BABIES NATURALLY LEARN THROUGH HAPPY EXPLORATION AND GENTLE PLAY
6 months} Peekaboo! “By 6 months of age, babies are working on the idea of object permanence,” Lerner says. When a baby learns an object may exist even when he can’t see it, it’s a big developmental step and a great time for playing peekaboo, she adds. Hold a handkerchief in front of your eyes and wait for your baby to pull it away. At first he may not understand that you are still there, but when you show your face, the recognition is bound to bring lots of happy chuckles. You can also hide a favorite toy or stuffed animal under a blanket and encourage your baby to find it. “Do something that makes your baby smile,” Lerner says, “then don’t do it again right away. You will see your baby lean toward you as if to say, ‘Do it again, Mom.’ When you do repeat the activity, he feels proud that he is a good communicator.”
8–9 months} Go find it
At this age, your baby will begin to respond to specific words that he hears often in his home, such as the name of the family pet. You can say, “Where is Max?” and he may indeed begin to look around for his dog. “Now it is especially important to have an ongoing dialogue with your baby,” says Lerner. “Verbally label everything as you go about your day and talk about it.” Play games with your baby in which you ask for some of his favorite toys or stuffed animals, then wait for him to crawl to get them. For example, if he finds a ball you’ve asked him about, give him an enthusiastic confirmation: “You found your ball!” This teaches your baby confidence and the feeling of success. But be prepared: Once your baby gets the hang of it, he will want to play this game over and over again.
12 months} Tour the neighborhood By about 1 year of age, babies start to understand such concepts as big and small, up and down, near and far. “Playing a computer game about sizes may be fine, but seeing the idea in real life makes the lesson longer-lasting,” Lerner says. Take a leisurely stroll with your baby and ask him to point out the big house, the small house; the leaves up high in a tree, the leaves down on the ground; the nearby truck, the truck far away, etc. As you point them out, you and your baby can marvel at the little details of the everyday world.