Sure, the little guy in the bouncer appears to be, well, just sitting there. But don't be fooled: His mind is going a mile a minute. During their first 12 months, babies absorb information, explore, and experiment almost nonstop -- and in the process, build the neural connections needed for a lifetime of learning.
What geegaws and field trips are necessary to spur him along? Lucky for you, exactly none. The most ho-hum day is already naturally jam-packed with noggin-nourishing opportunities.
"You don't need special videos and flash cards, or expensive classes," says Susan Heim, coauthor of Boosting Your Baby's Brain Power. "If you encourage it, almost anything you do with your baby can be a teaching moment."
Wake Up, Sleepyhead!
Your baby probably saw you just a few hours ago (sigh!), but she's still thrilled when you pop up again. "Babies need to see the same face consistently and predictably; it helps wire their attention system," says Jill Stamm, Ph.D., author ofBright From the Start.
Flash a big grin
Your baby's brain is equipped with mirror neurons, special cells that help her observe and then imitate what you do. Smiling back is one of its earliest victories.
Belt out a tune
By 3 months, she'll love to zero in on your lips, tongue, and teeth. When you sing "Wake Up, Little Susie," you show her how words are formed -- so one day she can start blurting out her own.
Play "guess what I have"
Wrap a stuffed animal in a blanket and encourage your baby to explore it: "What could this be? It feels soft." While she's watching, reveal the hidden treasure: "Voilà! It's Giraffe!" Not only will this teach her to put certain senses together, but joint attention -- when your baby looks at the same thing you do -- is a critical cognitive milestone.