Babies are born scientists. From the moment they’re born, they begin observing and absorbing the world around them. Countless studies tout the incredible growth and development of a child’s first three years. More specifically, experiences and interactions within the very first year of life have lasting impacts on a child’s foundation for thought, feeling and overall well-being. But there are fun and simple activities to try with your baby—even newborns!—that can support their learning and overall brain development.

9 simple learning activities for baby

Here’s a list of engaging activities that stimulate baby’s brain development, nurture their curiosity, and foster their happiness.

Reading time

The importance of reading can’t be overstated. Beyond simply reading a book aloud to your little one, there are so many easy activities to incorporate into reading time to maximize the experience and impact.

1. Word and letter focus

Read slowly and point to each word as you read it. Do this throughout the book to emphasize the relationship between the letters and words baby is seeing and the sounds they’re hearing.

2. Exploring pictures

Sift through each page and point out objects and images in the pictures. Allow your child to point to images and objects and identify them. You can focus on one concept (i.e., pointing out all the red objects in the entire book) to explore and extend the activity.

3. Playing with tone

Add an extra element to reading time by incorporating different tones, volumes and voices. This will activate your child’s cognitive skills and buoy listening and focus. Add in sound effects to buoy the pictures as well.

Music time

We now know that introducing music in utero offers a host of benefits. Little ones are primed to enjoy melodies and rhythms from the moment they enter the world. Here are few ways to explore music with your baby:

1. Transform household products into musical instruments

Turn recycled coffee canisters and plastic bottles into shakers and drums. Fill bottles with paper clips, rice, beans, anything that creates an interesting sound (just be sure to glue the lid on tightly). Encourage your little ones to use their hands, spoons or rattles on coffee (or formula) cans to create beats.

2. Sing-a-longs

Babies don’t care whether you sing in the correct key, just that you sing. Nursery rhymes and classic children songs immediately engage little ones with their simplistic melodies and support language comprehension through rhyming and repetition. Teaching babies basic hand movements allows them to participate in songs before they have the verbal ability to do so.

3. Listen to music

Offer varied playlists in the background and explore new genres (jazz, bluegrass, reggae). Move and groove with the music and incorporate a “freeze dance” by pausing the music to pique listening skills and practice muscle control.

Guided sensory exploration

Babies are primed to explore their surroundings. Here are a few ways to create engaging opportunities for exploration:

1. Have baby explore everyday objects

Using a large container, basket or bag, create a random assortment of objects that offer your baby different tactile sensations. A fuzzy sock, a wooden block, a squishy ball, an old remote—any and everything can be used (just make sure they’re baby-safe!). The varied weight, size and feel of the objects are stimulating for little ones.

2. Help baby experience nature

Nature walks in the baby carrier or stroller are incredibly engaging for little brains. For an indoor activity, fill a basket with natural objects of the same color or various textures (think: pinecones, stones, seashells) or all soft objects, to name a few ideas.

3. Engage in water play

Water is a major draw for little ones. Place a large blanket or towel on the floor and fill a few plastic containers with various amounts of water. Using basic items like spoons, droppers or water bottles to pour water from one container to the other is instantly engaging. Simply touching the water and making small splashes is exciting for little ones, and eventually participating in transferring the water from container to container will be equally as satisfying.

Taking an extra moment to enjoy the value in seemingly small moments of exploration and play will inspire more ideas and opportunities for you to engage your baby in actual activities. Just like their parents, babies want to be engaged, stimulated and a part of the world around them. Every moment is an opportunity to grow—for you and your little one.

A version of this story was originally published on Nov. 13, 2016. It has been updated.