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

Your Baby & Toddler - - Contents -

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

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