Creative Tips from Baby Minds - Birth to 24 Months

by Linda Acredolo, PhD and Susan Goodwyn, PhD

Birth +

  • Imitate your newborn's facial expressions -- and then offer some for her to imitate, like opening your mouth or sticking out your tongue.
  • Help your 2- to 3-month-old figure out how the world works by tying one leg with a soft ribbon to an overhead mobile. A kick makes the toy move.

6 months +

  • Introduce "Dialogue reading" when looking at picture books with your baby -- ask questions even though you still have to supply the answers.
  • Foster budding number awareness by tickling your baby's tummy in predictable sets -- like twice in a row. Then surprise him by changing to three tickles.
  • When your baby babbles, imitate her, modeling turn-taking in "conversation." You can also increase her sounds awareness by altering the pattern: going from ma, ma, ma to ba, ba, ba, or switching from ma, ma, ma to mo, mo, mo.

9 months +

  • Recognize your baby's inborn desire to practice remembering things by cheerfully reading storybooks over and over.
  • Play "cause and effect" games that build on your baby's fascination with faces. When he touches your nose, you stick out your tongue -- with countless variations on this theme.
  • Model simple "baby signs" -- like wrinkling your nose and sniffing to indicate flowers -- during your everyday interactions. Then combine baby signs with your child's favorite books.

12 months +

  • Help your baby "make a memory" by narrating videos of family events, asking questions and providing answers along the way.
  • Provide toys that foster "pretend" play, like toy telephones and teacups. Then take part in and narrate play scenarios to stimulate language development.
  • Play "which hand has the penny," using a set sequence (e.g. right right left, right right left).
  • Turn your house into Sesame Street by picking a letter of the week. Some possibilities: make bright paper cutouts, arrange Cheerios to form the letter, or squirt a soap foam letter on the tub wall.

18 months +

  • Nurture your baby's sense of humor by doing silly and unexpected things with everyday objects: turn a diaper into a hat, a banana into a telephone, or try to put your foot into his overalls.
  • Point out when the number of objects changes (e.g. "Look! Another birtd. Now there are two!")
  • Expand your use of "Dialogic Reading" by asking question that require more imagination, like "What did Goldilocks tell her Mommy when she got home?" -- even if you are still supplying most of the answers.

24 months +

  • Build letter awareness by drawing silly creations that use a letter as the starting point (e.g. turn the letter V into an ice cream cone).
  • Boost memory and emotional skills by adding a happy-sad conversation to the bedtime ritual.
  • Cuddle and take turns remembering the specific events during the day that made you each happy and sad.
  • Slow down enough to allow your toddler to enjoy counting -- stairs, fenceposts, slices of banana, or whatever catches her fancy.

Linda Acredolo, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis. She has also served as secretary of the Society for Research in Child Development, and as associate editor of Child Development, the leading professional research journal.

Susan Goodwyn, Ph.D. is a professor of psychology and child development at California State University, Stanislaus, and an associate researcher at the University of California. They have received many research grants, including an award from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. They are authors of Baby Minds: Brain-building games your baby will love. Both authors live and work in California.

Copyright © Linda Acredolo and Susan Goodwyn. Permission to republish granted to, LLC.