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 his learning the rest of his life.
What Your Baby is Learning
His sitting balance is very secure now. He can lean in any direction and easily come back to an erect sitting posture. If he leans too far, he will catch himself 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, he 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. His feet will turn outward. His belly will stick out in front and his bottom will stick out behind for balance. As he gets more steady on his feet, his posture will get more erect and his 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 him 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. His thumb and forefinger grasp is good now, so he will be progressing to moving about more than ever before and will be learning to climb on things. He will take great pleasure in pushing, throwing, and knocking over anything he can with his arms. He’ll love the loud noises he is able to make banging things together.
He is beginning to cooperate in dressing by ducking his head or putting one arm through a sleeve. He may hold out his feet for putting on socks and shoes.
He may show a preference for one hand rather than the other. Don’t try to force him, let him decide which he 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.” He understands and responds to his own name. He understands a lot of what is said to him and about him. He has a large number of sounds he can make and has begun to speak sentences that sound like a foreign language. He may have one or two words in his vocabulary with meaning. He can imitate a variety of sounds with combined actions like coughing, lip smacking, and giving raspberries.
His speech will not be precise for another two years or so. He will make a lot of sound substitutions and omissions for a great while. You will begin to recognize the words he 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 he is learning, his communication skills are his most important.
Encourage your baby to mimic words, sounds, and inflections. Listen to the sounds he makes, mimic him and then say a different sound and encourage him to mimic you. You will encourage him to keep trying when you act like you understand what he says and answer him back. Always use real words with proper pronunciation and inflection.
Help his 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. He can only remember one command at a time. He 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 he does it right, be sure to reward him with “thank you” and a championship hug. He’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. He loves you and depends on you, so of course, he 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 him that if he cries enough you will return.
It is time to begin teaching your baby some independence. You can help him feel more independent by not hovering over him all the time. Don’t be constantly “helping” him out of tight places or keeping him from tumbling as he tries to walk. Of course, you want to know what he is doing and keep him from serious harm, but small tumbles are part of his learning process. When he goes to another room, don’t immediately follow. Wait a couple minutes. Call to him when you are in another room if he cries out to you. He will gain healthy confidence.
Ways You Can Help
Cup and Cube– place a cup and a block in front of him. Tell him to put the block into the cup. If he doesn’t understand, gesture and repeat the instructions. If he still doesn’t understand, demonstrate while you describe what you are doing. Once he can do it, increase the complexity of the challenge with putting more blocks into the cup. This can be the beginning of him following your directions to clean up his toys or the pots and pans he 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 him and tell him to squeeze the ball. Repeat the process until he understands.
Bring it!- Place three familiar items in a line, one toy, one piece of clothing, and one household item. Tell him to “Go get the shoe.” When he brings the correct item to you, be sure to shower him with praise.
Which Hand?- Play with a favorite small item. Show him the item and transfer it from hand to hand several times. Hold out both hands closed. Ask, “Which hand is it in?” If he’s correct, reward him with the item. If not, open the hand he pointed to and say, “It isn’t here. Where is it?”
Cause and Effect
He can now recognize familiar items even when they are in unusual positions. He will not even pause to turn his bottle around if you hand it to him with the nipple away from him. Before he only understood that he could cause actions, like looking away made an object disappear. Now he is learning that others can cause things to happen. Sometimes he will wait for you to do something for him. He will also push a barrier away to see something he knows is hidden. He now sees the barrier is the cause of him not being able to see what he wants.
He sees objects as distinct from himself, but he can only make very simple associations between one object and another. He believes they are permanent associations until he has proved to himself 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 him you are covering his toy. Then let him take away the hat to find his toy. After doing this a few times, cover the same toy with something different, like a small box. Show him what you are doing. Put the box and the hat side-by-side. He will still look under the hat for his toy. He has associated the hat with covering the toy. He expects the toy to always be under the hat.
Now take two covers that are very similar, perhaps two caps. Cover his toy with one and let him find it. Then cover it with the other one. Be sure to switch positions of the toy so he 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. He will be learning to think logically about his world. This game will help him a great deal in being more creative and logical in his 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 he becomes a toddler. His need for calories decreases as his growth slows. This doesn’t have to be a matter of concern for you, however. Just provide him with smaller portions.
You can usually tell when your baby is hungry. He may cry or bang his spoon on his highchair tray. But you can always tell when he has had enough. He may sweep his arm across the tray and scatter what is left onto the floor or he will push your hand and spoon away. He will eat enough to meet his needs and no more. If you allow him to follow his biological impulses he will not overeat or starve himself.
He may show definite preference for some foods over others. It is pretty normal for him to have a conservative diet at this age. That won’t hurt him. As he gets older, you can introduce more foods and expand his dietary choices.
Parents can do more damage by forcing baby to eat more than he 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 him to eat more than he wants. And if you are bottle feeding, don’t pacify your baby with a bottle between meals. This adds unnecessary calories and then he 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 him from his pacifier. The longer he uses it, the harder it will be for him 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 he is still using a pacifier he will be less likely to practice sounds and words.
Gradually wean him. Don’t just throw the pacifier away. Begin by limiting its use during the daytime. Substitute a stuffed toy at times he would usually want his pacifier. When he isn’t using it any more during the day, begin to wean him from it at night. Don’t substitute a bottle that he feeds himself. Sipping milk whenever he wakes leaves milk on his 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 his earliest memories pleasure in nature is a foundation of his life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen