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What kinds of toys and games encourage accomplishments?
By Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell
Babies can have lots of fun with simple toys. Look for toys that provide different responses to different actions, such as a squeak toy that rewards baby's squeeze, or a musical toy that responds when baby presses a button.

It is during these encounters that babies sense their own power, realizing that their actions are changing their world. And they are rewarded for their explorations by new accomplishments—the more they play, the more lessons learned.

As baby learns about the concept of action-reaction, you are there to guide and reinforce with words. During this period, baby's vocal range is becoming more sophisticated. Your child may even attempt a version of the many words floating around.

Initiate games that reinforce concepts baby explores daily through play. You can help teach 'up' and 'down,' 'on' and 'off' not only by going up the stairs and turning the light on, but also by gently lifting your child up in the air, singing 'First, you go up,' and lowering a giggling baby, 'Now you come down!'

Try to arrange successful experiences. If you are holding a toy for your baby, wait until you know your baby is about to reach it, and then put it in baby's hand. Provide things to swipe at, hung on short strings from a crib or activity gym so that they are about ten inches from baby's nose and well within reach of an upstretched hand, provide ideal play at this stage.

Your baby will wave toward a suspended ball, and sometimes you'll see a hand connect so that it moves with the motion. A light baby rattle, hung up in the same way, makes an interesting change: baby discovers that swiping makes a satisfying noise as well as producing movement. You can hang up a variety of objects that will behave in different ways when baby swings them, and watch your baby absolutely thrill in the discovery, 'I see that, I do this, and I make something happen.' Make sure that if such an object were to fall into your baby's crib, it would not cause harm by its weight and would not be a choking or other kind of hazard. You should be present during any of baby's playtime.

If your baby is banging blocks on the floor, join in and share baby's enthusiasm for such a fun game (which most parents delight in, anyway!). You might say, 'Listen to the noise the blocks make!' as you take your turn banging. Your use of descriptive, expressive words helps baby link the sounds of speech with their real meaning.

Classic baby games like peekaboo are also bonding activities that encourage thinking skills. When you hide your face behind your hands, baby is expecting you to 'come out,' anticipating seeing your face. When it finally appears, baby is surprised and thrilled. Babies love using their new ability of being able to anticipate an event—something that becomes a critical skill in adulthood. When they get to the point that they know something is there even when they can't see it, they are still taken by surprise when you actually appear—it fills them with head-to-toe excitement.