The Second Six Months: Moving Up - Part Two

Jul 4 12:40 2017 Sally Michener Print This Article

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.

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,Guest Posting 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.

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.

Safety Tip:
The combination of a fascination for small objects and the ability to move toward them makes mouthing objects that can cause choking a prime safety concern at this stage. Be especially vigilant about what you leave around for these curious little fingers to find. Any object smaller than an inch and a half (four centimeters) in diameter can lodge in baby's airway.

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.

Transferring Objects

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

Block games.
Sit baby in a high chair and put two blocks in front of him. After baby is engrossed, with a block in each hand, place a third block in front of him. Watch the decisive look on his face as he figures out how to get the third block.

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.
Being able to reach for things stimulates baby to explore his body parts. He cranes his neck forward and bends his legs upward, bringing his toes within reach of his outstretched hands. As with so many other objects, once baby has a firm grasp on his toes he often brings them to his mouth. Notice that baby frequently points his big toe upward, making it an easier target to grab.

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.

Picking grass.
Nature provides fun targets for inquisitive little fingers. Sit baby down in the grass. At first he grabs a whole clump of grass with his entire hand. The baby becomes fascinated with the blades of grass extending upward, and he tries to grab individual pieces of grass with the thumb and fingers. He soon refines his grass-grabbing techniques by picking up one blade of grass at a time with the thumb and forefinger.
Playing pickpocket.
Capitalize on baby's fascination for small objects, especially pens in shirt pockets. Dads, wear a shirt with a vest pocket and an obvious pen. Hold your baby and watch the pickpocket strike. Baby may precisely grab the pen, hold it very possessively, and you will have difficulty getting it back; he is not likely to put it back in your pocket at this stage. Babies love the pickpocket game and learn to associate dad's wearing a shirt with pockets and pens to grab. Dad, try picking up your baby with a pocketed shirt but with no pen and watch the expression on baby's face when he realizes that the pocket is empty. He will most likely look surprised and very disappointed. Baby had stored in his memory that pens belong in shirt pockets that belong on dads. Babies easily become confused when expected patterns of association are not fulfilled.

Spaghetti play.
Place a plate of cooked and cooled spaghetti in front of baby -- hold the sauce, please -- and watch the little fingers pick.

Hand Dominance

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.

Language Development

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
By nine months most babies have developed a true language (sounds plus gestures) that parents understand but strangers seldom do. Reading these gestures is where your previous exercises in baby reading really pay off. And watch for specific sounds to signal specific needs. Something like "mum-mum-mum-mum" might mean he wants to be held. Here are some favorite gestures and sounds.

Entry greetings.
Look and listen to your baby's special gestures to initiate special play. When daddy enters the room, for example, baby comes to life. His face lights up and lets out a big smile, his arms wave, and he turns toward dad with whole body language that says, "Let's play!"

Mood sounds.
Listen and watch your baby vocalize pleasure and displeasure. When happy, baby brightens with uplifting facial gestures: bright eyes, facial muscles drawn upward, and cheeks bulged out with a smile. He giggles, squeals, belly laughs, and bounces his whole body wile muttering joyful sounds like "ba-ba-ba-ba."

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.
Word games teach baby that language is fun and stimulate baby's developing memory. One game is:

Round and round the garden goes the teddy bear, (draw a circle around baby's tummy with your finger)
one step, two steps, (walk your finger from belly button to his neck)
tickle you under there! (tickle baby under the chin)

Give cues.
Cue words are words or phrases that trigger a response from baby because of a pattern of sounds he has heard before. One is the bump-heads game. When a baby is in this stage of development, say, "Bump heads!" and baby and you can gently bump foreheads. After repeating this game a number of times, the baby will take the cue and actually start moving his head toward yours as you say, "Bump," even before you start moving toward him. What was going on in baby's mind? It is believed that baby had stored this game in a series of "records" in his memory. Upon hearing the cue word "bump," he dropped the needle into the right groove and set the whole record playing. Playing word games and watching your baby's response to certain cue words lets you know how your baby's memory is developing.

Associate words with objects.
During this stage, watch your baby begin to associate words with the most important objects in his environment. When reading to your baby, connect persons and objects in the book with those in his environment -- saying, for example "See cat" as you pint toward the cat in the book.

Table talk.
Place baby at a table full of kids and adults and watch him join in the conversation. Notice how baby follows the discussion, turning his head from speaker to speaker and learning a valuable language art -- listening.
The best activities are those that hold baby's attention and stimulate the two master skills of this stage, crawling and thumb-and-forefinger pickup.

Fun and Games For The Six-to-Nine-Month-Old

Play ball!
Balls rank next to blocks as the best baby toys. Don't expect your minor leaguer to field or return your throws just yet. But baby can grab and hold a ball. Use balls that are large enough to be held with both hands, preferably made of soft foam or cloth that baby can get is fingers into and hold in to with one hand. Sit on the floor facing baby with your legs stretched out in front of you and roll the ball toward him. This pregame warm-up sets the stage for opening day of the real ball game in a few months.

Mirror play.
Sit baby within touching distance of a mirror (floor-to-ceiling mirrors are the best). Watch your baby try to match her hands and face to the image in the mirror. Now you appear alongside, and baby becomes fascinated at your image next to hers in the reflection.

Roll games.
Playing on foam bolsters, which began in the previous stage, becomes even more fun at this stage, because baby can crawl up and over these cushions and entertain himself. Drape baby over the bolster cushion and place a toy just beyond his reach. Notice how baby digs his feet in, pushing and rolling himself forward on the foam cylinder in hot pursuit of the toy.

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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Sally Michener
Sally Michener

Here at ring sling baby carriers we know your baby is precious and worth keeping close. Our ring sling baby carriers help you make the most of life while making the most of your baby's. Please visit our website ring sling baby carriers to see our broad selection of Hotslings adjustable pouch, Rockin Baby pouch, Rockin Baby ring sling, Seven Every Day Slings and Lil Cub Hub convertible sling baby carriers and find the right print and style for you and your baby.

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