When a baby gets around the eight-month-old mark, lots of things happen all at once. The days when your baby was an entirely dependent newborn are now a distant memory, and your baby is beginning to look and act more like an actual child, with a fast-developing personality, a growing ability to play and entertain herself, and an increasing awareness of what is going on around her.
Because babies learn so much and develop so fast during this stage, every day can be momentous. Milestones will topple left and right, and during these few months there is a very good chance you will see
your baby take his first step, hear his first words, and engage in interactive games with him. For parents, it can be a magical time.
Fostering your child’s mental development
Although there are many things you can do during these months to aid your child’s mental growth, keep in mind that your child is programmed to grow and learn rapidly in this stage, and this will happen without your help.
What you can do is help make the learning more varied and deeper. Do this by exposing her to lots of different sights, sounds, and experiences. Of course, there is nothing wrong with letting her play independently in her play area for a couple hours a day, but make sure she is exposed to new things regularly.
Your baby’s social skills are developing rapidly in these months, so another thing you can do is give her plenty of interaction. When you are with her, keep a running commentary on all the things you do. And while you can talk in a wide-ranging way with her, continually emphasize words that are important to her—for example, “mama,” “dada,” and “bottle”—plus the names of things she likes. Meanwhile, this is also a good time to begin introducing her to other children her age, if you have not done so already.
One thing you will notice during this stage is that your baby will be interested in practically every object in his sight, and he will want to grab everything. Rather than trying to discourage this behavior, give him plenty of safe objects to examine. Keep in mind that he will probably put them all in his mouth. This cannot be stopped, so clean any dirty items before giving them to him.
Encouraging physical development
Every child grows at a different pace, and the major physical milestones of the last quarter of a baby’s first year are particularly variable. For instance, some children are able to stand up and even walk as early as nine months old, while others do not do so until well into their second year. And the late walker is not necessarily developing more slowly. She just develops differently.
As with mental development, parents cannot do much to alter a child’s natural pace of growth, but what they can do is help make the process as easy as possible. For babies, the most important thing is to be able to move around and explore the world. Every physical accomplishment your child makes must come with hours of practice. The first time your child lifts herself up and stands against a piece of furniture, for instance, will happen only after many failed attempts.
Your job is to give your child plenty of opportunity to practice. You have probably been giving your baby daily tummy time since he was a young infant, and over the months you have probably watched him get more and more adept at moving around, changing position, sitting up, and eventually crawling or scooting around. None of this can happen if the child is not given the opportunity to figure it out.
That is why it is important to give your child many hours of free but supervised play time. Give her a completely baby-proofed room or section of a room, put some toys in the area, make sure she has large soft items to lift herself up on, and let her be free. And when you get the chance, also give her time to physically explore unfamiliar places that are safe. Many babies love crawling in the grass in the yard or at the park, for instance.
Although you may feel in these months that there is a lot of pressure for you to encourage your child to meet certain milestones, do not let this get to you. Again, all children develop at their own pace, and those who develop more slowly in some areas often grow up to be accelerated. You simply cannot draw conclusions based on the pace at which babies meet milestones. For now, your job is to mainly to give your child the opportunities she needs to grow as well as she can in her unique way.
By Lisa Pecos