This article includes the following items: †Hand Skills, Baby Accommodates Hands to Objects, Container Play, Getting Into Your Baby's Mind, Signs of Developing Memory, Games to Play, Mental Protections. †There will be one more part to this article so be sure to keep an eye out for it.
During the first six months parents and trusted subs are the center of baby's universe. While this remains true during all states of development, from six to twelve months baby develops the skills to extend his world of interest. He becomes less an arms and lap baby and more an exploring floor baby. During his stage, growth accelerates. Baby's weight increases by a third, first words appear, and true thumb-and-forefinger pickups emerge, as well as first crawls and steps. These skills also bring about parents' development as safety patrol officers. Baby's motor development allows him to get more and more of his body off the ground. By six months he's on his own two feet, and the baby chase begins.
In the previous stage, when you placed a tiny morsel of food within baby's grasp, baby would rake it toward himself and maneuver it into the ends of his thumb and finger, eventually picking it up with thumb and forefinger. In this stage, after dozens of pickup practices, baby develops a neat pincer grasp. Put a tiny O-shaped cereal pellet in front of him and watch him unerringly grab it with a clean thumb-and-forefinger pickup, without first raking it in or resting his hand on the table. Baby puts the tip of the index finger on it and curls the finger toward the thumb and, snatch! he's got it.
Baby Accommodates Hands to Objects
Place a new pencil (unsharpened) on a table and watch baby grab it. Now turn the pencil at a different angle, and watch baby turn his hands parallel to the long axis of the pencil, making in-flight corrections on the way to the target. Before, baby impulsively grabbed a toy whole-handedly without first, figuring out how best to pick it up. Now baby makes decisions about how to manipulate the toy before grabbing it.
The master curiosity of this stage is the relationship between toys: how a big toy is related to a little one and how a little object fits into a bigger one. Improved manipulating skills enable baby to figure out play combinations of objects -- banging toys together, stacking, and the ever-favorite fill-and-dump. Being able to manipulate two toys together opens endless play possibilities for these curious little hands, and near the end of the first year baby discovers containers and the concept of emptiness. Here are some activities that will help baby enjoy his new skills
* Give baby a large plastic glass or a shoe box and watch the curious hands poke around the inside the container. Now give baby a block and observe how he introduces the block and the container. Hand and mind work together to figure out how to put block into box and, of course, how to dump it out. After mastering put-in-and-dump-out, baby shakes the container and listens to the block flopping around inside. Notice the figuring-out expressions on baby's fact as he goes through the many play combinations with a simple block and a simple cup.
* Put cotton in your ears and bring out pots and pans! Baby delights in putting little pots into bigger pots and, o course, the noise of banging and dropping.
* Bathtub and sink play (always supervise) gives the master dumper an exercise in filling and pouring. Scooping up a cup of water and pouring it out makes a big splash on baby's list of favorite games.
* Place baby in a large laundry basket half full of small clothes, preferably socks and baby clothes. After baby takes the clothes out of the basket, put your little helper outside the basket and show her how to "put it in," picking up a sock and putting it back into the basket for her.
Getting Into Your Baby's Mind
If only you could get into that little mind and find out what your baby is thinking. Well, you can -- sort of. You can learn what baby thinks by observing how she plays. You can deduce what mental processes baby is capable of by giving her an opening cue and noticing how she responds. We call this the fill-in-the-blanks approach. A guess, yes, but until your child can tell you what she is thinking, it's the best you can do. While baby can't yet talk, she can use body language to tell you her thoughts.
Signs of Developing Memory
Mental pictures. While reading to your nine-month-old, point to a picture of a cat and say, "Cat." Watch his face, you will most likely see a light of recognition go on. He may look towards the door because the family cat resides outside. The picture of the cat triggered a mental association. Your baby had stored in his memory the image of a cat and remembered that he usually pets the cat. You might also observe that he now has the mental capability to recognize the similarity between the cat in the book and the cat in his life.
Name that tune. At this stage babies do remember recent events. If you happen to take your baby to a park where there is music, like Disney World, the theme from one of the areas might make quite an impression on him. Now should you play or sing that song your baby will probably show excitement and smile showing that he was remembering what he had seen and heard the day before.
