To help your baby learn as much vocabulary as possible, talk about everything you are doing. Carry on a continuous conversation with your little one. You are laying foundation for her learning the rest of her life.
What Your Baby is Learning
Her sitting balance is very secure now. She can lean in any direction and easily come back to an erect sitting posture. If she leans too far, she will catch herself with one outstretched arm.
Most 11 month olds are able to stand alone and some may have started walking. But when your baby is just playing, she probably prefers creeping because it is faster and cannot end in a tumble. Some perfectly normal babies don’t walk until 16 months, so if yours is slower walking, don’t despair.
Your baby’s first steps will be with arms out to the sides for balance and with elbows bent. Her feet will turn outward. Her belly will stick out in front and her bottom will stick out behind for balance. As she gets more steady on her feet, her posture will get more erect and her steps smoother.
At 11 months babies spend much of their time perfecting skills already learned. If your baby started walking early, but does not yet creep well (that is, using opposing arm and leg to move forward), this is the time to help her master this skill. 11 month olds love to mimic those around them. Make a game of creeping around looking for toys. Creeping is a developmental stage that should not be missed.
Your baby will probably start shifting from mastering fine motor skills to exercising large muscles. Her thumb and forefinger grasp is good now, so she will be progressing to moving about more than ever before and will be learning to climb on things. She will take great pleasure in pushing, throwing, and knocking over anything she can with her arms. She’ll love the loud noises she is able to make banging things together.
She is beginning to cooperate in dressing by ducking her head or putting one arm through a sleeve. She may hold out her feet for putting on socks and shoes.
She may show a preference for one hand rather than the other. Don’t try to force her, let her decide which she likes to use best. Handedness is not firmly established for about another year. Forcing handedness that is not natural can create learning problems later on.
By 11 months your baby responds to “no no.” She understands and responds to her own name. She understands a lot of what is said to her and about her. She has a large number of sounds she can make and has begun to speak sentences that sound like a foreign language. She may have one or two words in her vocabulary with meaning. She can imitate a variety of sounds with combined actions like coughing, lip smacking, and giving raspberries.
Her speech will not be precise for another two years or so. She will make a lot of sound substitutions and omissions for a great while. You will begin to recognize the words she says, though someone outside the family may not be able to for some time. So many small muscles in the mouth, tongue, and lips must work together in perfect timing for speech to be clear. Speech is learned, so expect it to take time to learn. Of all she is learning, her communication skills are her most important.
Encourage your baby to mimic words, sounds, and inflections. Listen to the sounds she makes, mimic her and then say a different sound and encourage her to mimic you. You will encourage her to keep trying when you act like you understand what she says and answer her back. Always use real words with proper pronunciation and inflection.
Help her vocabulary to grow by calling things by their name, count the stairs as you go up, point out color names. You help your baby connect objects with their names and the more you do, the faster your baby’s vocabulary will grow.
This is a good time to begin teaching your baby to help. Say “please” and “thank you.” Turn clean up time into a game. Break the task down into very small parts. She can only remember one command at a time. She can follow simple directions like, “Please bring me the ball” or “Put the block here.” You will need to reinforce the words with gestures. When she does it right, be sure to reward her with “thank you” and a championship hug. She’s learned to link an object with its name and to do the correct thing with it. That’s a huge step!
Your baby has probably been wrestling with bouts of separation anxiety. This is normal. She loves you and depends on you, so of course, she doesn’t want you to go. To help ease the distress, make leave taking short and sweet. Be matter of fact when you leave your child with a caregiver. Extended goodbyes only prolong the agony for you and your child. Your baby will soon stop crying when you are out of sight. If you pop back into view, you will only teach her that if she cries enough you will return.
It is time to begin teaching your baby some independence. You can help her feel more independent by not hovering over her all the time. Don’t be constantly “helping” her out of tight places or keeping her from tumbling as she tries to walk. Of course, you want to know what she is doing and keep her from serious harm, but small tumbles are part of her learning process. When she goes to another room, don’t immediately follow. Wait a couple minutes. Call to her when you are in another room if she cries out to you. She will gain healthy confidence.
