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Choosing Toys that Encourage Enthusiastic Learning
Providing baby with plenty of well-chosen toys—especially ones that encourage activity and exploration—is a good way to reward actions. When trying to decide what belongs in baby's toy chest, remember that baby's muscles develop from the top down (head to foot, that is) and outward from the middle of the body. This means that head and arm control emerge before leg and foot control. Also, progress comes from the center of the body outward; babies can hold their bodies steady before they can manipulate their hands. While it won't harm them to expose babies to toys before their bodies are totally ready to take advantage of them, it's best to introduce a baby to new challenges patiently.

Finding products and toys that go at your baby's pace is the key to raising an enthusiastic learner. By associating fun and play with learning, you will help create a lifelong aptitude for acquiring new skills. The notion of 'cause and effect' is only the first leap you watch your child take; you'll be witness to all sorts of other new discoveries as well. Activity centers are an especially fun and effective way to foster your baby's continual exploration and brain power. These centers combine the independence of stand-up experimentation and countless toys your baby grows with.

Your baby's passion for learning is an ongoing treat for both of you. As soon as one skill is attained, you'll be able to see the next rounding the corner. Some parents find this constant acquisition exciting; others feel wistful as their babies grow with leaps and bounds, always missing the last stage. Your baby's new stages will bring new thrills, new accomplishments—along with new challenges. Be patient and encouraging—and keep that camera loaded!
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education