At this age, your baby will become a lot more physical, learning how to roll over and even sit up. She can now hold, handle, and mouth objects, and she'll spend a good part of her busy days doing so (meaning extra vigilance is needed on your part).
Games can get more physical now. Your baby might enjoy knee rides or tickle games. She's also more responsive to you, making noises and meeting your eyes.
Smell the Spice Rack
You're in the kitchen, trying to throw some kind of dinner together when your baby starts wailing. Take her over to the spice rack and introduce her to the intoxicating scent of cinnamon. Rub some on your hand and put it up to your baby's nose. (Don't let it get in her eyes or mouth.)
If she likes it, try others: Vanilla, peppermint, cumin, cloves, nutmeg, and many other herbs and spices have intriguing fragrances that your baby might love. Other household goods are fragrant, too: Dad's shaving lotion, Mom's hand cream. Sniff out everything yummy — just be careful not to let your baby eat it!
Bubbles, Bubbles Everywhere
There's something magical about bubbles, and at this point your baby can see far enough away to focus on them. Blow bubbles when she's getting fussy waiting for the bus and watch the tears dry up. Blow bubbles in the park to attract older kids who'll caper nearby and entertain your baby in the process. Blow bubbles in the bathtub or out on the porch when it's late afternoon and your baby is cranky. Bubbles are unbelievably cheap, easily transportable, and endlessly fascinating for babies.
I'm Gonna Get You!
Your baby is old enough to have a sense of anticipation now. And no baby can resist your coming at her mock-menacingly with a threat of hugs, kisses, or tickles. Here's what you could say: "Hey, Andrea! I see you over there sitting up! Well, that just makes you closer to my lips and I'm going to come over there and kiss you! I'm going to steal a kiss, baby! I'm coming! I'm coming! I...gotcha!" Then cover your baby in smooches.
In our house we threaten to eat the baby and punctuate our advances with lip chomps on her fat little feet. A delicacy! When your baby's older you can modify this game to include a chase around the house — this works wonderfully as a way to get your child out the door when you're in a rush.
This Little Piggy
Touch your baby's toes in turn, starting with the big toe. Say, "This little piggy went to market, this little piggy stayed home, this little piggy had roast beef, this little piggy had none. And this little piggy went wee-wee-wee all the way home."
As you say that last part, run your fingers up your baby's belly. This game is useful for putting on socks and shoes or distracting your baby during diaper changes. You can also play this game in the bathtub with a squirt bottle targeting your baby's toes.
By now, your doctor's probably nagging you to get your baby on her tummy, and your baby may be protesting vociferously.
Get down on the floor with your baby. Look her in the eye as you lie on your own belly. Lay your baby down on a towel and use it to gently roll her from side to side. Try saying, "Oops-a-daisy, Oops-a-daisy" as you roll her.
Fly, Baby, Fly!
Now that your baby can hold her head up, it's time to hoist her into the air. You can play that she's a rocket ship, flying her over you and making realistic rocket noises (dads are great at this). You can play that your baby is in an elevator, which advances up floor by floor before sinking quickly to the bottom (my husband likes to bump noses with our baby and say "Ding!" at this point). Or pretend that your baby's doing a helicopter traffic report.
7 to 9 months
Your baby's becoming an expert at sitting and may soon be crawling as well. Encourage these physical feats by celebrating each new milestone: "Joshua, you sat up! Amazing baby!" Include a big hand for the little fella.
The ability to transfer objects from hand to hand and the fabled pincer grasp are part of your baby's increasing hand control (which means you'll be forced to carry a container of O-shaped cereal with you at all times for the next year).
Your baby also begins to understand that when an object disappears, it hasn't fallen off the edge of the earth. This discovery makes games like peek-a-boo a favorite.
Touch It, Hold It, Bang It
If your baby has one object, he'll bang it on the table. If he has two objects, he'll bang them together, hold them up to the light, squint at them, bang them separately on the table, hit the table with both at the same time, see if the object sounds different when hit using the left hand rather than the right hand, and on and on.
Help him out by handing over objects that make interesting sounds: hollow containers, metal spoons, bells.
Pay attention to tactile sensations as well: Your baby will be fascinated by a greeting card laced with glitter or the slickness of Mom's enameled jewelry box. A baby with strands of cooked spaghetti to play with wouldn't notice if a bomb went off.
I Can Control the World
Babies love cause and effect at this age, as in: I do this, the light comes on. I do that, the light goes off. Showing your baby how to work light switches, remote controls, cell phones, and more will thrill him — but can make life more difficult for you when he insists on being held up to work the lights yet again.
