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Babies from birth to 3 months
During these first few months, parents and babies are getting to know each other and learning how to communicate.
From the moment babies are born, they are collecting information about the people and places around them. As a parent, you want to find ways to help your child learn.
In the first three months, infants and parents learn to talk with a smile, a touch or a snuggle. These interactions form the basis for communication and help babies begin to learn about the world around them, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
Learning through play
As babies' vision, hearing and motor skills develop, they become increasingly interested in the world around them.
Playing is important. It helps babies acquire new skills and learn about their environment, says the AAP. Try some of the following games and activities with your baby:
Do you see what I see?
Babies love to track moving objects with their eyes. Hold your baby facing you and move your head from side to side. Or move a patterned object back and forth in front of his or her eyes. Watch your baby's eyes follow back and forth.
Parents' natural instinct to speak in high-pitched baby talk actually helps babies learn language. They prefer a high-pitched voice at this age. Your baby will look for you when he or she hears your voice, and will listen closely as you sound out different syllables and words. Your baby's arms and legs may even move in time with your voice.
Rattles and other noise-making toys also help babies learn to locate sound. As early as two months, babies may begin to babble, imitating vowel sounds from your speech.
Talk to your baby as you play, change his or her diaper, and go about daily tasks. By three months, babies learn to recognize their parents' voices and will smile when they see or hear their mom or dad.
Get a grip
As their muscles begin to mature, babies begin opening and shutting their hands. Try placing a rattle or other toy in your baby's palm, and he or she may grip it and bring it to his or her mouth to explore more fully. Babies can also grab at toys that hang overhead.
That fabulous face
By one month, babies can see objects within 12 inches and clearly prefer the sight of a human face to any other. Unbreakable mirrors made for cribs or playpens allow babies to entertain themselves by watching and imitating their reflections.
Break into song
Singing to babies provides another opportunity for them to hear language. Playing different types of music exposes them to new sounds and rhythms. Your baby may enjoy being held against your shoulder or chest as you gently dance or sway to the music.
It's never too early to begin looking at books together. Cloth or board books with high-contrast colors and shapes are best. Early exposure to books is the first step toward developing reading skills later in childhood.