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New parents obsess over ways to keep their little ones entertained and edified. (Should we sign her up for SAT Prep at four months?) But when everything in the world is new to them, it might be easier than you think to get their minds and bodies going. Here are some simple ways to stimulate your zero to 12-monther.

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crinkling paper stimulate baby

Crinkling Paper

For infants, playing with different textures can be a mind-blowing experience. So grab some different colored construction, wrapping or tissue paper and gently brush it over their feet and hands. For extra stimulation use bold black-and-white patterns.

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Read Aloud

Reading with your child is an important way for them to develop vocabulary and communication skills. In addition to hearing your voice, make sure your baby can see your facial expressions and the way you form words with your mouth. When kids are really little, it doesn’t even matter what you’re reading. So go ahead and orate from that New Yorker article you’ve been meaning to get to.

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Tracking Game

After the first month or so, your baby will be able to follow objects back and forth with his eyes. Build on this skill by grabbing a rattle, soft toy or even a spoon from your kitchen. Track it back and forth in front of your baby’s face and watch him become transfixed.

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Baby Massage

New moms aren’t the only ones who could use a little rubdown. Massaging a baby after a bath with a little bit of lotion not only feels good but actually stimulates her central nervous system, which in turn can alleviate stress and induce calm.

dance to music stimulate baby

Dance Party

If you want your kiddo to grow up with amazing taste in music, you have to start them young! Share tunes you love for instant bonding, or cull from this handy playlist for newborns compiled by the smarties at NPR.

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Gazing adoringly into a mirror doesn’t mean you’re self-centered (if you’re a baby). It’s simply an easy way to develop social and emotional skills—and practice crafting that melt-your-heart smile.

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As any mom of two will tell you, babies have very different personalities from birth, and playing games will allow you to discover exactly what that personality is. A simple game of peekaboo, for instance, can reveal a penchant for humor (“Mommy’s hiding? Hilarious!"), a tendency for fearfulness (“Mommy’s hiding? Oh crap!") or an air of mischief (“Maybe I should hide too…").

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Narrate everything you do

Talk to her like she’s your best friend visiting your house for the first time. (Because she is, isn’t she?) Talking builds communication skills and also allows you to familiarize her with your surroundings. It’s like having a therapist that can’t talk back. Perfect.

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