Raising an infant?  Birth to 12 months...... 

What makes children happy may surprise you. Child development experts who study the subject say that happiness isn't something you can give a child like a prettily wrapped present. In fact, says Edward Hallowell, psychiatrist and author of The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness, over-indulged children — whether showered with toys or shielded from emotional discomfort — are more likely to grow into teenagers who are bored, cynical, and joyless. "The best predictors of happiness are internal, not external," says Hallowell, who stresses the importance of helping kids develop a set of inner tools they can rely on throughout life.

The good news is you don't have to be an expert in child psychology to impart the inner strength and wisdom it takes to weather life's ups and downs. With patience and flexibility, any parent can lay the groundwork for a lifetime of happiness.

Did you know your baby needs play?  Here are some great activities for the first 12 months to stimulate play for your baby:)

Newborn to Four Months

  • Finger Puppets and Shaken not Stired

Finger Puppet Parade

You may have noticed that your newborn's vision is a bit limited; she seems unaware of things that are far away, but bring something right into her line of sight (between 8 and 10 inches from her face is ideal) and suddenly she's all eyes. This is a survival skill; babies come into the world equipped to find food, and 8 to 10 inches is the distance between her face and yours when you're nursing! Explore your baby's developing visual skills with a simple game of finger puppets.

Appropriate for: Newborn to 4 months
Skills developed: Visual stimulation, interactivity
What you'll need: A set of simple finger puppets – you can make your own out of construction paper and felt-tip pens.

Lay your baby on her back or put her in a reclining bouncy seat.  Using a set of finger puppets, either store-bought or homemade (see instructions below), put a finger puppet on the index finger of each hand.

Bring your fingers slowly into your baby's line of sight and wait until she focuses on the faces. Then, speaking slowly, introduce each puppet to her. Something simple like "Hello, I'm Clover the cow" will do. As each puppet speaks, bend your finger forward so the puppet bows to your baby. Wait a moment, as if your baby were answering, then continue conducting a one-sided conversation between her and each puppet.

At this age, don't expect your baby to be able to follow the puppets' movement with her eyes and head; instead, just let her enjoy the interaction with you.

To make paper finger puppets (Note: Don't feel you need to do this as the mom of a newborn -- but it may be fun later on.) Use stiff paper, such as colored construction paper. Cut out small rectangles and make simple cylinders the size of your fingertips, taping, gluing, or stapling the paper together around your finger. Paste on ears, whiskers, or a hat for the animal or character you want to create. A man in a top hat is fairly simple, as is a cat with pointy ears.

Finally, draw faces with a felt pen, keeping the features fairly plain: Babies react most directly and dramatically to simple, graphic faces.

Shaken, Stirred

Rattles have been around since ancient times, and it's no wonder: Babies love to watch and listen to these percussion instruments.

Appropriate for: Newborn to 3 months

Skills developed: Auditory

What you'll need: At least one rattle, and preferably a few

Gifts for new parents often include a rattle almost as an afterthought, but you can put any noise-making doodad to good use. When your baby is lying on her back, hold a small rattle in front of her face and shake it gently. Move it to one side of her face and shake it again, and then do the same on the other side of her face. She won't yet be able to track it with her eyes, but she will notice the change in location, and it'll certainly get her attention (try not to make it too loud – that might scare her).

Though at this age she's too young to grasp an object, if you place one in her hand – particularly a light one made of fabric or plastic – she may involuntarily curl her fingers around it and move her hand. In this way she discovers that she can move something herself. You may see an expression of delight that's priceless!

Remember: Each baby develops at a different pace, so if yours isn't quite ready for this week's activities, don't worry — just try them again in a few weeks.

Recording Star

The first time a baby hears his own voice is a moment to remember. He may not even realize it's his for a while, and watching him figure it out is a lot of fun. This activity is a winner anytime, but it's easiest in the quiet hour before bed.

Appropriate for: 5 months to 3 years
Skills developed: Auditory, verbal
What you'll need: A recording device

An old-fashioned tape recorder will work for this activity, as will a digital audio recorder. Set up the recording device near your baby and then encourage him to start babbling: Show him a picture book, tickle his feet, turn on his mobile (you'll want to choose something that allows you to be quiet, because it's most fun if the tape doesn't have a lot of sound other than his voice).

Once you have a good sample of your baby's vocal range (and this may take more than one sitting), play it back for him. To his quizzical expression, reply, "Yes, that's you!" and play the key moments over the next few months until the revelation hits. Save the tape or audio file, as it will be a great memento to add to your photos and videos.


Rocket Takeoff

Here's a game that gives you some fun together-time with your baby while teaching her about the joy of movement.

Appropriate for: 5 to 10 months
Skills developed: Gross motor
What you'll need: No equipment needed

Sit cross-legged on the floor, with your baby in your lap facing away from you. Bring your knees up and toward each other with your legs still crossed. This will gently raise your lap and your baby until she's just a bit above ground.

As your baby goes up, say, "Rocket ship launching!" and, as you lower her back down: "Rocket ship landing!" To calm her down before standing up, use a slower, more gradual motion as you elevate your baby, saying "Elevator going up," then lower her back down as you say, "Elevator going down."

Remember: Each baby develops at a different pace, so if yours isn't quite ready for this week's activities, don't worry — just try them again in a few weeks.

A special thank you to the baby center for these games:)


Top Children's Picture Books as Presents for Babies

Books for infants don't need a lot of words to be entertaining and stimulating. Babies learn from the sensory stimulation in a book, such as various textures to feel and bright colors to see. Choose these board books for a present that a baby will enjoy.

  • Bright Baby Touch and Feel Books by Roger Priddy. These books come in multiple themes and contain bright, basic pictures and textures to touch and feel.
  • Look, Look! By Peter Linenthal. Babies love contrasting images. These black and white images, with a splash of bright color, will keep their attention.
  • Baby Einstein Babies by Julie Aigner-Clark. Babies love to see other babies. These book contains simple phases and pictures of babies in art, photos and illustrations. Other books that are available include Cats, Birds and Dogs.
  • Oh, Baby! by Elizabeth Hathon. Each page contains an activity for baby, such as touch and feel objects, a mirror and a "mobile" on a string.


With Grateful thanks From Suite101: