Newborns and toddlers

Infants go through great physical changes in the first year of life, tripling their birth weight and gaining about 9 inches in length. They're born with undeveloped muscles and spend the first year building up their muscle mass so that they can grasp objects and ultimately stand up and walk.

During this first year, infants also are building up the neurological connections that allow them to move their muscles in a coordinated fashion. For example, you can stimulate your infant to turn over or to move by putting objects just out of reach. You also can stimulate him to reach out by hanging a mobile over his crib.

To make sure that your infant develops strong muscles to hold up that head and build up those arms, you can

^ Take time to play with your infant every day for 30 minutes to one hour.

^ Encourage siblings and grandparents (as if they needed it) to play with your baby.

^ Provide safe objects and toys for the baby to play with.

^ Let the baby watch as you exercise to encourage imitation.

^ See if your local sports club has a parent-infant program. If not, tell them to start one.

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