This is baby heaven How to play with your older baby
Older babies are happiest in an environment in which they can explore, play and make a mess to their heart’s content. Here’s how you can give your six-month-old the space she needs to thrive, says Susan Samuel
DON’T INTERVENE TOO QUICKLY WHEN YOUR BABY BECOMES FRUSTRATED. HELP HER TO SUCCEED RATHER THAN COMPLETELY TAKING OVER THE TASK AND DOING IT FOR HER
THE SECOND SIX months of your child’s life are exciting and packed with milestones, from first solids and sitting up to crawling and maybe even walking.
Your little one is irresistible and communicates with everyone around her. You also don’t feel so clumsy anymore, and one of the loveliest (as well as most exhausting) periods of motherhood now lies ahead.
But don’t make the mistake of mollycoddling your child to protect her against the world. Bigger babies become busy now, and the potential dangers out there can paralyse you with fear. Take a deep breath and relax. Don’t limit your baby’s scouting missions, except if she puts herself or others in danger. A little extra care and a few shrewd moves will allow your child to explore her world in a safe and fun way.
GROUND RULES FIRST
Make your house and garden child friendly by removing objects and substances that can harm your baby – or at least putting them out of reach. Now she can explore and discover to her heart’s content!
Dress her in clothes that are suitable for crawling and rolling.
Allow her to go barefoot as much as possible. In this way, she experiences different sensations through the soles of her feet and her balance also develops at the same time.
Don’t intervene too quickly when your baby becomes frustrated. Help her to succeed rather than completely taking over the task and doing it for her.
Repetition is an essential building block of the learning process. It helps baby to master the basic concepts and build the confidence to rely on that knowledge.
A baby’s attention span is very short – so don’t be worried if she quickly loses interest in a book or toy.
Try to keep all toys clean and hygienic, since these quickly go to baby’s mouth, especially as she might begin teething.
It’s not good for your baby to sit in a baby chair for long periods of time. It inhibits physical contact and movement stimulation. It also keeps her from developing her tummy and back muscles.
A routine is very important at this stage, as your baby feels safe if every day follows a familiar pattern.
LESSONS IN THE HIGH CHAIR SIX TO NINE MONTHS
Babies enjoy involving their hands in the eating process. A plate of finger foods such as pieces of cheese, potato, banana or soft biscuits will keep your little one occupied for a long time.
Allow your baby to discover various textures such as jelly, watermelon, soft pasta, coarse rusks, coloured ice and cereal.
She loves dropping objects. Make it easy by tying toys to the high chair with a piece of string (long enough so they can still reach the ground) and show her how to pull them up again. Just watch that she doesn’t become entangled.
NINE TO TWELVE MONTHS
Encourage fine motor skills by giving smaller pieces of food like peas or small carrots, which she has to pick up herself.
MAKE NAPPY CHANGES FUN
Your baby’s going to start resisting when you change her nappy, as she wants to roll over onto her tummy. Hang an interesting mobile about an arm’s length above your baby’s face. She’ll enjoy touching it. Swop out mobiles often so that she doesn’t become bored. Replace with photographs or pictures later.
MAKE CRAWLING COOL SIX TO NINE MONTHS
Allow her to spend time on her tummy. You can use your arm as a foothold against which she can push herself away. When she’s lying on her tummy, you can hold her hips and lift her legs about 15cm from the floor so that she automatically carries the weight on her hands. Encourage her to “walk” on her hands. It’s good exercise if she’s not crawling yet, and also prepares her for making somersaults later in life.
NINE TO TWELVE MONTHS
Encourage her to crawl to you over obstacles such as pillows and blankets.
Don’t hurry the walking process. The crawling stage is very important as it allows certain parts of the brain to develop. It’s one of the reasons experts aren’t wild about walking rings – they meet your baby’s need for mobility but diminish the motivation to crawl – and they pose a tipping danger.
WATER WORKS WONDERS SIX TO NINE MONTHS
Use touch to focus your baby’s attention on a specific body part during bath time.
