Just The Two Of Us

Five great ways to bond with your baby.

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When it comes to mother-child "¨bonding, embrace what comes "¨naturally.

Simple activities, such as a "¨post-bath foot rub or playing where's-your-bellybutton, not only establish "¨a lifelong foundation of love and "¨trust, they also help your child's brain "¨develop. Here are five activities for you and your baby to do together:

Massage Choose a time when the "¨baby is calm but alert. A light yet firm "¨touch is best, says Martine Groeneveld, "¨R.N., a Los Angeles-based certified "¨infant massage instructor and author "¨of 2009's Mommy Draw Stars on My "¨Belly: Rhymes, Songs and Touch-Play "¨Activities to Stay Connected. (Press gently "¨on your closed eyelid to gauge how "¨much pressure to use.) Feet and legs "¨are a great place to start, keeping in "¨mind that the tummy should be massaged in clockwise strokes to help "¨digestion and the head shouldn't be "¨massaged until the fontanel (soft spot) has closed, at around 12 months. "¨

Singing Being able to warble "¨"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" may "¨stave off fussiness in the car or soothe "¨bedtime from birth onward. Around "¨9 months old, your baby can join in—quacking to "Old MacDonald" or clap"¨ping along with "Wheels on the Bus." "¨

Talking Narrate the activities you "¨do together ("Now we'll change your "¨diaper") to attune your baby to language. Once your baby begins to crawl, "¨use words that describe new experiences. ("The grass feels cool.") Studies "¨have shown that simple questions "¨("Where's your ball?") increase brain "¨activity and cognition, says Natalie "¨Robinson Garfield, a New York City-"¨based psychotherapist who holds a "¨degree in infant/toddler development. "¨Don't, however, ask rapid-fire questions or overload your child with choices.

Playing Those first flirty coos morph "¨into games like peekaboo by 6 months "¨old. For babies around a year, Karyn "¨Siegel-Maier, author of 2009's Happy "¨Baby, Happy You: 500 Ways to Nurture "¨the Bond with Your Baby, recommends "¨setting up couch cushions and draped "¨blankets as an obstacle course, with mom waiting at the end as a reward. "¨

Reading Few activities provide such "¨enduring benefits. You can start from birth, but babies will really engage once "¨they can sit upright in your lap and "¨study the pictures. Choose board books "¨with bright, simple pictures, for starters, "¨and make it interactive ("woof" for the "¨dog). As your child grows (9 months and "¨older), choose stories connected to new "¨experiences; a story about winter, for example, after seeing snow fall. "¨

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