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Copying Mommy

What could be cuter than a chubby hand shaking back at you when you wave bye-bye? That little wiggle is not only adorable, it's also a milestone. "Imitation is an important way babies learn, and it's a precursor to imagination," says Punam Kashyap, M.D., a developmental pediatrician at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey. As her memory grows, your babe will begin to copy things you did yesterday (say, wiping down the counter) and not just what you're doing right now (like talking on the phone). Encouraging imitation is as simple as including her in the most routine of activities:

• If she reaches for the page while you're reading, invite her to turn it by gently guiding her hand to the paper's edge.

• If she starts patting her head while you're brushing your hair, hand her the brush. Then take turns and praise her for her excellent primping.

• If she raises her hand when you wave good-bye to someone, by all means help her flap away. She'll be doing it on her own before you know it.