Child Development: Helping Your Baby Grow and Learn

3 to 6 Months

Toys of different shapes and textures give your baby practice with grasping objects.
Toys of different shapes and textures give your baby practice with grasping objects.
Lynn James/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Read a book: Chernoff and other doctors begin handing books out to their patients at 6 months of age through Reach Out And Read, a national early literacy campaign. Of course, it can't hurt to introduce reading sooner — just don't be discouraged if you don't get much of a reaction, says Chernoff. "Some kids are interested and some aren't, but you're also communicating something about reading books that they're picking up on," she says, adding that she'd avoid putting baby in front of a TV as entertainment. When you're reading, be sure to label things — "this is a dog, this is a cat, this is a baby" — to get baby primed for learning such words later, says Wallace. At this age books with simple pictures are best, she says.

Practice batting and grasping: Since babies are now learning to reach for objects, give them plenty to grab for. Wallace recommends blowing bubbles in baby's direction and letting her "catch" them. In the early weeks of this time period baby will probably be batting at things rather than picking them up. It's a good time for mobiles and other hanging or floating objects that are fun for swatting. A little later, when baby starts to pick things up, place toys of different shapes and textures within reach or slightly out of reach to encourage baby to pick them up.

Peek-a-boo: Baby won't begin to develop "object permanence" — the idea that something doesn't cease to exist when it is out of sight — just yet, but you can start to introduce the concept now. Try peek-a-boo: put a blanket over your face and then remove it for baby to see that you're still there. The bonus: babies at this age and a little older will delight in your antics. You can also play peek-a-boo with toys or other objects. Eventually baby will get the hang of it and begin playing it herself.

Let baby play alone: Although you're a crucial part of baby's development, helping baby may sometimes involve just letting her play by herself for a while. "Children learn a great deal from playing on their own and from exploring the world in the way that they feel driven to," says Wallace. For example, "if the child is exploring a piece of dust that is floating in the air she's learning how things fall," Wallace explains.