Forget the flash cards. No need to sign up for infant classes. And eject that “Baby Einstein” DVD! What your baby needs is playtime, because it’s through playful interactions that infants develop into smart, social, happy kids who learn well in school. Simple activities and games with the important grown-ups in their lives exercise babies’ brains in multiple ways. You are your child’s first and most educational toy; her home and neighborhood - the kitchen floor, the bathroom sink, the supermarket - are her first classroom.

    Playing in month 1

    Calm your baby with infant massage

    Your newborn doesn't need to play yet. But he does need help staying calm while he gets to know his world. Giving him a massage will bond you and help his brain do its important early work. It might even help him sleep better. To begin, wash your hands, and rub them together with a little baby oil or lotion. Using gentle pressure -   not too rough or too light   - gently draw your finger tip down your baby’s arms and legs, one at a time, and rub the palms of his hands, the soles of his feet, and his temples.   Massage the shoulders and back. Name the parts of his body as you massage them, so he hears your voice. Limit the massage to no more than three to five minutes at first (stop if you sense him tensing up), until he gets used to your touch.

    How it helps the brain grow

    By massaging and calming your newborn, you keep him from becoming over-stimulated and help to start wiring his emotional center, deep in the middle of the brain. This bonding activity helps your baby feel secure, and lets his brain focus on the task of development.

    The school connection

    Children who feel secure learn better.

    Next: Playing in month 2