The Second Six Months: Moving Up - Part Two
This article includes the following items: Pick Up and Play: Hand Skills, Development of the Pincer Grasp, Learning to Release, Transferring Objects, Developing a Stronger Grip on Things, Fun for Little Hands, Hand dominance, I Search of Baby Handcuffs, Language Development, Gesturing and Social directing, Reading Baby's Language, Helping Language Development, Fun and Games for the Six-to-Nine-month-old, There will be four more parts to this article so be sure to keep an eye out for them.
Pick Up and Play: Hand Skills
Baby may act like a little carpet sweeper, picking up even the tiniest pellets that are lying around the floor.
Development of the Pincer Grasp
One of the most interesting examples of how two skills develop simultaneously and complement each other is the way a baby's fascination for small objects develops at the same time as the hand and finger capability of exploring these objects -- the evolution of thumb-and-forefinger pickup, or pincer grasp.
Watch your baby go for a pile of O-shaped cereal. She first rakes tidbits toward herself, paw like, and tries to grab them, mitten like, with her fingers ad palm. She frustratingly loses the food bits in her pudgy little hands. Pointing with index finger alone is the earliest sign that baby is about to master the pincer grasp. She touches the object with a pointed finger, tucking the remaining fingers inter her palm. Soon the thumb follows the lead of the index finger, and baby picks up objects between the pads of thumb and forefinger. As baby's picking-up ability matures to the tips of thumb and forefinger, you will notice a less paw like action and more direct thumb-and-forefinger pickups.
Learning to Release
An important part of baby's reach-grasp learning is developing the ability to release the grasped object. Babies become fascinated with holding something, such as a piece of paper, and then opening their hand and allowing the object to drop to the floor. Learning to release toys leads to one of the baby's favorite games at this age, "I drop -- you pick up." She soon associates the action of dropping with your reaction of picking up the toy. Thus, she learns to associate cause and effect.
Releasing helps a baby learn to transfer objects. Put a ring toy into baby's hands and watch what happens. He first pulls on the toy, playing a sort of tug-of-war. If one hand lets go first, the other gets the ring, and baby's eyes go from the empty hand to the hand that holds the ring. He transfers the toy from hand to hand, at first accidentally, then intentionally. The ability to transfer a toy extends baby's playtime. Now he can sit and entertain himself for ten to twenty minutes, shuffling a toy back and forth from one hand to the other.
Developing a Stronger Grip on Things
Around six months a baby's reach-and-grasp sequences become more one-handed, purposeful, and tenacious. Baby can now consistently and quickly grab a toy handed to him. Put a toy in front of the sitting baby and see how steadily and accurately baby reaches his mark. Now try to take away the toy. Notice how baby protests your pull. He tenaciously holds on to the toy with a strong grasp. When you manage to extract the prized toy from baby's clasp, put I on the floor in front of him and observe the way he immediately pounces and recaptures the toy in his grasp.
If you really want to appreciate how baby puts his mind into his reach, videotape him reaching for a toy block. In the previous stage, baby would strike and palm the toy, and his whole hand would encompass it, adjusting to its shape only after he touched it. Now, watch baby begin to change the shape of his hand to fit the shape of the toy before he actually reaches it. He is developing a visual "feel" for the object, which helps him determine its shape before he touches it. He is now making in-flight corrections as his hands approach the target.
Parents, if you are wondering why we go into such detail in describing infant development, it's because we want you to appreciate the big capabilities in your little person. Also, remember you are growing together. As your baby refines his developmental skills, you refine your skills as a baby watcher -- a valuable exercise in learning to read your baby.
Fun for Little Hands
Next put the blocks on a place mat just beyond his reach. After lunging toward the blocks and realizing they are out of his grasp, he may pull the place mat toward himself and voila! the blocks come, too. This may be baby's first experience in learning how to use one object to get another.
Now play the ounce-on-the-moving-block game. Put the locks on a place mat in front of baby. Slowly pull the place mat across his path. Watch bay sit with his hands open, star like, ready to pounce on anything within his reach.
