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Babies love mild surprises, and being surprised (and then learning to predict what might happen) is one way your baby learns that actions have consequences.
Appropriate for: 5 months to 1 year
Skills developed: Sense of cause and effect
What you'll need: No equipment necessary
Sit on a chair or sofa with your knees together and legs bent at a right angle. Seat your baby on your knees facing you with her legs to either side. Place your hands on your baby's waist to steady her and bounce her gently on your knees, saying, "This is the way the lady rides, tri-tree-tree-tree, tri-tree-tree-tree, this is the way the lady rides, tri-tree tri-tree tri-TREE."
On the final "tree," part your legs so your baby dips way down between them, taking care, of course, that she doesn't fall all the way to the floor.
The second and third verses have increasingly dramatic bouncing rhythms and falls: "This is the way the gentleman rides, gallop-a-trot, gallop-a-trot, this is the way the gentleman rides, gallop-a-gallop-a-TROT" – accompanied by a firmer bounce and a more pronounced dip – and then (the final verse), "This is the way the farmer rides, hobbledy-hoy, hobbledy-hoy, this is the way the farmer rides, hobbledy-hobbledy-HOY."
Here, sway your knees from side to side, rocking your baby as if she were a farmer being carried on a swaybacked nag, and on the final "hoy," tip your baby sideways off your knees, catching her in your arms as she dips.
Welcome to the watching age – when babies are transfixed by moving patterns and shapes. For example, if your TV happens to be on when he's nearby, your little one may stare at it now, whereas before he ignored it. Make him an active audience with an on-the-wall shape-making game.
Appropriate for: 6 to 15 months
Skills developed: Visual
What you'll need: A flashlight
Many cultures have created forms of theater using shadows, and babies love the drama of it. Sit on the floor with your baby in your lap. Position a flashlight so it shines against a wall, then put your hands in between the beam and the wall so that the wall serves as a screen.
Start with simple activities like waving and holding up different numbers of fingers. Then use your hands to make animal shapes, such as a dog. Help your baby wave his hands to make simple shadows. You could even use hand puppets, if you have some handy, to create interesting shadows.
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.
Visit your 5-month-old, week 4 page