When it comes to the ultimate parenting moments, your baby's smile is right up there with her first steps. After a few months of caring for your baby without much response, suddenly it's there – the beginnings of two-way communication.
You can expect to see a few smiles from as early as six weeks, but most experts agree that social smiles – the ones your baby is making intentionally as a response to something – start between two and three months.
Of course, you want to do anything you can to make those gummy grins happen as much as possible. They're super cute to see, ultra-rewarding for you as a parent, and they're a major milestone in your baby's development.
Intentional smiles show that your baby's vision, brain and nervous system are working hand in hand – and that she's figuring out how to communicate with the world around her. So, now is the time to practise your comedy skills and keep those grins coming. Missing a funny bone? Don't worry, we've got some tips to help encourage your baby to smile…
Get up close
Your baby loves everything about your face, and the closer she can see it, the better. Remember that young babies' vision hasn't fully developed yet, so they can see things much better when they're close up. Use this opportunity to, erm, get in her face, and show your baby what a happy expression looks like.
Turn on the drama
Little ones love exaggeration – blowing reality up out of the norm is exciting for them. So, when you're trying to tease out a smile, go for all the drama in your facial expressions. When smiling at her, make it the biggest smile you can, and widen your eyes. Soon she'll be copying your actions. Try making other facial expressions as well to show her a range of human emotions.
Play little games with your baby to grab her attention and engage her senses. Classics like peekaboo work well to elicit smiles – the surprise of seeing your familiar face popping out from behind a cloth or your hands is loads of fun.
You can also play around with some of the toys that make funny noises or read her a book while using silly voices for the different characters.
Dance, baby, dance
Have you ever danced without a smile on your face? Moving to the groove is a natural happy-maker. So, put on some of your favourite jams (at acceptable volume levels, of course) and dance around either with your baby or in front of your baby. If you're not ready to put on your dancing shoes, try singing songs to her – the sillier the better.
Nursery rhymes are popular with children for a reason, so try something like Old McDonald, and make all the animal noises you can remember along with it.
It's tickle time
Engaging with your baby physically not only helps tighten the bonds between you, but it can also get her smiling. Tickle her toes gently, or blow raspberries on her tummy during a nappy change.
You could also hold her up in the air and spoil her with kisses when you bring her down to your face. Yes, it's most definitely the silly things that are going to get those smiles. But while you're doing all you can to encourage a grin, you’re also doing the most important thing for your baby – spending time with her and engaging with her one on one.
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