Your baby is growing so quickly! It was only a few weeks ago that she made her debut in the world, but she has already begun demonstrating her unique personality. She has made giant developmental leaps -- both physically and mentally. You can help foster this development by engaging her in attentive play.

Lisamarie Sanders

Get physical!
Physical play is fun for both parent and baby. Take your baby for an airplane ride by supporting her head in your hand and resting her body, tummy down, on your forearms. Making airplane noises, whoosh your little one through the house. As a variation, you can place her face-up and pretend she is doing the backstroke.

Bouncing games are also fun for very young children. Lay your baby in the middle of your bed and gently bounce on the bed around her. You can sing a song or make up a chant as you go along. As your child gains more control of her head, you can hold her up and bounce her on your knees. Songs like "Ring Around the Rosie" and "Humpty Dumpty" are great for this because you can open your legs slightly to give your baby the slight sensation of falling.

Babies of this age are fascinated with their bodies, and are always discovering new parts. Encourage this discovery with rhymes such as "This Little Piggy" and "Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes." You can also make up your own lyrics to the tune of "The Mulberry Bush" using any body parts you wish to introduce. For example, "This is the way we blink our eyes" or "This is the way we clap our hands." This is especially fun in the tub, when you can point out what body part you are washing. Exercising is also a fun activity for your child. Help her do sit-ups, then stand-ups when she shows interest. Help her stretch her hands up over her head. Cycle her feet slowly, then get faster. Another fun move is to hold her feet and gently twist her body to one side, then the other. If she enjoys this, you may want to help her roll over this way.

As your baby begins to smile and laugh, tickling becomes a favorite activity for both parent and baby. "I'm Gonna Gitcha" will usually evoke a smile from the most serious babies, as will the Bumble Bee Game (use your index finger as the Bee, and buzz around the air above your baby before landing with a little tickle.) There are a number of children's songs and finger plays, as well, for example:

'Round the Garden
'Round and 'round the garden goes the little mouse (Circle you finger around baby's tummy)
Up, up, up he goes -- up into his house (Walk your fingers up baby's ribcage -- tickle under her chin)

Talk to me!
In addition to physical play, it is also important to continue talking with and reading to your baby to stimulate her mind. By hearing your voice, your baby learns about communication and socialization. Make sure to ask many questions throughout the day, and pause for a response. Even though you won't get more than the occasional gurgle, this teaches your baby about how conversation works.

If you get tired of hearing yourself talk all day, try using puppets. Make them out of old socks or paper bags, or use dolls and stuffed animals to talk to your baby. Use the puppets voices to tell stories and sing songs. It will add variety for both you and your little one.

After all of this playing, baby (and parents) are sure to need some "quiet time." Snuggle with baby and begin reading. The sound of your voice and the rhythm of the language are soothing and relaxing. This one-on-one interaction also enhances your baby's brain and language development. As each month passes, your child will gain new skills and interests. Use your imagination and creativity to alter these suggestions to suit your needs. Or create new games that are unique to you and your baby. Remember, your infant is only young once -- play with her often, and make the most of each moment you share.PregnancyAndBaby.com

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