Boost Your Baby's Development

The first year of your baby's life is a busy one for both physical growth and cognitive development. It's also a crucial time for social, emotional and language skills.

According to Mayo Clinic, from birth to 6 months, you can expect your infant to grow 1/2 to 1 inch a month and gain 5 to 7 ounces a week.1 Your child might double their original birth weight by 5 to 6 months of age.

From 6 to 12 months, your infant might grow 3/8 inch each month and gain 3 to 5 ounces a week. By 12 months, your child might have tripled their original birth weight.

Be Sure Your Infant Is Active

Interactive play in the first few months, which could be nothing more than your baby lying on their stomach, can encourage movement and bonding with your baby, as well as physical and mental development.

In the first month, begin by reading almost anything aloud to your baby. At 3 months, move to brightly colored picture books that show common objects. In later months, create your own picture book with photos of familiar people or items. Your baby might only be interested for a few minutes, but reading books every day will make a difference.

Helping your baby feel secure and engaged has been shown to increase mental aptitude. By 9 to 12 months of age, your inquisitive baby craves your interaction, which further fuels cognitive development.

Help Your Baby Get Enough Rest

Infants need more sleep than older children, so be sure to alternate learning activities with sleep. Learn to recognize your baby's cues that indicate a nap or bedtime is needed.

Repetition Encourages Self-Confidence

Doing the same things over and over with your baby provides the practice that's needed to learn. As your baby matures, create a game out of repeating actions or words. This will build self-confidence and strengthen the connections in your baby's brain throughout the first year.

Provide a Variety of Toys and Textures for Your Baby to Feel

Expose your baby to textures, such as a soft stuffed animal, bumpy plastic rattle or smooth wooden block. At first, limit toys to one or two simple, colorful choices to help your baby focus.

As your baby matures, modify a toy or activity. For instance, place a ball inside a box. This small change challenges your baby's cognitive skills without frustration. As we all know, most objects end up in a young baby's mouth, so always provide close supervision and be sure items are not too small.

Help Your Baby Learn "Cause and Effect"

Your baby learns from dropping, rolling and waving objects and from fitting items inside one another. By 4 to 5 months, your baby will start to drop things intentionally to test this newly discovered ability to influence the environment. Give your baby wooden spoons, plastic cups or small boxes and make it a game.

As your baby matures, move to interactive toys or activity boards. Show your baby that pushing a button creates music or opening a toy barn door makes a cow moo. Seeing the results of actions strengthens self-confidence.

Provide Safe Opportunities for Your Baby to Explore

Fill an accessible drawer or lower kitchen cabinet with baby-safe objects that vary in shape, texture and size for your baby to discover.

Play Make-Believe With Your Baby to Reinforce Names and Functions

Give your baby props, such as a soft hairbrush, toy phone, toothbrush, cup or spoon and demonstrate the proper way to use each object. Give praise when your baby imitates the action. By 12 months, your baby will understand that items have both a name and a function.

1 Accessed March 24, 2014.

Information provided is for general background purposes and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment by a trained professional. You should always consult your physician about any healthcare questions you may have, especially before trying a new medication, diet, fitness program, or approach to healthcare issues.