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Quality Time with Your 2- to 6-Month-Old Baby
These QT activities are for you and your very young baby—from about 2 to 6 months of age. You may think that babies this young do not need or want any special activities with you, but this is far from reality. Much is happening in your baby's life from birth onward, but around 2 to 3 months she seems to 'wake up,' to be more alert and interested in her surroundings, and to be especially attuned to you. You lean over her crib to change her diaper or pick her up for feeding, and she gets really excited. She thrusts her arms and legs out, stares at you intently, and probably smiles and vocalizes. At this age, most babies wake up hungry and want to eat immediately. If yours is one of those, feed her before starting the QT activity. If she is one who likes to look around and play for a time before eating, then do the QT activity first.

Let there be light. This activity is very simple. Hold your baby in your arms and walk to the room's light switch. If the light is off, turn it on; if it is on, turn it off. Chances are, if her position in your arms allows it, she will look up at the ceiling at the source of the light. Turn the switch off and on several times, each time saying softly, 'Where's the light?' 'Where did the light go?' If she doesn't seem to notice, hold her so she can see the fixture and say something like, 'Look, I turned it back on.' 'Now I've turned it off again.'

This little game bears many repetitions. With a very young baby, it is good for about two to three minutes at a time. As she gets older, take her index finger in your hand and push the switch with it. Do the same thing in different rooms, always remembering to comment on what you are doing. 'Look. Here's the light switch for the kitchen. You watch for the light.' You can, if you like, do this with a lamp. However, I have always found that it works better with a ceiling light.

Can we talk? Around 2 to 3 months of age, babies begin to make a lot of vocal sounds. They are most likely to do this when they are lying in their cribs, awake but not terribly hungry. Once they get really hungry, the babbling will turn into a cry intended to get mom there in a big hurry.

A delightful way to encourage this vocalizing, which is a prelude to real speech, is to 'answer' each time your baby makes a sound with one of your own—plus a smile and a pleasant tweak. The game goes like this: he is awake but not yet clamoring to be fed. (If so, wait until after the feeding to play the game.) You have changed his diaper and he is happily thrashing his arms and legs around. All at once, a sound comes out—'Crl,' or 'etl,' or something equally unspellable. Look happy, get all excited, tweak his tummy and say something silly like, 'Oh, you want some etl, do you?' Keep looking at him, maybe patting or caressing him, but wait until another sound comes out to talk to him again. And don't forget to smile; that's a big part of the reinforcement. What you say isn't important. What is important is that you respond verbally to his early vocalizations.

Chances are your baby will want to play for three to five minutes. Then he will probably abruptly turn his head to one side, announcing to you that he is tired of the game. Don't try to force him to stay with you; always take his lead about when it's time to quit. If you try to force it, it's never QT.
Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education