Your 1-year-old experiences dramatic leaps in knowledge each month. What can you do to encourage his learning?

In many ways, this year represents the most important period of learning your child will ever go through. Each month will bring dramatic and exciting changes in the quality of your 1-year-old's understanding of his world. His growing ability to hold images of you and other important people in his mind will enable him to plan and carry out simple activities. He will also begin to develop a sense of the future and of the past. Your little one will formulate a sense of who he is and how he feels about the self he has discovered.

As he approaches his second birthday, your child will also begin to pretend. Imagination and pretend play depend on his growing ability to use one object to represent another. Thus, a doll becomes a real baby, the water in a toy cup represents the coffee he will serve you, boots on his tiny feet magically turn him into a cowpoke. Everything your youngster is learning today will form the basis for these developments, and those in turn will stimulate others.

What can you do to encourage learning? Relax! Learning can hardly be prevented under any but the most dire circumstances. You don't have to turn your house into a classroom stocked with "educational" toys or sign your child up for brainy baby or infant enrichment programs in order for him to learn.

Your role as a parent is paramount, though. You are like a lens, filtering and mirroring your child's experiences for her. If you value her attempts at learning, then she will, too, and her eagerness will increase. You can help by supplying the raw materials she needs for learning: a safe environment, toys, and household objects she can use in her many day-to-day experiments. And you can provide warm and loving encouragement for her explorations-your excitement will work to enhance her enthusiasm even more.

The most important thing your child needs to do at this young age is to learn how to learn. Structure her world to make it a safe, nurturing, and predictable place for exploration. Be patient with her continued demands and experimentation-after all, you are the expert to whom she most often turns for help and information. Most of all, share her delight at her discoveries. Thanks to your 1-year-old scientist, you will see that learning really is child's play!

Have Fun With Baby's Development

"Where are your feet?"

Your 1-year-old's growing self-awareness and vocabulary now make it possible for him to identify his body parts. Early in his second year he should be able to successfully answer "Where are your feet?" (or hands or eyes) by pointing. A little later on, he should be able to extend this ability to the body parts of another person or a doll.

By the time your child is 2, he'll probably be able to point to four or more parts of his body and yours and to name them. Use the correct terminology for body parts -- including the proper names for your daughter's vagina or your son's penis. This will help give your child a sense that these parts of the body are as healthy and as acceptable as hands and ears and knees.

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