Your baby’s endless curiosity for new objects can be exhausting right now. With his new found ability to move around and fingers that fit in the tiniest crevices, it takes constant attention to keep him safe. Reduce your frustrations by toddler-proofing as much as possible. And try to keep in mind that all of his explorations are fueling his knowledge base for future creativity and language development.
What Your Baby is Learning
Your baby can sit alone for 10 minutes or more. He is able to move from sitting to hands and knees, but has more difficulty going from hands and knees to sitting unless he has some support. When held in a standing position, he will purposefully step from one foot to the other.
He can move like lightening now. He is probably crawling up stairs and cruising- moving around on his feet by holding onto furniture. He is learning how to bend his knees and to sit after standing. This, surprisingly, is hard for babies to learn.
Nine month olds show sustained interest for a few minutes at a time. Your baby will watch the activities of adults, children and animals within a 10-12 foot radius (3-3½ meters). He pays special attention to everyday sounds, especially voices.
His fascination with objects he can hold is aided by his skill in manipulating them. He turns them over and over, mouths them and then watches them intently as he turns them over some more. He will then bang them against his highchair or the floor and then turn them over and over again.
Your baby’s thumb is getting more skillful now. He picks up small objects between his thumb and the tips of several fingers. He is fascinated with holes and openings and pokes his index finger into all available cracks and crevices. Now he will use his index finger to point to objects he cannot reach.
He can hold his bottle himself with both hands and can remove the nipple and then replace it in his mouth again. He loves to munch on teething crackers and his bite is quite strong.
As he eats more solid food, he will take fewer bottles. Many breastfed babies begin to wean themselves at this age. When they are getting enough nutrition from the solids they eat, they will begin to nurse less often or for shorter periods. You can give him formula in a cup or bottle to complete weaning when you are ready.
Your baby is beginning to remember specific information and he will remember the location of his toys in his house. He will be able to imitate an action he saw as long as a week before. He doesn’t remember most experiences more than a moment, but occasionally you’ll see he is developing recall memory. Long term memory won’t develop for a couple years yet.
He shows he understands what you say when he stops what he is doing when you say “no.” From the tone of your voice and your gestures he understands that “no” and “don’t touch” mean he is not pleasing you. However, he cannot understand that to continue could mean DANGER. You need to continue to say “no” many times about the same action, because his memory is so short.
He responds to his name by looking around or by stopping what he is doing to see who called him. Reinforce this behavior by saying his name frequently.
He shouts to attract attention, listens, then shouts again. Anger or frustration can trigger a scream.
Babbling long strings of syllables is mostly for his own amusement, though he is beginning to see that it is a form of communication too.
He can now imitate the playful sounds of adults like coughing, smacking lips, and “the raspberries.” He loves to imitate you. He will try to imitate gestures like nodding his head, clapping, waving bye-bye. He is practicing for conversations with you. He will begin to copy your tone and even the rhythm of your speech even before he can copy your words.
Peek-a-boo is now an active game with your baby as a participant, not just an observer. He can imitate Pat-a-cake briefly. Even though he can’t sustain his imitation through the whole game, he enjoys you completing it for him.
He is becoming more assertive about what he likes and doesn’t like. He can clearly express his annoyance, resistance, and frustration now. Respect his opinions. He is beginning to discover that he is an individual and separate from his mother. This is a good and necessary step that happens to every baby. Separation is a real struggle, however. He has to resolve this struggle for himself. How well he does has a lot to do with learning to make decisions himself. One of his first tastes of independence is choosing his own finger foods.
Your baby’s personality is beginning to emerge now. He may be bold and seem fearless or he may be more cautious and thoughtful. He may be very social or more shy. He may be very changeable or even tempered. Enjoy his God-given uniqueness.
Ways You Can Help
By holding your baby’s hands, walk him toward you. He will enjoy a large push toy that he can stand and push and practice walking. Make sure the toy is stable with a wide base of support.
