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Parenting advice on child bonding with toys. Babble explains infant attachment to toys and infant development.

My three-month-old son is in love with a toy monkey. When we put it in the bouncy seat with him he smiles and coos at it for ten minutes at a time. So why does he still give me and my wife a blank stare most of the time? It’s embarrassing to be jealous of a stuffed animal. – Going ApeSh#t

Your baby loves you, really, he does. But let’s take a step back here: he’s three months old. At his age you’re lucky to get a fart smile, let alone solidly rewarding feedback. He’s still working out some really basic stuff. Like whether you’re part of his body or not. Infants are slow to realize that they are separate entities from their parents. And everyone knows it’s easier to laugh at someone besides yourself.

There are many reasons a little baby would be more attracted to a toy monkey. Maybe it’s the shiny eyeballs, the oddly fixed stare, or maybe it’s just because the dude is small, like him. Babies are very intrigued by other little creatures. The words cat and dog (or some version thereof) quite often come before mom and dad. And it’s not because the family pet was the one lovingly waking up in the middle of the night for every feeding.

Your son may also be taking interest in the decidedly inhuman qualities of the toy. In one study, male and female infants were shown both a mobile and human face. The boy babies tended to focus on the gizmo, and the girl babies on the person. The logical, possibly bogus and certainly controversial extension of this argument is that men are all gear heads and women are all social. Clearly this is a generalization, but if you’d like, you can use it to make yourself feel better. Just remember there are plenty of other studies accounting for the emotional connectedness of baby boys.

What really seems to be going on is that you’ve lucked into a superbly entertaining toy. Rejoice! (Until he loses interest.) And rest assured that after a few more weeks or months he’ll give you more smiles and coos. Then a few months after that he’ll give you huge smiles and huge coos followed rapidly by a rain of tears every time you leave – at which point, you might be wishing you could hand him that trusty monkey and bolt.

Have a question? Email beingpregnant@babble.com

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