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7 Genius Ways to Boost your Baby's Brain

Building baby's brain can be simple, fun and free!

Everyone wants their children to grow up smart, but Montessori daycare is out of reach for many families. Luckily, there are a ton of great, easy brain boosters than anyone can practice at home. Here are just a few:

The Shell Game

Studies have shown that babies as old as three months can recognize how many of something there are, an important stepping stone to doing math. One way to train this ability, as well as visual tracking, is to play the shell game with them. Start with two cups and one toy, and simply swap them once, and increase the difficulty from there. If your baby doesn't get it at first, practice playing peekaboo with the toy and cup, and come back to it next week. It'll click before you know it!

RELATED: 10 New Game Ideas That Help with Baby's Development

The Matching Game

Between the ages of six months to a year, your little one will slowly develop the ability to match categories, but may not be ready for shapes and more abstract concepts. One fun, easy and cheap way to practice this skill is to get paint samples in colors that match his or her toys, and practice putting matching colors together.

Play the Radio

Recent research has shown that babies who listen to spoken radio programming passively absorb language, even if it's a foreign language. So rather than having the same simple conversations with them over and over and over (and over) again to practice vocabulary, consider letting them play with toys while listening to NPR or your favorite radio station.

Explore New Environments

Baby brains are actively mapping everything around them, and while it may be tempting to go to the same comfortable places every day, taking your baby exploring will allow them to encounter new situations, build neural pathways while mapping them, and build greater confidence and curiosity. Take a different route on your walk, stroll through some extra aisles at the grocery store, or let Baby safely explore the basement while you're doing laundry. Whenever possible, try to take Baby to the park: Studies have shown that being around nature increases relaxation, and the up-and-down motion of walking on uneven terrain has also been suggested to boost the development of little brains.

Not only will the kid be introduced to new flavors and textures, but will also practice identifying shapes, colors and textures.

Taste Tests

Recent studies have shown that picky eaters are more likely to suffer depression as adults, so developing diverse tastes at an early age is critical. One great way to train your child's tastebuds is simply to offer a variety of foods. One way to introduce them to new foods is to sprinkle a small sampling of new foods on their plate, along with old favorites. Blueberries, salmon and sweet potatoes, for instance. Not only will the kid be introduced to new flavors and textures, but will also practice identifying shapes, colors and textures.

Baby Sign Language

Babies can formulate ideas long before they can express them verbally, and some studies have suggested that teaching them simple sign language commands can increase their IQ over a lifetime. Start with simple commands such as "more," "all done," "play" and "eat."

RELATED: The Best Toys to Develop Fine Motor Skills

Simple Commands

In line with sign language, your child will be able to register simple commands, such as picking something up, throwing things and putting things away. Much like training a dog, you teach your baby one new skill at a time: Start by saying the command (it's critical that this is simple and consistent, or else Baby will get confused), demonstrating the skill and then helping Baby do the skill. This will help them develop awareness of their own bodies, the space around them and critical language skills.

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Photograph by: Flickr/Mark Skipper

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