Your challenge: You are an expert at meeting baby's needs for love and attention. Food? Check. Cuddles? On demand. Play? This is where it can feel tricky. You know play and positive interaction is important for developing minds. The trouble is, how can you really "play" with a baby who is too young to sit?
The solution: Remember that all the things we take for granted—like when an object is hidden, it's not necessarily gone forever—are entirely new revelations to babies. That makes playtime an exciting opportunity to watch them make new mental connections while you both have fun in the process.
Play in the way natural to you: "Play" will look different to just about everyone in the family-and not only is that okay, it's beneficial to baby. Next time Dad playfully tosses baby in the air, making your heart skip a beat, remember that roughhousing has been linked to helping young kids learn to control their emotions and can give them a competitive edge.
Story time: No surprise here: Playing with babies looks different than playing with older kids. For now, it may seem like the interactions are fairly one-sided, but don't be fooled. The littlest ones are constantly absorbing so much information from the world around them—so one of the very best things you can do is feed them more cues through reading aloud. Change your voice for different characters, get expressive and even involve finger puppets or music. In baby's eyes, you're the greatest showman.
Make it a social event: Inviting other parents and babies over for a playdate isn't just about ohh-ing and aww-ing as the babies play parallel to each other. Researchers found that babies as young as 5 months prefer the babble of other babies over adults' chatter. These early "conversations" also lay the foundation for language—so it really won't be long before you are able to teach them the meaning of the word "share".
Put on a show: Between the ages of 4 and 7 months, babies begin to understand object permanence—meaning that when something is gone, it's not necessarily gone forever. This is an important developmental milestone for many reasons, one of which being it makes games like peek-a-boo all the more fun now that baby's in on the joke. By this point, you can get more creative with hand puppets, toys with hidden compartments and books with flaps that reveal new pictures.
Pro tip: When babies are playing, they aren't only immersed in the toy or activity, but they are also studying your response. Now is a good time to practice your surprised face!
You've got this.
Motherly + Kids2 provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.
The milestones presented are averages. Any questions you may have about your child's development should be shared with his or her doctor.
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