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Gentler Roughhousing

You might have roughhoused as a kid  -- but is it really okay nowadays?

Absolutely, as long as safety comes first. It helps your baby learn about movement and balance and is a great way to have fun together. "To newborns, everything is new, so they don't need super-active physical play," says Lawrence Cohen, Ph.D., author of Playful Parenting. At 4 or 5 months, they're ready for more high-energy games. What yours likes can quickly change, though, so stay tuned to his mood. How to be safe:

Bouncing: Gentle bouncing, jiggling, and rocking are good ways to interact with young babies, but never shake. Keep making eye contact to see whether he's enjoying it. At around 4 or 5 months, try slowly dancing while supporting his head.

Tossing: Don't let him free-fall more than a few inches. Safer: Lift him high without letting go. Or have him catch some air by holding him horizontally and flying him around like an airplane (be sure to support his head).

Wrestling: Playful rough-and-tumble is okay for older babies. Crawl after your child and, as you're about to catch him, "miss" and fall over so he can climb all over you and giggle.

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