Promoting your baby's development
Your baby's budding curiosity is bound to keep you on your toes. Keep your baby safe while challenging him or her to learn through play.
- 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, and install child locks on doors and cabinets. If you have furniture with sharp edges, pad the corners or remove it from rooms where your baby plays. The same goes for lightweight objects your baby might use to pull himself or herself to a standing position, such as plant stands, decorative tables, potted trees, extension cords and floor lamps.
- Snuggle up and read. Set aside time for reading every day — even if it's only a few minutes. At this age, your baby might love books with flaps, textures or simple activities. Make your reading more interesting by adding 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.
- Keep conversations going. If your baby reaches for a book, ask, "Would you like to read a story?" If he or she points to the cow on the cover, say, "You found the cow! What does a cow say?" Wait for your baby's response and then offer the correct answer. As you're reading the book, get creative. Make up your own stories to fit the pictures. Ask your baby questions about the pictures. Don't limit yourself to yes or no questions.
- Encourage repetition. Doing things repeatedly can build self-confidence — and strengthen the connections in your baby's brain. Play patty-cake one more time. Build a new tower after the first one tumbles down. If your baby returns to a page you've just read, read it again with as much excitement as you did the first time.
- 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.
- Help your baby handle his or her feelings. Expect episodes of frustration as your baby struggles to make sense and take control of his or her environment. If your baby throws plastic rings out of frustration, calmly pick up the pieces and say, "I can see you're frustrated. Let's figure it out. The big ring goes here. Now you try." For some babies, learning a few simple words in sign language can be helpful as well. Help your baby make simple motions for common words, such as milk and blanket.
- Set limits. Babies don't have a sense of right or wrong. Praise your baby for good choices while steering him or her away from hazardous situations. Use a firm no when your baby is hurting others. Explain calmly why the behavior isn't OK, and then distract your baby with a favorite toy or other activity.
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 crawling, or consistently drags one side of the body while crawling
- Isn't able to stand with help
- Doesn't use gestures, such as waving or shaking the head
- Doesn't babble or attempt words such as "mama" or "dada"
- Isn't interested in his or her surroundings
- Resists making eye contact
Trust your instincts. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier it can be treated. Then you can look forward to the delights and challenges that lie ahead.
Jun. 17, 2011
See more In-depth
- Everyday ways to support your baby's and toddler's early learning. Zero to Three. http://www.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer/early_learning_handout.pdf?docID=3081&AddInterest=1153. Accessed March 1, 2011.
- A child becomes a reader: Proven ideas from research for parents. National Institute for Literacy. http://lincs.ed.gov/publications/pdf/reading_pre.pdf. Accessed March 1, 2011.
- Child development: Infants (0-1 year old). Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/child/documents/0-1YearOldsPositiveParenting.pdf. Accessed March 1, 2011.
- Development through your child's eyes: 8 to 18 months. Zero to Three. http://www.zerotothree.org/site/PageServer?pagename=ter_key_childdevt_devt918&AddInterest=1153. Accessed March 1, 2011.
- Shelov SP, et al. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5. 5th ed. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2009:249.
- These hands were made for talking. American Academy of Pediatrics. http://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/Pages/These-Hands-Were-Made-for-Talking.aspx. Accessed March 8, 2011.
- Hoecker JL (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. March 9, 2011.