Playing with body parts.
Not only does baby like to grab and suck on his own body parts, he also frequently grabs the parts of you within his reach, such as your nose, hair, or glasses. Within reason, try not to turn off his grabbing and pulling at your person. It's part of being a baby.
Baby may practice his one-handed reaching while eating. While nursing he may wave his arms, pat his head, pat your face or breast, and may begin to explore your clothing.
While baby may not reveal a definite hand dominance for several more months, sometime between six and nine months you may get a clue as to which is baby's dominant hand. Put a toy in the midline in front of baby and watch which hand consistently goes for the toy. Now put the toy to the left side. If baby is right-handed, he may reach across his body with the right hand, his left hand standing in readiness to assist the right. Now try the same exercise with the toy on the right side of baby to see which hand consistently reaches for the toy. Over the next three months most babies will reveal their dominant hand.
In Search of Baby Handcuffs.
When babies master a skill, they have an insatiable appetite to use this skill over and over. This is fun, but also a nuisance. Babies are especially attracted to strings, buttons, or bows. Buttons are potentially dangerous because they can be pulled off and mouthed. So intense is baby's desire to grab that it wise not to show him or expose him to anything that he is not allowed to touch.
At the dinner table, for example, all the reachable delights may set off a grabbing frenzy as baby's hands dart out and snatch plates, newspapers, utensils, napkins, anything else that gets in the way of the wind-shield-wiper arms. As you clean up your baby's handiwork, remember this stage will soon pass. If you lap baby is becoming increasingly a handful at the dinner table, you can diffuse a grabbing frenzy by placing him on the floor with some plastic cartons and let him grab to his hands' delight.
In addition to crawling and the pincer grasp, baby's first language is another highlight of this stage. Babies cry less, talk more, and begin to combine sound and body language to get their point across. A major breakthrough in speech development occurs around five months of age when babies learn they can change the sounds they make by changing the shape of their tongue and mouth. By six months babies begin to babble, which consists of long, repetitive strings of syllables containing a vowel and a consonant. Between six and nine months baby learns to change "ba-ba," sounds made with the lips, to"da-da," sounds made with the tongue. After going through the consonant alphabet will all sorts of combinations --"ah-ba-di-da-ga-ma" -- baby begins to sort these first "words" together -- "ba-ba-ba-ba" -- and razzes up these sounds with the wet noises of teething mucus. by nine months many babies are saying "mama" and "dada," but may not yet consistently match the right word with the right person.
Gesturing and Social Directing
Gestures are one of the most important fore-runners of verbal language, because they are later replaced by their equivalent in words. Instead of crying to be picked up, baby often extends his arms and raises his big eyes toward you in a "Please pick me up" gesture. Also, because of the ability to use her hands for play and movement, a baby at this stage often becomes less interested in being held and will give you a "Put me down" sign, darting her hands toward the floor and squirming in your arms until you put her down to pursue her target. Respond to baby's hand signals as you did to her cries. This reinforces the use of body language instead of crying as a way of communicating. Besides using her own hands to signal needs, baby directs your hands to move with hers. Watch her grasp your finger and make you hand and arm move where she wants them to be this hand-on-hand direction is most noticeable during feeding.
Reading Baby's Language
When sad, baby utters the grunts and growls of complaints. At this stage the universal "n" sound emerges to signal negative feelings. Baby may protest medicine taking by a string of "na-na-na-na." Baby puts on his unhappy face: mouth twisted into a grimace and facial muscles drooping. And, if you don't quickly get the point, these sounds and body language escalate into a cry.
Helping Language Development
Language, like a sense of humor, is caugh, not taught. You don't directly teachyour baby to speak. You fill her ears with the right sounds, and baby catches the spirit that talking is fun. Speaking is more natural that way. Here are some ways to foster language development.
Play word games.
Round and round the garden goes the teddy bear, (draw a circle around baby's tummy with your finger)
Associate words with objects.
Fun and Games For The Six-to-Nine-Month-Old
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