Instead, you may want to offer a toy phone or remote to satisfy his craving for control, or a jack-in-the-box to provide a thrillingly surprising result. Or, let him manage his environment by filling a low-lying cabinet or drawer with safe objects and letting your baby rummage around. Make sure there are no sharp edges or other dangers (dressers with drawers pulled out can turn over on a child) and then let your baby go to town.
If your baby's crawling, scooting, or walking, he may enjoy the challenge of having to move over things. (This is great for developing his motor skills, too.) Pillows, phone books, tired parents, and laundry make good obstacles. Sleeping cats do not make good obstacles.
So Many Variations on Peek-a-boo
The classic: Hold up a towel between your face and your baby's and ask, "Where's Sam? There's Sam!" over and over again. You can vary this game in a million ways. Hide behind a door and make your baby push it open to see you. Hide behind a chair and pop out first from above then from the sides. Go behind a corner with another person and alternate who jumps out and yells "Boo!"
Keep a selection of hats behind the couch and pop up wearing a different one each time. This game will make your baby laugh like the main character in Reefer Madness. A surefire laugh-getter is to put a hat on your head, hiding your eyes, and let your baby take it off, saying "Oh!" in surprise each time he does it. (This will also guarantee that you'll never wear a hat in peace again.)
Babies are fascinated by balls and how they move. You'll get a big laugh by juggling or tossing balls up in the air and letting them hit the floor while you make a silly sound effect: "Whoops!" Roll a soft ball toward your baby and watch him grab and squeeze it. Eventually, with encouragement, he'll roll the ball back toward you. And someday he'll be able to kick and toss the ball or drop it into a big bowl or bucket. For now, bounce and roll.
10 to 12 months
Developmentally, your infant has suddenly morphed into an almost-toddler. Games that allow her to practice gross (not as in "eww, gross!") motor skills such as standing, pulling up, and climbing are important for her now. Your baby will also like to work on her fine motor skills by fiddling with the tag on your shirt or the pages of a book — and your breasts if she's still nursing.
Rearrange and Re-rearrange
Your baby is figuring out the connections between objects in the world. She'll love to stack and arrange objects, as well as fill and empty them.
Give your baby a box that's easy to open (like a shoe box) and show her how to put things inside and take them out. At our house, this game quickly evolves into "Take everything out of Mommy's purse and fling it wildly around the living room," which is why I no longer carry change or pens.
Another way to play this game: Get a bunch of cups (maybe even stackable measuring cups — ooh, two toys in one!) and show your baby how to pour water, sand, or cornmeal from one to the other, or into a larger container.
The Endless Cruise
Once your baby is up on her feet, you can encourage cruising by placing a favorite toy at the far end of the couch or over on the coffee table. Try imitating your baby by putting one of your toys, such as your cell phone, a distance away and cruising on your knees toward it. Your baby may find this amusing and come over to join you.
Encourage your baby to push an object around the room. Push toys and large empty boxes work well. Avoid folding chairs, which can fold up unexpectedly.
Top That, Kid
Babies this age love to imitate. Encourage this behavior by making a ridiculous noise and then nodding at your baby to go ahead and try a noise. She may imitate you or make her own noise, which you can imitate. Or you can make up a new noise of your own.
Eventually you'll have created something that sounds like a techno song. Get up and dance to it! You can also play this game with faces or movements — our kid likes to make the Nixon "V" sign and wave her hands around angrily. When we do it back, her expression is of someone witnessing magic.
The Bath Is Fun
No longer is your baby content to sit in the tub and be washed. Older babies want to stand up, splash, grab your hair, pat the shower curtain, and so on. (Note: Never leave a baby unattended in the bath, not even for a second.)
Encourage the craziness by bringing in lots of toys. Plenty of stuff around the house can be endlessly filled, drained, poured from or into, and floated. Pile up some plastic cups, yogurt containers, funnels, and squeeze bottles, and bring them into the bath along with any of your baby's plastic toys.
Poke holes in the top of a plastic bottle with a flat cap to make a homemade watering can. Let your baby feel the sensation of the water dripping onto her and show her how to cut off the flow by pressing with her hands. Use your homemade toy to give her rubber ducky a shower.
At the end of the bath, drain the toys in a plastic colander or a net bag suction-cupped to the side of the tub. Now you're clean. Wasn't that fun?
Becka has a Bachelors in Early Childhood Education and Development, and has 17 years experience in the field. She is a Certified Parent Educator and Licensed Baby, Toddler, and Preschool Sign Language Instructor. You can visit her site, at www.learnandgrowtogether.com
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