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Activities That Boost Skills and Development

Playtime is work time for your baby, and you're his assistant – giving him the tools and praise he needs to get the job done.

Who knew? Sometimes it's the simplest games and toys that teach the biggest lessons. Take peekaboo, for example. Hide your face behind your hands, say "peekaboo!" in a silly voice, and you're not only eliciting your baby's first giggles, but you're also helping him grasp "object permanence." Your baby's brain has moved on from "out of sight, out of mind" thinking into knowing that your smiling face (or a toy under a blanket) doesn't disappear forever when it's out of view.

You can start helping your little one learn this and other brain-boosting (and skill-building) lessons from the get-go. Provide him with objects he can focus his vision on and practice following with his eyes: A mobile hanging from his crib, a board book filled with simple illustrations or photos of everyday objects, or a brightly colored rattle. But his brain isn't the only part of the body that needs boosting. You can also try different bodybuilding (baby-style) activities to build up his muscles, both large and small. Move his arms and legs and strengthen the muscles he'll need for all the physical feats ahead of him (sitting up! walking!). Or play some patty-cake so he can sharpen his dexterity (the better to pick up those Cheerios!).

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By repeatedly rendering those rounds of patty-cake, you'll also score extra points for building up his vocabulary. Stumped for conversation? Sing! Or pull out a book of nursery rhymes (or that novel you've been meaning to get to) and read a passage or two out loud. Your baby will love the sound of your voice, even though he doesn't understand anything you're saying. You can even "ba-ba" back to your babe – he'll love it! But no matter which activity the two of you are going gaga over, give him a "Yay!" and praise your baby for all his accomplishments, big and small. ("Wow – you're working hard to grab that rattle!") All that acclaim and attention will keep him motivated and inspire him to try new skills.

for more pregnancy and parenting information,

visit WhatToExpect.com