Watching Babies Think: What’s This? What’s That?
While a baby’s body matures physically, the thinking part of the brain is undergoing some amazing changes as well. From 9 months to about 18 months, the action and the thinking accelerate explosively. Most babies seem determined to outwit Mom in the quest to be well-informed. Whether something is dirty or clean, hard or soft, edible or inedible, your baby has an inquiring mind and wants to see and handle. He wants to know “What the heck is that over there? Oh! The remote control? Let me at it!” This is what’s going through your baby’s mind as he discovers the many purposes of objects and materials. And because so much thought has accumulated in the rapidly absorbing brain, a few words and lots of sounds are now spewing forth to go with the action.
Most of us moms are happy to see these changes because it lets us know that many levels of development are on target. Remember: Babies in this age group demand time to practice, to refine, and improve upon their skills. Here are 5 tips to make it through this period safely while also providing opportunities for your little one to exercise his “inside muscles”—the desire for challenge, knowledge, and self-discipline.
1. Take baby’s perspective on the world.
Sit down on the floor and look around. This is Baby’s view of the world and it will soon become apparent why the toilet is fascinating, every cabinet is worth opening, and the electronic gadgets must be there for his amusement. At this level you can also spot all the potential hazards that must be removed for his safety.
2. Exercise the inside muscles.
The goal of practice is to use a thinking process that allows babies to develop knowledge—and to learn how to focus just long enough to get that knowledge. Impulse control—the urge to act without thinking—is one of the greatest challenges of the early years. Working with stacking toys, blocks, or wheeled toys combine vigorous exercise skills such as making things move, making structures big and tall, making a picture, or differentiating colors. Other activities such as handling puzzles, books, or games may be quiet, but encourage attention to detail, reflection, and language development.
3. Link words to the actions used while exercising the inside muscles.
Whether or not your baby is talking or making words during this period, you can bet he’s listening to your words and filing them somewhere inside his brain. Learning nouns comes first, and then the adjectives and verbs get attached a little later. Using words that describe what the two of you are doing is fundamental to Baby’s language development. Research shows thatnobodyteaches spoken language better than Mom and Dad. And the months prior to a child’s actual use of a working vocabulary teach Baby the “sounds” of your language as well as the words.
4. Challenge your baby to try harder and get better at doing things responsibly.
I know this sounds grown up, but your baby is trying to grow up to be a full-on toddler. You could start with body parts identification. Your baby can practice knowing eyes, nose, mouth, and ears until he or she is fluent. The same goes for knowing articles of clothing: diapers, shoes, socks, and shirts. By 18 months, your child will anticipate what to do, and assist in getting dressed.