Child Development: Helping Your Baby Grow and Learn

Birth to 6 Weeks

Below are some activities Wallace and Chernoff suggest for helping baby develop. Although we know baby can be either a he or a she, we'll refer to baby by the feminine to make things simple. Keep in mind that many of the activities below are ones you'll start doing early on and will continue, possibly with adjustments, as baby grows.

Snuggle up: At this age, you need not worry about holding baby too much, says Chernoff. "You really can't spoil a child in the first six months," she says. "You need to respond to her cues, pick her up and hold her because that's when she's developing her attachments and discovering that the world is a safe place." Of course, keep the stimulation to a minimum at night, so that baby will learn the difference between night and day — and so that you'll get some sleep.

Develop her senses: In the first six weeks of life, baby's eyesight is not nearly as good as her hearing, so you'll need to keep objects close to baby's face — eight to 12 inches away. Fortunately for you, your baby is most interested in the human face, so merely holding your face close to hers can provide stimulation and entertainment. To help develop her ability to "track" or follow objects, try holding a toy in front of or above her and moving it in an arc. You can also begin introducing textures by touching her skin with different objects — a feather, a piece of material, a soft toy, suggests Wallace.

Introduce baby to herself: Hold baby in front of a mirror and point out her eyes, nose, ears and mouth. She won't understand for a while, but labeling baby's world for her will help her later.

Sing a song: Singing is not only soothing but it also helps baby develop a sensitivity to sound. As baby gets older you can get her involved physically by moving her legs and hands in time to the music, says Wallace.

Build muscles: As baby grows her neck muscles will strengthen, although she won't gain head control until she is about 4 months old. Help baby build neck muscles by lying down on your back, putting baby face down on your chest with her toes pointing toward your toes, and lifting your head up slightly. She'll attempt to look at your face, which will encourage her to lift her head, strengthening those baby neck muscles.

Offer a varied view: Give baby a taste of different environments by changing her view throughout the day. Take her with you as you move from room to room. If she enjoys sitting in a swing, be sure to face it in different directions so she can look at new things.