Promoting your baby's development

At this age, learning and play are inseparable. It doesn't take expensive educational toys or intense effort, however, to capture your baby's attention. To promote infant development:

  • Talk to your baby. Ask questions and respond to your baby's coos and gurgles. Describe what you see, hear and smell around the house, outdoors, and when you're out and about. Use simple words such as "baby," "cat," "go," "walk," "hot" and "cold." Remember that your tone of voice and facial expression can communicate ideas and emotions.
  • Change positions. Lay your baby on his or her tummy for a few supervised minutes. Hold a colorful toy or make a noise to encourage your baby to pick up his or her head or practice rolling over. Hold your baby's hands while he or she is lying down and say, "Are you ready to stand up? Here we go!" Count to three as you gently pull your baby to a standing position. When your baby's ready, try a sitting position. Hold your baby or use pillows for support.
  • Offer simple toys. Babies this age often enjoy colorful toys, especially those that make sounds. Try a musical toy, a rattle with a handle, a soft ball or a wooden spoon. To help your baby focus, put out only one or two toys at a time. Place one toy slightly out of reach to encourage your baby to stretch and creep. Shake a rattle behind your baby's head and let him or her turn and grab it. Let your baby watch his or her movements in a mirror.
  • Read to your baby. Reading to a baby promotes speech and thought development. Your baby will soak in your words and might even mimic the sounds you make. Start with books featuring large, brightly colored pictures. Describe what's happening on each page. Point to and name common objects.
  • Play favorite games. Cover your face with your hands, then remove your hands and say, "Peekaboo, I see you!" Play patty-cake. Ask, "Where are your toes?" Then touch your child's toes and say, "Here are your toes!" Hide one of your baby's toys with the corner of a blanket and encourage him or her to find it.
  • Take time to cuddle. Balance stimulation with plenty of quiet time. Gentle caresses and tender kisses can help your baby feel safe, secure and loved. When you hold or rock your baby, talk quietly or sing soothing songs.
  • Turn on the tunes. Music can help calm, entertain and teach your baby. Sing or play lullabies, upbeat children's songs or your own favorites.
  • Let your baby set the pace. When your baby turns away, closes his or her eyes, or gets fussy, take a break. Even babies need space. Get to know your baby's unique personality, temperament, likes and dislikes. Responding to your baby's needs will help you continue to build your baby's trust in you.

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. 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:

  • Has very stiff or tight muscles
  • Seems extremely floppy
  • Reaches with only one hand
  • Hasn't shown any improvement in head control
  • Doesn't respond to sounds, such as by startling to sudden loud noises
  • Doesn't reach for or bring objects to his or her mouth
  • Doesn't attempt to roll over or sit
  • Has an eye or eyes that consistently turn in or out
  • Doesn't babble
  • Doesn't seem to enjoy being around people or spontaneously smile

Trust your instincts. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated. Above all, delight in your baby's discoveries and abilities.

June 29, 2017 See more In-depth