Collect empty plastic containers such as yoghurt, margarine or cream cheese tubs, and play with these in the bath.
Many babies love water time, so now’s also the best time to start swimming lessons. Time with you in a heated pool works wonders for your baby’s motor skills and stimulates her senses.
NINE TO TWELVE MONTHS
At this stage she’s crazy about filling containers. A plastic tea set and a bowl of water on the stoep will keep your little one well occupied. Just don’t ever leave your child unattended with any container filled with water.
Use empty herb and spice bottles with lids with holes in them to create the “watering can” effect during bath time.
EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT SIX TO NINE MONTHS
Keep on talking to your baby when you’re not in her sight so that she can learn that you’re there even if she can’t see you. Watch your baby and don’t react immediately when she becomes niggly. Sometimes the noises are just voice games, and not real crying.
NINE TO TWELVE MONTHS
Try to read to your baby every day. Don’t be shy – go for it! Use different voices and make noises and funny faces. It helps baby to distinguish characters.
FUN AND GAMES SIX TO NINE MONTHS
Sit baby down on the lawn or a mat and place toys just outside of her reach. She’ll try her best to get to them, improving her sitting – and encouraging crawling.
Strengthen her eye muscles by focusing her attention on a moving car or a ball rolling away. Get her to follow a flashlight beam against a wall at night.
Baby’s respiratory and lung capacity are improved through activities where she “hangs” on your hands or when you pull her up to a standing position by her hands. Use your thumbs so that you can better monitor her grip, and do it on a soft surface, such as a bed. Make sure she can’t get hurt should she suddenly let go of your hands. (This game is only suitable for bigger babies with stronger necks.) ✓ Hide a noisy toy under something like a blanket, and get her to search for it. ✓ Give her a third toy when she already has one in each hand. Leave her to find a solution to the problem herself.
Tumbling games are excellent to develop your baby’s sense of balance and spatial awareness. Tickle her or dance with her, let her “jump” on your lap, swing her while you hold her under the arms, let her ride on your shoulders, or twirl around with her in your arms. Allow your baby to take the lead, and stop immediately if it’s clear she doesn’t enjoy the game.
Most babies love mirrors and are fascinated by their own reflection. Sit next to her and pull faces.
NINE TO TWELVE MONTHS
Babies enjoy tumbling games even more now. It’s especially good to get Dad involved here too. But never throw a baby into the air – rather create that effect by quickly lifting your baby and putting her down again without letting go, and only if it looks like she’s enjoying it.
It’s also good for your little one to be upside down sometimes. A good way is to let baby lie on your lap with her feet against your tummy. Make sure you have a firm grip of her ankles. Now get up slowly while you hold her body, inverting her in the process. Then sit down again – slowly – so she lies horizontally again. Keep the upsidedown times very short (about five seconds) initially and gradually increase them as your baby becomes accustomed to it. Of course it’s not a good idea to do it shortly after a meal!
Your little one might start connecting sounds to animals and even imitating them. Show her pictures (or the real deal) and demonstrate the noises they make.
Pointing games work well now because your baby can understand more words than she uses. Ask “Where’s Mommy?” or “Where’s the light?” and get her to point.
Look out for household items or toys with interesting textures such as a feather duster, hairbrush or kiwi fruit. You can also cut out swatches of fabric with different textures and get your baby to explore these through touch.
Put stickers on your baby’s hands or limbs, and encourage her to find them and pull them off.
Your baby loves scratching objects against each other. Get some ear plugs and give her the chance to bang things together to her heart’s content, including lids of pots, plastic or tin cups, empty containers, rattles and wooden toys.
Emptying out containers is also a big favourite. If you’re a little wary of handing over your own handbag, create baby’s own “handbag” or container in which you store interesting and noisy articles to be discovered.
A toy that has a string that needs pulling is good fun for little ones who’ve just started walking. You can also tie a ribbon or string to a favourite toy and extend the pulling power. YB