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Stimulating Your Baby Through Play

Playing peekaboo, having tea, putting the doll to sleep, giving stuffed animals French accents -- sometimes I amaze myself at how creative I can be with my daughter. It's also exhausting (particularly when your French accent is trés terrible), yet I can't get rid of this nagging voice in my head that wonders, "Am I playing with her enough?"

Chances are, the answer is yes, says Close. "Because parents have heard that the first three years of life are crucial for brain development, they feel so much pressure to constantly be teaching their toddlers.

Children are sponges -- they're naturally curious without our prompting." In other words, I can sort the laundry while Lucy pushes her stroller around the bedroom or empties my underwear drawer, and feel confident that she's being stimulated.

This is a good time to butt out of your tot's playtime. You don't have to entertain him 24/7. Let him use push and pull toys to walk around the house, play with stacking toys (at first, Lucy just loved dumping out her blocks and then putting them back in the plastic container), and imitate household tasks (cooking with pots and pans that you put in his own designated drawer in the kitchen), leaving you free to get dinner on the table.