Infant Development

Your Baby’s First Year

Activities for Birth to 3 Months

Although it seems that your newborn isn’t able to do much but eat, sleep and cry, he is actually learning from the time he is born. Children learn by playing, so playtime is important for infants. The best time to interact is when baby is alert, not tired or fussy. Your baby’s alert times will be brief at first, but will increase over the next few months. Your baby can be easily over stimulated, so don’t get frustrated if he only wants to play for a few minutes. Those few minutes still make a difference. Every opportunity is important to brain development and future learning.

Singing and Talking: Your baby loves to hear your voice and face-to-face interaction is the best way for your baby to learn language. Sing nursery rhymes, play Peek-a-Boo, or simply talk to your baby.

Copy Me: Babies love to look at faces. By looking at you and imitating your sounds and facial expressions you are not only bonding with your baby but strengthening his language skills as well.

Story Time: Even though baby cannot read, it is not too early to enjoy books. Baby can see best 8-14 inches away, so keep books close and choose books with simple pictures and bright, contrasting colors.

Tummy Time: Place a book or toy on the floor for baby to look at, or lie down and place your baby on your chest for some bonding time. Encourage your baby to lift his head and push up with his arms to strengthen his back, arm and neck muscles.

Hit It, Grab It: Batting at objects helps to develop motor skills and eye/hand coordination. Hold up scarves, toys or household objects for your baby to look at and encourage him to hit and grab them.

Follow It: Have your baby follow toys or your face. Your baby will follow with his eyes at first and then be able to turn his head to locate objects.

Play Little Mousie: “Creepie, creepie, little mousie” (Move finger up baby’s leg or back), “Right into your little housie” (Tickle baby’s tummy or neck)

Most babies, by the end of 3 months will:

  • Develop a social smile and smile at the sound of your voice
  • Imitate facial expressions
  • Raise head and chest when lying on stomach
  • Stretch legs out and kick when lying on stomach or back
  • Open and close hands, grasp and shake hand toys
  • Take swipes at dangling objects with hands
  • Push down on legs when feet are placed on a firm surface
  • Watch faces intently and follow moving objects with eyes
  • Recognize familiar objects and people at a distance
  • Begin to babble and imitate some sounds
  • Turn head toward direction of sound

Your Baby’s First Year

Activities for 4 to 6 Months

Your baby will enjoy chewing and exploring everything with her mouth. She will be able to sit with support and grab toys with her hands. Your baby will enjoy kicking and moving her arms, so provide plenty of floor time. She will begin vocalizing more, so continue to talk and sing with her. Your baby will be more interested in interacting with you and playing for longer periods.

Mirror, Mirror: Your baby will enjoy looking at herself or you in a mirror. Point out her body parts or take turns making faces and sounds. This will help develop your baby’s social and language skills.

Kick It: Have your baby kick at noisy toys or put on socks with built in rattles. This will enhance her thinking skills as your baby realizes she can make a sound by kicking her feet.

Pat Mat: Place objects that float in a resealable plastic bag and fill half way with water. Encourage your baby sit up and pat the bag to move the objects.

Where’s the Toy: Your baby is starting to learn that things still exist when they are out of site. Hide or partially hide toys under a blanket or clear bowl for her to find.

Story Time: Choose sturdy books with simple stories. Don’t feel that you have to read the book from front to back. Simply open the book and talk about the pictures or make up your own story.

Rolling: With your baby on her back or tummy, place a toy just out of reach or lie down on the floor and call her name to encourage your baby to roll.

Reach Up: Support baby in sitting position and hold toy at eye level. Encourage to reach for the toy and sit by self. This helps develop eye/hand coordination and strengthen back and stomach muscles.

Sing Round and Round the Garden: “Round and round the garden” (Circle your finger on your ba-by’s palm), “ Went the little bear. One step, two steps,” (Walk your fingers up your baby’s arm), “Tickle you under there!” (Tickle under arm)

Most babies, by the end of 7 months will:

  • Enjoy social play
  • Be interested in mirror images
  • Be able to find partially hidden objects
  • Explore with hands and mouth
  • Respond to own name and begin to respond to “no”
  • Be able to tell emotions by tone of voice
  • Respond to sound by making sounds
  • Babble chain of sounds (ba-ba-ba)
  • Roll both ways (stomach to back, back to stomach)
  • Sit with, and then without, support on hands
  • Support whole weight on legs when help upright
  • Reach for object with one hand
  • Transfer objects from one hand to other
  • Use hand to rake objects

Your Baby’s First Year

Activities for 7 to 9 Months

Your baby will be able to sit by himself, roll, scoot, and may be crawling. This is a good time to baby proof your home. Be sure to cover electrical outlets, place gates at the top of stairs, install cabinet locks and remove small or sharp objects from baby’s reach. Your baby will begin exploring with cause and effect, learning that he can cause things to happen. Baby will enjoy banging, shaking and dropping things.