Cue Words. It is believed that babies store bits of information, and if they hear a cue word it's just like pressing a button in a baby's mental jukebox and a whole memory record comes down. For example, suppose you take your baby for daily walks to a park or the water. When he is nine months old you might say "Go" and your baby could very likely crawl over to the door because the word "go" triggered visions of playing out-side, going for a car ride, or any other activity associated with going out the door. He might not react differently no matter what you added to "go." By one year, however, his mind was capable of more complete memory. Now when you say, "go park," he anticipates not only being carried out the door but also going for your usual walk to the park. If you turn in a direction away from the park, he might protest. He could associate definite words and actions with definite event to follow. Anything that didn't fit his mental expectations merited a squawk. This illustrates the value of talking with your baby, explaining things step-by-step so he won't be taken by surprise or unnecessarily disappointed, a setup for tantrum behavior.
What's behind the door? Baby's vivid memory now enables him to remember what is behind the closed doors. At eleven months your baby may sit in front of an open kitchen cabinet door and notice the enticing pots and pans, which he will grab, pull off the shelf, and rattled in a way only a parent could love. (Fortunately for human ears, baby's play times are short.) When baby is finished his sound effects, take away the pots and pans and close the door. From then on your baby will remember the noisy toys behind the closed door and daily craw toward the cabinet, scaled up the door and try to open it.
Games to Play
Find the missing toy. A mental skill that may begin to mature at this age is the concept of object permanence -- the ability to remember where a toy is hidden. Previously, out of sight was out of mind. If you hid a toy under a blanket, baby showed little interest in finding the toy. Try this experiment. Let baby see you place a favorite toy under one of two cloth diapers lying in front of him. Watch baby momentarily study the diapers as if trying to figure out which diaper is covering the toy. By the "I'm thinking" expressions on his face, you get the feeling that he is trying to recall in his memory under which diaper the toy is hidden. He makes his decision, pulls off the diaper covering the toy, and shows great delight in making the right choice. Try this several times, always putting the toy under the first diaper, then let him watch you put the toy under the second diaper. If you have consistently hidden the toy under the first diaper, even when baby sees you put the toy under the second diaper, most of the time he initially searches under the first diaper because that scene is still fixed in his memory. Sometime between twelve and eighteen months, as baby's reasoning abilities mature, he may consistently remember that you switched the toy under the second diaper or see the bulge under the second diaper and realize the toy must be under there.
Hide-and-seek. Baby's new ability to remember the place where a parent's bobbing head was last seen makes this game a favorite. Let baby chase you around the couch. When she loses you, peer around the edge of the couch and call her name. Baby will crawl to where she saw you peering. Eventually she will imitate you by hiding and peeking around the couch herself.
Next, add the game of sounding. Instead of letting baby see where you are hiding, stay hidden but call her name. Watch her crawl, and later toddle, around the house in search of the voice she mentally matches with the missing person. Keep sounding to hold the searching baby's interest.
Babies become more mentally discerning at this stage and begin to have a feel for harmful objects or situations. But this is an extremely valuable skill, so don't rely on it.
Awareness of heights. Usually by one year of age babies develop a mental awareness of heights, as demonstrated in the classical visual cliff experiment. Crawling babies were placed upon a long glass-top table. Immediately beneath the glass of half the table was a checkerboard pattern. The same checkerboard pattern was placed beneath the other half of the glass table but on the floor four feet below. The babies were positioned on the checkerboard half of the table and encouraged to crawl across it toward their mothers. When babies reached the end of the first checkerboard pattern their hands still touched glass, but their eyes told them there was a drop-off, and the babies stopped crawling when they reached the apparent cliff. This experiment demonstrated that babies at this stage do have the mental capabilities to determine edges and heights and are able to decide not to go over the edge. But don't leave your baby playing on a tabletop! For particularly impulsive babies, called hurdlers, their temperament overrides their mental awareness of danger, and they may crawl right over the edge.
Mother gives the go-ahead. As an interesting twist to the visual cliff experiment, when the babies crawled toward their mothers and their mothers projected a happy, nothing-to-fear attitude, most babies crawled across the visual cliff. When mothers projected an expression of fear, the babies stayed put. The conclusion: Mother acts as an emotional regulator of the infant, who is able to read her facial signals or bounce his own signals of her and react to a situation according to the feedback he receives.
Babies read our faces about everything, especially as it relates to them. If you tend to be chronically anxious or depressed, your baby applies what he sees on your face to himself and to life in general. A face that radiates genuine joy toward life is a wonderful legacy to give your child (and yourself).
There will be more articles on infants, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.
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