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Stimulating Your Baby's Development

In addition to giving your baby a healthy diet of breast milk or formula and nutritious solid foods, you will also need to expose him or her to plenty of physical and mental stimulation to help your baby grow into an active, intelligent and inquisitive child. You can provide the stimulation your baby needs by involving it in different activities that develop the following key skills:

Large Motor Skills
Enhancing your baby's large motor skills will strengthen its limbs and coordination so that it can sit, crawl, walk, and handle and throw objects better. Keep changing your baby's position from lying to sitting and its location from the crib to the floor to give it plenty of opportunities to exercise its muscles and physical powers. You can also have your baby do the following:

• Stand on your lap and bounce
• Sit in a frog-like position, much like a tripod
• Sit upright while supported by cushions if needed
• Have it pull itself to stand while holding your fingers
• Have it pull itself up to stand while holding on to the crib's side or other furniture

Small Motor Skills
Honing small motor skills early on in infancy will help your child develop greater dexterity with its hands and fingers, enabling it later on to feed itself, draw, write, brush its teeth, tie its shoelaces, etc. Expose your child to the following:

• Activity boards that hold a variety of games to give the baby lots of small motor skills practice
• Building blocks appropriate to your baby's age and of varying sizes
• Stuffed animals and soft dolls, as handling them will build your baby's dexterity
• Real or toy household objects, as babies love playing with items that they see their parents using, such as toy phones, mixing spoons, paper cups and empty boxes
• Different-sized balls with different textures for your baby to hold and squeeze
• Finger coordination games such as clapping hands or mimicking the itsy-bitsy spider while singing alone

Social Skills
Your baby should be showing signs of sociability around now, smiling, laughing, and communicating in various other ways. In fact, most babies have yet to develop a wariness of strangers at this age, which makes it the perfect time to expose them to people from different age groups.

Intellectual and Language Skills
Once your baby passes the 6-month-old mark it will begin to recognize and use certain words and phrases to express what it wants or what it sees. You can enhance your little one's language and problem solving skills by: 

• Playing intellectually-stimulating games where the baby can observe cause and effect. For example, fill a cup with water in the bathtub and let the baby turn it over, or cover the baby's favorite toy under a cloth and have the baby look for it
• Sharpening your baby's auditory perceptions and word recognition skills by pointing to objects that are making sounds and naming them, such as planes, trucks, vacuum cleaners or ringing phones
• Introducing concepts by pointing out certain information to your baby, such as "this cat is soft, that tea is hot, that car goes fast," and so on. You can also describe what the objects you are using are for, such as when drying with a towel or using soap for washing
• Encouraging your baby's creativity and curiosity by allowing it to use a toy in an unusual way if he or she wishes to and if it is safe. Don't discourage it from experimenting and exploring
• Cultivating your baby's love of learning by partaking in interactive and fun activities that impart specific facts and concepts and nurture your child's interest and curiosity