If You're Doing These 6 Things With Baby, You're Making Him Smarter and Stronger

baby and mom playingBabies' brains and bodies develop at a staggering rate. In the beginning, there are so many changes, it seems like you have a new baby every single week!

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We can help foster that development in many ways -- even in the little things we do with baby every day, says Tanya Remer Altmann, MD, pediatrician, spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics, and mom of two. Yep, we're doing wonders for our little ones even when doing some of the simplest things. Here's how.

1. Give him tummy time. You can start tummy time as early as day one, says Altmann. Place baby on his tummy for a few minutes a few times a day. This strengthens his head and neck and upper body muscles.

Get down on the floor with your baby and encourage him, suggests Atmann. That added interaction is a bonus for him and for you. It's also fun and bonding to do with older siblings.

By the time baby is 4 to 6 months old, tummy time will probably start to turn into rolling over time, since baby will take the skills he learned from lifting his head and neck and teach himself to fully roll over. Quite a gross motor skill milestone!

More from The Stir: 8 Things You're Already Doing That Bond You and Baby

2. Play peekaboo. This is a good way to get a sweet smile out of your newborn. When your baby is around 3 months old, she may laugh at you while playing peekaboo but may not understand exactly what is going on just yet. For example, if you use a blanket to fully cover your face, a newborn will really believe you are gone.

But if you keep doing it -- around 6 to 8 months -- baby will start to learn you're there even when she can't see you. This is a concept known as object permanence. The interaction and laughing that comes along with peekaboo at any age is great for development as well.

3. Do patty cake. A baby's fine motor skills are developed during a simple game of patty cake or clapping hands. At 3 to 4 months, moms will have to hold their babies' hands to show them the way to clap. This repeated activity helps them develop skills like picking up a spoon and, later down the road, writing. Babies tend to start clapping on their own around 5 to 6 months of age.

4. Hand him textured toys. Babies are very sensory -- they want to touch and put everything in their mouths. Touch-and-feel toys and books are great for stimulating all the senses, helping to develop them. Sensory play also helps develop cognitive, social, emotional, and creative skills as they get older.

More from The Stir: 10 Surprising & Little-Known Milestones in Baby's 1st Month

5. Read to baby. Reading is wonderful for so many reasons. Research shows that reading to baby from day one helps stimulate brain neural connections, which helps with future learning. Reading to a child helps kids learn better than any screen time. When your child hears your voice reading to her, it helps with brain development -- it's like food for the brain. Some studies suggest that babies who are read to often also enjoy learning more as they get older.

6. Feed him a variety of flavors. Even before you get to the first foods, exposing babies to different smells is beneficial, says Altmann. Once baby starts solids, slowly begin to introduce varied smells, tastes, and textures. This is important for development. Babies will be more open to try different flavors and textures if they're given them at the start. This can help them form healthy eating habits. 

make baby smarter stronger

Image via iStock.com/gradyreese and ©iStock.com/Aldo Murillo

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