Promoting your baby's development

Your baby's budding curiosity is bound to keep you on your toes. Keep your baby safe while challenging him or her to learn through play.

  • Create an exploration-safe environment. Move anything that could be poisonous, pose a choking hazard or break into small pieces from your baby's reach. Cover electrical outlets, use stairway gates, and install child locks on doors and cabinets. If you have furniture with sharp edges, pad the corners or remove it from areas where your baby plays. The same goes for lightweight objects your baby might use to pull himself or herself to a standing position, such as plant stands and decorative tables.
  • Snuggle up and read. Set aside time for reading every day — even if it's only a few minutes. At this age, your baby might love books with flaps, textures or activities. Make your reading more interesting by adding facial expressions, sound effects and voices for characters. Store books within easy reach so that your baby can explore them whenever the mood strikes.
  • Keep conversations going. If your baby reaches for a book, ask, "Would you like to read a story?" If he or she points to the cow on the cover, say, "You found the cow! What does a cow say?" Wait for your baby's response and then offer the correct answer. As you're reading the book, get creative. Make up your own stories to fit the pictures. Ask your baby questions about the pictures. Don't limit yourself to yes or no questions.
  • Encourage repetition. Doing things repeatedly can build self-confidence — and strengthen the connections in your baby's brain. Play patty-cake one more time. Build a new tower after the first one tumbles down. If your baby returns to a page you've just read, read it again with as much excitement as you did the first time.
  • Turn on the tunes. Music can help soothe, entertain and teach your baby. Try calming lullabies, upbeat children's songs, classical music or your own favorites.
  • Help your baby handle his or her feelings. Expect episodes of frustration as your baby struggles to make sense and take control of his or her environment. If your baby throws plastic rings out of frustration, calmly pick up the pieces and say, "I can see you're frustrated. Let's figure it out. The big ring goes here. Now you try." For some babies, learning a few simple words in sign language can be helpful as well. Teach your baby simple motions for common words, such as milk and blanket.
  • Set limits. Babies don't have a sense of right or wrong. Praise your baby for good choices while steering him or her away from hazardous situations. Use a firm no if your baby hurts others. Explain calmly why the behavior isn't OK, and then distract your baby with a favorite toy or other activity.

When something's not right

Your baby might reach some developmental milestones ahead of schedule and lag behind a bit on others. This is normal and usually no cause for concern. It's a good idea, however, to be aware of the signs or symptoms of a problem.

Consult your baby's doctor if you're concerned about your baby's development or your baby:

  • Doesn't crawl or consistently drags one side of the body while crawling
  • Can't stand with help
  • Doesn't use gestures, such as waving or shaking the head
  • Doesn't babble or attempt words such as "mama" or "dada"
  • Isn't interested in his or her surroundings
  • Is disinterested in making eye contact

Trust your instincts. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated. Then you can look forward to the delights and challenges that lie ahead.

Jun. 25, 2014 See more In-depth