Promoting your baby's development

For babies of any age, learning and play are inseparable. To support your budding adventurer:

  • Create an exploration-safe environment. Keep only safe objects within your baby's reach. Move anything that could be poisonous, pose a choking hazard or break into small pieces. Cover electrical outlets, use stairway gates, place cords from blinds or shades out of reach, and install child locks on doors and cabinets. If you have furniture with sharp edges, remove it from rooms where your baby plays. The same goes for lightweight objects your baby can use to pull himself or herself to a standing position, such as plant stands, decorative tables, potted trees and floor lamps.
  • Keep chatting. You've likely been talking to your baby all along. Keep it up! Narrate what you're doing, and give your baby time to respond. Say something to your baby and then wait for him or her to repeat the sounds. Ask your baby questions that involve more than a yes or no response. You might not be able to pick words from your baby's babble, but you can encourage a back-and-forth conversation.
  • Teach cause and effect. Push the button on a musical toy and dance to the tune. Open the door on a toy barn and listen to the cow say "moo." Help your baby do the same. Self-confidence will grow as your baby realizes he or she can make things happen.
  • Take time to play. By now, you and your baby might be old pros at classics such as peekaboo, patty-cake and itsy-bitsy spider. Get creative as you add to your repertoire. Crouch behind a chair or the dresser, leaving a hand or foot within your baby's view, and prompt your baby to look for you. Or make an obstacle course. Arrange cushions and pillows on a carpeted floor. Encourage your baby to creep or crawl over the mounds. Stack blocks and invite your baby to knock them down.
  • Pull out the books. Set aside time for reading every day — even if it's only a few minutes. Reading aloud is one of the simplest ways to boost your baby's language development. Make it more interesting with facial expressions, sound effects and voices for various characters. Store books within easy reach so that your baby can explore them whenever the mood strikes.
  • Turn on the tunes. Music can help soothe, entertain and teach your baby. Try calming lullabies, upbeat children's songs, classical music or your own favorites.
  • Encourage experimentation. Toy box aside, help your baby's imagination and creativity take shape. If you're up for a mess, smear applesauce, pudding or another pureed food on the highchair tray and let your baby "paint" with the mixture. Give your baby measuring cups for stacking or clapping together. At bath time, provide small containers and plastic utensils for pouring and mixing.
  • Offer a comfort object. Babies this age often form an attachment to a blanket, stuffed animal or other comfort object. Although holding, rocking and cuddling your baby remain important, a comfort object can help your baby feel secure when you're not in sight or when your baby is tired, frightened or upset.

When something's not right

Your baby might reach some developmental milestones ahead of schedule and lag behind a bit on others. This is normal, and usually no cause for concern. It's a good idea, however, to be aware of the signs or symptoms of a problem.

Consult your baby's doctor if you're concerned about your baby's development or your baby:

  • Isn't interested in rolling over, sitting or other types of movement
  • Isn't interested in reaching for objects or putting objects in his or her mouth
  • Doesn't respond to sounds or visual cues
  • Resists making eye contact
  • Doesn't babble, coo or imitate common sounds

Trust your instincts. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated. Then you can set your sights on the milestones that lie ahead.

Jun. 17, 2011 See more In-depth