He is getting better and better at copying the sounds you make. You can help your baby by repeating a sound he makes and waiting for his response. Then you make a different sound and wait for his response. What he says will be getting closer to your words all the time. His jabber probably sounds more like real words, phrases and sentences. Since he thinks he is saying something, be sure to respond as if he is.
The greatest predictor of later intelligence is how many words a child hears daily. These are words spoken directly to the child by a caring adult not, of course, the background chatter of the TV or talking toys.
He can now put objects in a container and remove them himself. Give him unbreakable containers and blocks or other colorful objects to put in and take out.
He will begin playing passing games, giving away a toy and then taking it back. Be his playmate, this is the best time for him to learn to give and take. He can begin to learn to roll a ball back and forth with you. He may like to stack blocks you hand him or he may hand the pieces to you and watch you stack them. Either way, play these simple games with your child.
One of his favorite activities will be tumbling on the floor with Daddy. Dad is so much fun to climb on. His arms and legs make great obstacles to overcome. Your baby will love to feel vibrations all through Daddy when he laughs or sings. Baby’s brain is quite tender so don’t overdo tossing your baby in the air. A gentle roughhousing is good for your baby, though.
During the next couple months, separation anxiety is at its peak. He may show extreme attachment to you and fear everyone else. It will pass and he will become friendly again in not too long. He feels most secure when everything is predictable and familiar.
Help grandparents and other friends of yours to get a better reception from your baby by warning them to approach slowly and allow your baby to make the first move towards them. Let him calm himself with a pacifier or thumb or comfort blanket. He needs these more than ever right now.
What to Expect Next
- Jabbers or combines syllables
- Cruises holding onto furniture
- Eats well with fingers
To Use a Playpen or Not?
What a boon a playpen can be to a busy mom! A playpen is a safe place for your baby to play while you are busy with housework or cooking. A playpen can keep your baby out of trouble and keep his toys within reach for him to play with. He can pull himself up to his feet and cruise around the edge.
But the playpen also restricts your baby’s activities and limits his space for moving around. Many babies are so unhappy in a playpen that their moms seldom resort to using it. Even if your baby doesn’t mind the playpen, make sure that he gets at least several hours each day out of the playpen and highchair for freedom of movement.
It is important for your baby to learn about his relationship to the things around him. Only when he can crawl freely will he learn to judge when a space is too small for him to crawl through or too low to wiggle under. When he finds himself at a dead-end, he will learn to move backwards. He learns about distance when he finds he has to work harder and longer to get to some objects than to others.
So, used wisely a playpen can be a blessing to parents and a safe place for baby. Misused, a playpen can limit your baby’s learning experiences and slow his development. Find a good balance.
The Treasure Chest
This is a wonderful age to begin using The Treasure Chest. This is a box that is tall enough that he can just reach over the side when he is sitting or kneeling beside it. Fill it about half full with newspapers so that he cannot tip the box over by pulling on the side. Put four or five objects on the newspaper for him to play with. At least some of the objects should be new to him. Soon he will find the box and look over the side to see what’s inside.
The Treasure Chest will become his own magic source of new things to play with. Whenever you get new toys for him, put them in this box for him to discover. Don’t let him see you putting things in the box. It is better to put only a few things in the box at a time and to change them frequently. If you put too many things in the box at a time, he may get confused. But fewer toys increases his attention span and you get more mileage out of his toys.
After he has gotten used to going to the box and finding new treasures in it, try moving the box. Let him find its new location to look for toys. For variety, change the appearance of the box by painting it or substitute another box for The Treasure Chest. He will especially like things he can do something with, not something he can only watch. He learns by doing.
I am indebted to The Growing Child newsletter for this wonderful suggestion. You may see their web site at: http://www.growingchild.com/GrowingChild.html
Dear Heavenly Father, my baby is able to move so quickly and put his tiny fingers in the smallest holes. Please, give me the ability to patiently and consistently direct him to safe activities. When I get tired of repeating the same things over and over, remind me how often You have to repeat the same lessons in my life. Help me to learn from You more quickly. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.