Show your baby happy facial expressions to help him develop self-esteem.

How to Help Your Baby Develop Motor & Cognitive Skills

by C. Giles

Cognitive and motor skills are two crucial aspects of your infant's healthy development. Cognitive development refers to the skills your baby is gradually learning in order to understand the world around him: language, perception, thought, memory and physical coordination. Your baby's motor skills help him in his physical development and fall into two categories: fine or small motor skills, and gross or large motor skills. Remember, every infant develops at his own pace, but if you have concerns about any aspect of your baby's development, see your health care provider.

1. Cognitive Skills: Perception and Memory

Interaction with your baby boosts her cognitive development. Spend time cuddling her, talking to her and playing simple games, such as Peek-a-Boo and Itsy-Bitsy Spider. Doing the same activities regularly teaches your baby how to learn, reports BabyCenter. Provide your baby with age-appropriate toys of different textures and shapes. Teach her cause and effect by demonstrating what happens when you drop a toy onto the floor or hide it inside a box. Becoming aware of the results of certain actions boosts her self-confidence. Help her develop memory skills with familiar songs, books and games.

2. Cognitive Skills: Language

Promote your infant's ability to think, learn and understand by talking to him throughout the day, suggests KidsHealth. Explain what you are doing -- for example, "I'm making a cup of tea" or "I'm changing your diaper." Read your baby picture books with everyday objects from the age of 3 months. These activities help strengthen the connections in your baby's brain, which help boost his language skills at later stages.

3. Fine Motor Skills

Your baby's fine motor skills -- the coordination of small muscle movements within the fingers with the eyes -- are directly connected to cognitive development, says Rhoda Erhardt, a pediatric occupational therapist, in an article for the "Parents" magazine website. Help your baby develop these skills from birth. Gently stroke the backs of his knuckles with a rattle or small stuffed toy. When his fingers instinctively open, place the toy in his palm. As he grows older, he'll be able to hold it for longer without dropping it. Tummy time is important for developing hand muscles. Give him a few minutes on his tummy several times a day. An infant gym with dangling objects is great for developing fine motor skills, as your baby will try to grab the objects.

4. Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills make your baby stronger and more coordinated. She needs to build up her large muscles -- biceps, triceps and quadriceps -- to help her master sitting, crawling and walking. Help boost your tot's gross motor skills by placing her in different positions, suggests an article on the What to Expect website. Moving her from her tummy to her back and from the floor to her crib, will stimulate and strengthen different muscles. Give her a helping hand, such as by gently pulling her up into a sitting position from lying down or encouraging her to stand while pressing down on your hands.

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