Bang It: Give your baby a spoon and a pot to bang on or musical instruments to shake. Babies love music so sing songs and move to the beat to enhance your baby’s language and motor skills.

Pick It Up: Your baby will be practicing picking things up with his fingers now. Place safe objects such as bits of cracker or pieces of cooked spaghetti in a muffin tin for your baby to pick up.

Get Moving: Your baby still needs a lot of floor time to strengthen the muscles needed for crawling and walking. Place toys out of reach and encourage your baby to crawl and get them or get down on your hands and knees and take turns chasing each other around the room.

Finger Plays: Your baby will be able to imitate finger plays now. Teach him Pat-a-Cake, Itsy Bitsy Spider, Peek-a-Boo, and So Big. This will increase language and intellectual skills as he thinks about coordinating the motions with the words.

Story Time: Thick cardboard books and texture books will be fun at this age. Encourage your baby to turn the pages and explore the textures with his hands and feet. Make reading fun by acting out the story and using different voices to make the story come alive.

Itsy Bitsy Spider: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider went up the water spout” (Climb up baby’s arm with your fingers) “Down came the rain and washed the spider out” (Wiggle fingers down chest, tummy), “Out came the sun and dried up all the rain” (Lift baby’s arms above head and back, “And the Itsy Bitsy Spider climbed up the spout again” (Climb up baby’s other arm).

Should I be concerned about my baby’s development?

Babies do not develop at the same rate. Your baby may be ahead in some areas and behind in others. If your baby was born before 37 weeks, you should adjust milestones according to the due date, not the date baby was born. At 7 months, call your health care provider or Birth to Three program if your baby:

  • Seems very stiff, with tight muscles or very floppy, like a rag doll
  • Head still flops back when body is pulled to a sitting position
  • Does not actively reach for objects or reaches with one hand only.
  • Refuses to cuddle
  • One or both eyes consistently turn in or out
  • Does not respond to sounds around him or her
  • Does not roll over in either direction (front to back or back to front)
  • Does not smile on his or her own, or does not laugh or make squealing sounds
  • Cannot sit with help
  • Does not follow objects with both eyes at near (1 foot) and far (6 feet) ranges
  • Does not bear weight on legs
  • Experiences a dramatic loss of skills he or she once had

Your Baby’s First Year

Activities for 10 to 12 Months

Your baby will be moving around now and pulling up on furniture. She will be getting into cabinets and drawers, so continue to baby proof your home. Baby will be pointing and trying to communicate more, so continue to name objects and talk to baby about what she is doing. Fill and dump games are very popular as your baby will enjoy putting things in and out of containers.

Feely Book: Find different textured material such as fur, bubble wrap, sponges or sandpaper. Glue material onto small pieces of cardboard to make a book for your baby to explore.

Drawer of My Own: Designate a drawer in the kitchen for your baby. Fill with safe toys or kitchen objects for her to play with. Change items often to create a new surprise.

Blocks: Your baby may be able to stack one or two blocks, but will enjoy knocking them down more.

Story Time: Your baby will enjoy interactive books such as singing and lift the flap books. Help your baby point to pictures and imitate sounds of things she sees.

Paper Pull: To promote fine motor development, put paper or scarves in an empty tissue or diaper wipe box. Your baby will love pulling them out and putting them back in.

Push It: Provide a laundry basket or box for your baby to push or pull. This will enhance motor skills as your baby learns to pull up, push, and climb in and out of the basket.

Pulling Up and Cruising: Place toys on the couch and encourage baby to pull up or cruise down couch to reach them. This will strengthen baby’s leg muscles and develop coordination needed for walking.

Play Ride a Little Pony: “Ride a little pony, go to town” (Bounce baby on your lap), “Careful little pony, don’t fall down” (Straighten your legs and gently slide baby down)

Most babies, by the age 1 year old will:

  • Be shy around strangers
  • Cry when mother or father leaves
  • Finger-feed self
  • Find hidden objects easily
  • Look at correct picture when the image is named
  • Begin to use objects correctly (drinking from cup, brushing hair)
  • Respond to simple verbal requests
  • Respond to “no”
  • Wave bye-bye
  • Say “dada” and “mama”, and use exclamations, such as “Oh-oh!”
  • Crawl
  • Pull self up to stand
  • Walk holding on to furniture
  • Stand momentarily without support
  • Can walk two or three steps without support
  • Use pincer grasp
  • Bang two objects together
  • Put objects into container and take objects out of container
  • Poke with index finger