Make sure your house is fully babyproofed this month because your little one will want whatever she can get her little hands on!
How clean is your floor? Your baby is about to find out! "Once kids can motor, a whole new world has opened to them," says Claire Lerner, LCSW-C, director of parenting resources at Zero to Three, a national nonprofit focused on infant and toddler development. "They can execute a plan because now they see something and can go get it."
What to expect: Your baby is finding his own way from Point A to Point B. "Some kids will do what we call a 'bunker crawl,' where they drag themselves across the floor." Lerner says. "Some kids are starting to cruise and a lot of kids are starting to crawl and motor around, which is huge because now they don't have to wait for you -- they can go and get whatever it is they're interested in."
All of this means that babyproofing is key. By now your baby is getting more chompers, so be watchful about what he might sneak into his mouth. "If babies have both upper and lower teeth, parents have to be even more cautious about them taking a bite out of something," says Yvette Warren, M.D., a family physician who helped develop the Countdown to Growing Up: A Growth and Development Tracker for the National Fatherhood Initiative. "They're able to bite bigger pieces, and then they don't have the grinding teeth, the molars. Until they get those grinding teeth, they're really at high risk for choking because they can bite things off but they can't chew them up."
On the fine motor front, those tiny little fingers are busy as usual. "They'll use their hand as a rake to bring a toy closer," Dr. Warren says. Your baby will be able to do even more once he masters the pincer grasp by bringing his thumb and pointer finger together. "They can pick up small objects and they are fascinated by the tiniest little things, like specks of dust on your carpet," Lerner says. But your baby isn't just inspecting your housekeeping skills. The pincer grasp also allows him to self-feed cereal and other small pieces of food. "That's a major milestone that builds confidence as they can do more and more for themselves," Lerner says.
Progression: Eventually, your little one will move into cruising along furniture, but that typically happens around 9 or 10 months, Lerner says. Some babies, though, are even walking by that time.
How to help: Moms tend to interact more verbally with their children, and dads tend to be more physical in their play. That's okay, Dr. Warren says "I will ask moms not to mother their husbands," she says. "When dads are roughhousing with their babies, giving them 'airplane' rides, kids love that and will squeal. Let dads be dads, because the data is really good around kids having good motor and verbal development when moms and dads do things in their own style."
A gentle game of tug-of-war can be fun and beneficial. "They'll play little games of give and take," Dr. Warren says. "If you allow them to hold on things, and you pull it away, it helps them with their coordination as they grab and let go." Bathtime can be another opportunity for your baby to explore the senses and play.
When you should you worry: Your baby's skills should be advancing, not regressing. "If they were doing really well with their trunk control and now they seem to have some kind of weakness; if they were smiling before and were really able to turn their head to your voice and now they don't seem to be doing that as readily, that's something to bring up with the pediatrician," Dr. Warren says.
Don't freak out if: You don't think your baby measures up to the superstar baby next door. Remember that development is not a race; children develop at their own pace and in their own way. There is significant variability in when children reach milestone. Some babies crawl at 6 months and some at 10. Some totally skip crawling and go straight to walking. Resist the urge to push your baby before she's ready. "Parents are feeling so pressured to get their children ahead," Lerner says. "The fact is, you can't expedite a child's development, and it can actually have the opposite effect --forcing builds frustration and can erode self-confidence."
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