Babies up to six months learn a lot from their surroundings.
Dr Jennifer Kiing, consultant paediatrician at the National University Hospital's Child Development Unit in the University Children's Medical Institute, said: 'The baby's brain is plastic at this very early age. What it learns is retained and consolidated to help it acquire new skills and competence.'
Parents and caregivers can enable this learning process by playing with the baby.
Talking, singing, cuddling and playing with him are the best ways to stimulate the baby.
You can use wind chimes, mobiles and cloth books to stimulate a baby's senses. At this stage, a baby may try to grab objects offered to him.
Ms Rachel Woon, play specialist at KK Women's and Children's Hospital, said: 'It is also important that parents or caregivers interact and play with their babies to nurture the bond between them.'
As babies grow older, they start to recognise their caregivers and will smile or coo when they see them.
Ms Woon said: 'This is the stage where it is important to continue encouraging them to explore.'
Immersing babies in different environments such as a sandbox, a grassy park or a pool allows them to further develop their senses through exploring their surroundings.
Television, even educational baby programmes, is not recommended, but reading to the baby is advised.
Dr Kiing also recommended that parents and caregivers who speak a second language start speaking to the baby in that language.
She said: 'This will encourage the child to learn a second language, and this learning will be effortless for children who are developing normally.'
She added: 'It is important for a child to associate one language with one adult rather than have a parent use a few languages with him.'
Parents and caregivers can also teach babies their names and who their parents are. Babies at that young age won't understand what is being said but they can sense various tones of voice and react accordingly.
In terms of physical and motor development, babies between three and six months can sit up and move their arms and legs. They can be given rattles, squeaky rubber toys or those which emit sound or light.
Such toys help in developing the baby's motor skills and encourage him to start turning and sitting up.
But while play is the buzzword, parents should think outside the box and do more than just hand out toys to their babies.
Dr Kiing said: 'It is far more important to engage and play with a baby than to be constantly offering him new toys.'
Brought to you by Fisher-Price
This article was first published in Mind Your Body, The Straits Times on Jun 4, 2008.