for indications that your child is ready for new discoveries, and try to facilitate his progression to the next step. Since he's beginning to take more notice of his own body play simple physical games, such as "this little piggy," or help him clap his hands. Don't try to force developmental advances, however. If the activity is more frustrating that fun, learning will take longer.

Reward your child's efforts. If your baby accomplishes something-bats at a toy for the first time, for example, or rolls over-let her know you think she's terrific by giving a cheer, clapping your hands, or hugging her.

Follow Your Baby's Lead

Key in to baby's cues. If your baby is ignoring the toy you're dangling in front of his eyes and staring wide-eyed at the mobile, don't force the issue-explore the mobile together. Or if he loses interest in an activity after a couple of minutes, move on to something else-infants have very short attention spans. Following your baby's lead helps to build his self-esteem by letting him know that your respect his opinion. And from a practical point of view, he's likely to learn faster if he's interested in the activity.

Give your baby space. As important as interaction is, babies also need to learn to play by themselves. If you rush to supply a new toy at your baby's every sigh, she can't learn to amuse or calm herself. The ideal situation would have you nearby for occasional brief interactions, while baby has toys and objects to explore on her own.

Change the scene. One mistake parents often make is trying to bring the entertainment to the baby. Instead, try bringing the baby to the entertainment. Set him up in an infant seat as you prepare dinner in the kitchen, or in a front carrier (or, later, a backpack) as you do your errands. No toy can compete with all the excitement of the real world, coupled with Mom's or Dad's company and lively conversation.

Talk to your baby. Get used to chatting with your baby any chance you get. Point out interesting sights and label them for her. This will speed language development and demonstrate that you're interested and involved.

Read books! Start at 3 months with simple picture books (one object to a page). As soon as he's able, invite your baby to help turn the pages and point to things as you label them in a simple way ("red ball"). Repetition and enjoyment are the keys now. As your baby gets older, move on to books that depict the actions of a single animal or another baby to introduce the idea of a story line. As time goes on, you can begin to ask your little one open-ended questions such as "What's happening to the dog now?"

Have Fun With Baby's Development

Fetching smilesYour baby's social skills are blossoming. By now, you may have been the lucky recipient of her first heart-stopping smile. This joyful event is a signal of her growing sociability; It is also an intellectual milestone because babies mostly smile at the things that are familiar to them-such as the human face, their playthings, or their own hands.

To get your baby to smile, look into her face. She'll probably examine you carefully and then gaze into your eyes, smiling. Since nearly all babies do this by their fourth month, speak to your doctor if your baby hasn't reached this milestone then.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.