Your child has gone from tiny newborn to curious infant,
reaching out and exploring his or her surroundings. That curiosity
and readiness to learn will continue as your baby becomes more
mobile during these next few months.
What Is My Child Learning?
Your little one will make great strides in learning. Play
will take on a new dimension as language emerges. During these next
few months, your baby's babbling will start to morph into words
like "mama," "dada," and "baba."
These will emerge randomly at first, but your baby will soon learn
to associate them with mom, dad, and bottle.
Your baby will begin to use gestures like pointing and waving
for expression. This is also the stage where your infant will
understand more of what you are saying, including the word
As your child gets more mobile and interested in exploring,
it's important to provide supervision and to make sure to
childproof the house to prevent accidents.
Babies this age are very busy learning how to move around.
They learn to crawl during this stage, though some will
develop more novel ways of getting around, such as creeping on
their bellies, scooting on their bottoms, or rolling to where they
want to go. It doesn't matter so much how babies get around as
long they're able to move their arms and legs equally and
coordinate both sides of the body.
Babies also become more adept at changing positions, moving
readily from lying to sitting, then pulling themselves to stand.
Holding on to furniture and other large objects nearby, your infant
will take tentative first steps and start cruising along the
furniture. Some babies may even learn to walk independently during
As hand-eye coordination improves, your baby will explore
objects in greater detail, also learning their functions: you use a
brush on your hair, you talk on the telephone.
Stranger anxiety and
also can emerge now. Your baby may get upset when a stranger
approaches or you try to leave, whether you're going into the
next room for a few seconds or leaving your child with a sitter for
the evening. Your baby may cry, cling to you, and resist attention
from others. This is normal and appropriate for this stage of
development, and might intensify in the next few months, then
slowly improve as your child develops the language and social
skills to cope with a strange situation and feels secure that the
separation isn't permanent.
Your baby's ability to get around and never-ending curiosity
boost learning now, so it's important to provide opportunities
- and a safe place - for exploration. Your baby may enjoy playing
with egg cartons, blocks, balls, stacking toys, and push-pull toys.
When your baby is in the bath, provide squeeze toys and cups and
containers to splash around with.
Infants are learning to understand language so continue to talk
to your baby. Introduce simple words by naming familiar objects and
let your baby try to imitate you. Reinforce the words by repeating
them. Encourage your infant's expressions by waiting for a
response when you are having a "conversation."
Continue reading from books with large, colorful illustrations.
Point to the pictures and say what's in them to create
associations between the things your child sees and the words that
Here are some other ideas for encouraging your 8- to
12-month-old to learn and play:
- Encourage crawling during tummy time by helping your baby get
into the crawling position on hands and knees. Place a favorite
toy out of reach and encourage your baby to move toward it.
- Continue to play games like peekaboo, but vary it a bit by
hiding your face with a blanket and letting the baby pull it off,
hiding around the corner, and showing your baby how to cover his
or her own face with the hands.
- Continue to play hide and seek and test your child's
understanding of object permanence. Let your baby watch you hide
a toy - first partially hidden, then covered completely - and let
him or her find it.
- Teach your baby action songs, like "Pat-A-Cake,"
"This Little Piggy," "The Itsy Bitsy Spider,"
and "Pop Goes the Weasel." Babies love to hear and
learn these songs and anticipate the accompanying movements.
There is a wide range of what is normal for babies, and some
babies develop slower and faster than others. Talk with your
child's doctor if you have any concerns.
Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: August 2008
Note: All information is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice,
diagnoses, and treatment, consult your doctor.
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