Ways You Can Help
Cup and Cube– place a cup and a block in front of her. Tell her to put the block into the cup. If she doesn’t understand, gesture and repeat the instructions. If she still doesn’t understand, demonstrate while you describe what you are doing. Once she can do it, increase the complexity of the challenge with putting more blocks into the cup. This can be the beginning of her following your directions to clean up her toys or the pots and pans she has been playing with.
Squeeze the Ball– play with a small plastic ball that makes noise when squeezed. Place the ball in front of baby and gently squeeze it. Then give it to her and tell her to squeeze the ball. Repeat the process until she understands.
Bring it!- Place three familiar items in a line, one toy, one piece of clothing, and one household item. Tell her to “Go get the shoe.” When she brings the correct item to you, be sure to shower her with praise.
Which Hand?- Play with a favorite small item. Show her the item and transfer it from hand to hand several times. Hold out both hands closed. Ask, “Which hand is it in?” If she’s correct, reward her with the item. If not, open the hand she pointed to and say, “It isn’t here. Where is it?”
Cause and Effect
She can now recognize familiar items even when they are in unusual positions. She will not even pause to turn her bottle around if you hand it to her with the nipple away from her. Before she only understood that she could cause actions, like looking away made an object disappear. Now she is learning that others can cause things to happen. Sometimes she will wait for you to do something for her. She will also push a barrier away to see something she knows is hidden. She now sees the barrier is the cause of her not being able to see what she wants.
She sees objects as distinct from herself, but she can only make very simple associations between one object and another. She believes they are permanent associations until she has proved to herself they can have a different association.
You can play a game to demonstrate this. Take a favorite toy and hide it with something, like a hat. Show her you are covering her toy. Then let her take away the hat to find her toy. After doing this a few times, cover the same toy with something different, like a small box. Show her what you are doing. Put the box and the hat side-by-side. She will still look under the hat for her toy. She has associated the hat with covering the toy. She expects the toy to always be under the hat.
Now take two covers that are very similar, perhaps two caps. Cover her toy with one and let her find it. Then cover it with the other one. Be sure to switch positions of the toy so she doesn’t expect it only on one side. After playing this a while, the two covers can be more different, like a cap and a box. She will be learning to think logically about her world. This game will help her a great deal in being more creative and logical in her thinking.
What to Expect Next
- Drinking from a cup
- Saying one word besides “mama” and “dada”
- Indicating wants with gestures
Do you ever worry that your baby is eating too much or not enough? These questions will reappear more and more as she becomes a toddler. Her need for calories decreases as her growth slows. This doesn’t have to be a matter of concern for you, however. Just provide her with smaller portions.
You can usually tell when your baby is hungry. She may cry or bang her spoon on her highchair tray. But you can always tell when she has had enough. She may sweep her arm across the tray and scatter what is left onto the floor or she will push your hand and spoon away. She will eat enough to meet her needs and no more. If you allow her to follow her biological impulses she will not overeat or starve herself.
She may show definite preference for some foods over others. It is pretty normal for her to have a conservative diet at this age. That won’t hurt her. As she gets older, you can introduce more foods and expand her dietary choices.
Parents can do more damage by forcing baby to eat more than she needs. Once fat cells form, they are almost impossible to get rid of. Fat babies become fat children and grow up to be fat adults. So don’t push her to eat more than she wants. And if you are bottle feeding, don’t pacify your baby with a bottle between meals. This adds unnecessary calories and then she may eat less of the nutritious solid foods you offer.
If your baby has been using a pacifier, now is a good time to start weaning her from her pacifier. The longer she uses it, the harder it will be for her to stop. But a more important reason to stop using the pacifier now is that this is such an important developmental time for speech. If she is still using a pacifier she will be less likely to practice sounds and words.
Gradually wean her. Don’t just throw the pacifier away. Begin by limiting its use during the daytime. Substitute a stuffed toy at times she would usually want her pacifier. When she isn’t using it any more during the day, begin to wean her from it at night. Don’t substitute a bottle that she feeds herself. Sipping milk whenever she wakes leaves milk on her teeth all night. This will begin to decay those new little teeth. It is much better to substitute a stuffed toy or blanket.
Heavenly Father, thank you for making such a beautiful world. It is so intricate and so vast. Help me share the wonder of Your creation with my baby, that from her earliest memories pleasure in nature is a foundation of her life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen