This is the stage when your baby becomes a real person – actually, that is not totally true; your baby was a real person the moment he was born, but now he is able to respond to you, show you his pleasure and displeasure, and let you know what he needs. He is learning to communicate with you and to show off his special personality.
He will recognize his parents and caregivers and show a strong attachment to them. It is so important at this time to engage in the “serve and respond” behavior that will stimulate and strengthen baby’s brain. When the baby coos and laughs and you respond by imitating him or talking or singing to him, he learns that he is in a conversation and that he can make things happen. This is not only language development, but also a kind of problem solving that is the basis of cognitive skills and social/emotional skills. When your baby cries because he is hungry or uncomfortable and you respond to his needs, he learns trust. He knows that if he “asks” for your help, he will get it. That leads to self-comforting and resilience. To see how important this is for your baby, view this short video – Still Face Experiment.
Your baby will be growing fast during these six months. Physically, he will gain strength and balance to develop movement, to go from rolling over to sitting alone and standing to starting to crawl and walk. He will learn to express himself with sounds, gestures, and words. He will experience a whole range of emotions like sadness, happiness, frustration, and boredom. He will rely on you to help interpret them and learn coping skills. This is the beginning of social and emotional competence.
Is My Baby On Track?
No two babies will develop at the same pace, but there are some norms you can use as a guide. Physical, cognitive, language, and social-emotional developmental milestones will give you a range of behaviors your baby should master and what to look forward to in the next growth stage. If you are concerned about any area of development, there are a number of activities you can do with baby to encourage growth. If you are worried that your baby is falling behind, consult with your doctor to decide if your baby needs more specialized help.
A few excellent sources for Developmental Milestones:
Center for Disease Control – Learn the Signs/Act Early and Milestone Moments
Zero to Three – Your Child’s Development
Healthy Children.Org – Ages and Stages
- Baby will respond to simple requests and use meaningful gestures like waving a hand for “Bye-Bye.”
- Baby will be shy around strangers and may cry when mom or dad leave.
- Baby will hide toys and books and then find them.
- Baby will crawl and cruise and try to stand alone.
Ideas for Learning and Growth
Nurturing: The ideal food for your infant at this stage is still breast milk; it contains all the nutrients and natural fats that babies need to develop strong muscles, bones, and active and responsive brain connections. If your child is eating other foods, remember to introduce them slowly and pay attention to adding a variety of vegetables and proteins. Babies will try almost anything and introducing a variety of good nutritional foods now can prevent the “picky” eater syndrome later.
Movement and Growth: Baby also needs a lot of exercise now. Look around your house to make sure it makes a good “baby gym.” Does baby have enough floor space to practice rolling and crawling? Are there safe climbing surfaces so he can pull himself up and support himself while he practices walking? Does he have safe, colorful and enticing playthings? They don’t have to be expensive toys; a decorated box, wooden spoons, or a set of blocks will help baby develop those small muscles in his eyes and hands. There are lots of websites that have great ideas for home created toys. Try Seven Homemade Toys for Baby or DIY Infant and Toddler Toys.
Language: Your baby’s brain is like a hungry sponge right now. Every story, song, or everyday conversation he hears is being absorbed and will eventually be used for language. The more he hears, the more he learns, so keep talking to him and responding to his oral cues. Sing to him so he can hear rhythms, rhymes, and tones in your loving voice. And, of course, read to him every day. It doesn’t have to be storybooks, although those are great fun; it could be the newspaper, directions on a hot chocolate package, or whatever you have in front of you. Just hearing the words and making the connection with writing sets him on the reading road.
Baby Games: Your baby is a great imitator at this stage. He will mimic your gestures, your facial expressions, and your voice. Have fun with this! Teach him simple gesture games like Pat-a-Cake or Itsy-Bitsy-Spider. Teach him “Bye-Bye” waves and “So-Big.” He will also begin to figure out that when something is hidden it still exists, so try playing “Peek-a-Boo” or putting his toy under a blanket and letting him find it.
What to Watch For
The CDC suggests you consult with your doctor if at twelve months of age your baby:
- Doesn’t crawl.
- Can’t stand when supported.
- Doesn’t search for things that she sees you hide.
- Doesn’t say single words like “Mama” or “Dada.”
- Doesn’t learn gestures like waving or shaking head.
- Doesn’t point to things.
- Loses skills he once had.
This may be a sign of delayed development, something that could be resolved with the right interventions. The important thing is to act early! The earlier you act, the easier it will be to get baby on track developmentally.
Your Baby’s Doctor: At this age, your baby’s pediatrician or family doctor should be your first call if you suspect something is wrong with your baby. If you are concerned about your baby, it is better to know than to guess!
Muskegon Area Services: A list of community groups, agencies, and schools that can help you and your baby.
Web Sources: Carefully researched websites that will give you a wealth of information on child development and parenting.