How Babies Learn Through Play

10 to 12 Months

  • Your baby's sense of balance has greatly improved; she may even be cruising or walking.
  • Her perceptual, language, and fine motor skills increase.
  • She begins imitative play.

Tools for Play:

Now your baby can focus on mastering fine motor skills. "A favorite game is dump and fill," says DeLuca. "Give your child crates filled with anything you don't mind having dumped. Take advantage of her interest in putting things in containers, and teach her to clean up." Encourage perceptual skills by offering nesting cups and stacking rings (though most babies won't get the order right for another six months or so). Finger and hand games emphasizing language are big hits; try "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "The Wheels on the Bus." Says Dr. Weinberger, "Babies can't really sing the songs, but your singing helps them recognize familiar words and encourages them to try to say a few."

Near 12 months, your baby will enjoy imitative play with toy phones, dolls, and animals. She'll also incorporate you more into her play, notes Dr. McQuiston, and will begin using toys as tools -- pounding pegs into holes with a block, for example, or propping a stuffed animal under her doll's head for a pillow.

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