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How to Raise a Smart Baby

Confused by the sheer number of smart baby toys, books, and videos? Relax. All your baby really needs to boost brainpower is you.

Smart Babies: Toy Tips continued...

"By 9 months of age, play with your child with shape-sorting toys and puzzles and hide another toy inside a nesting block to see if your baby can find it. This adds the element of surprise and builds on the concept of object permanence," says Gordon. 

Indeed, experts say any toys that stimulate curiosity, rely on interaction between your baby and the object, or use colors or shapes to intrigue or teach can be a big plus.

At the same time, you also don't want to overwhelm your baby with more than his or her biology is ready to absorb. "It's key to plan activities that engage your baby at every developmental point without overdoing it,"  says O'Donnell.

Smart Babies: What to Do at Every Age and Stage

To help you home in on what you can to do to encourage your baby's brain development at every stage of growth, our experts helped WebMD put together the following age activity guide.

Age: Birth to 4 months

Read; make silly faces; tickle the body; slowly move objects in front of your baby's eyes, like a brightly colored rattle; sing simple songs and nursery rhymes with repetitive phrases; narrate everything you and your baby will do, such as "We are going in the car now; we are putting you in the car seat; Mommy is getting into the car."

Age: 4 to 6 months

Help baby hug stuffed animals; stack things (like plastic blocks) and let your baby knock them down; play music with different rhythms; show your baby books with brightly colored pictures; let your baby feel objects with different textures.

Age: 6 to 18 months

Talk and interact face-to-face to increase connections between sounds and words; point to familiar people and objects and repeat names; sing songs with repetitive verses and hand motions; play hide and seek.

Age 18 to 24 months

Play simple recognition games like "spot the yellow car" or " the red flower," or put three objects in front of your child and say "Give me the ..."; talk directly to your baby as much as possible; introduce your child to writing tools such as crayons and paper; ask "where and what" when reading to your child; encourage some independent play with favorite toys.

Age: 24 to 36 months

Lavish your child with praise and encouragement as he or she perfects motor skills; bolster your child's imagination by encouraging new ways to use toys; help your child incorporate 'real life' activities into play, such as pretending to talk on the phone, drive a car, have a tea party; when reading, incorporate your child into the story by asking questions; point to words while you read to your child; encourage identification of words on the page or their sound.

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