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Playtime Learning

Everyone knows the only job a baby has is having fun. But while your baby is playing games, they are also learning. Laura Kalehoff, Executive Editor of American Baby, offers some advice on how to keep your child engaged while developing emotionally, physically and intellectually.

In the earliest years, play is school for children. However, you don't have to worry about brain-building activities. Whether you're singing, tickling him, or rolling a ball, he's taking social and emotional leaps forward. Remember, there are no rules for play. It's all about just having fun and connecting with your child, the learning will take care of itself.

For babies younger than 3 months, a good game to play is follow the scarf. A newborn's eyesight is constantly improving in the first few months. You can help hone his vision by holding a colorful scarf 6 inches from his face, and slowly waving it back and forth. Within a few weeks of birth, your baby's eyes will follow the scarf like radar.

As your baby reaches 3 to 6 months, she starts to focus on learning the sequence of things. Babies love knowing the routine of their day. You can help nurture this skill with a simple tickle game. Raise your hand above baby's belly and open and close it like a quacking duck, saying "Gonna, gonna, getcha!" As you come closer to her tummy, finish with a "getcha!" and a tickle.

When your baby hits the 6 to 9 month mark, you should start using your fingers when you sing. The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Little Piggy, and Little Bunny Foo Foo are good places to start. They help language development and the rhymes in the song encourage pre-reading know how. And the actions also boost hand eye coordination and motor skills.

And finally, between 9 months and a year, your baby is getting around by crawling, cruising or even toddling. Try keeping your baby busy with musical hide-and-seek. You will encourage mobility and help memory and problem-solving skills with this easy game. It's as simple as hiding a toy that plays music somewhere in your living room and having her find where the sounds are coming from. Your baby will be thrilled when she finds it.

For more tips on what games to play with your baby and other parenting advice, visit
by Jenn Eaker

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