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12 Fun Baby Learning Games

Tom Merton for Getty Images

Yes, we're grateful for healthy, happy babies. But don't we all want our kids to be brilliant too? I do. I'm not talking about the level of genius that lands national talk-show appearances or gains early admission to Harvard. I'd just like my boys to be blessed with brains that let them breeze easily through life: little struggle, lots of opportunity.

As it turns out, we parents have a hand in making that happen — and not just in the genes we pass along. Science clearly shows that baby's brain development depends, largely, on his early experiences and not experiences with fancy DVDs or brain-enhancing toys. “You are the best toy in the room,” says Gina Lebedeva Ph.D., director of translation, out-reach and education at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. “Our brains have evolved to learn from other brains.”

Simply engaging with baby in positive, everyday ways helps her build the trillions (yes, trillions!) of brain connections that lead to language development, problem-solving skills and the emotional IQ that's so important for getting along — and ahead! — in the world. But if it feels like school, you're trying too hard. The key is to have fun with your little one as you help her to see — and hear, smell, feel and taste — how incredibly interesting everything around her is. Try these 12 easy and fun baby learning activities you can use on the go and during snacktime or playtime.