One of the most fascinating things you’ll witness as your baby grows older is his gradual realization that he can explore and control his world without having to rely on someone else to do it for him. “Babies begin to develop an understanding of cause-and-effect, which is a big point in their development,” says Jennifer Butcher, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor. “If they shake a rattle, it makes a sound. If they let go of an object, it falls.”
And if someone places an object in a container, it stays … until he learns to take it out. This should happen somewhere around the 7- to 8-month-old mark, according to Butcher. But first, your baby must master a few physical feats, such as being able to sit upright and purposefully grasp something; he must also be able to move his arms to reach an object. Interestingly, most babies learn to take an object out of a container before putting it in. “This is an easier motor skill because when the baby is taking an object out, he is merely grasping,” Butcher explains. “But when he is putting an object into a container, he has to reach for it, grasp it, pick it up and release it. It’s a fairly complex series of movements.” Babies typically master the latter at about 9 to 10 months old.
So should you push your child to master this (or any) milestone? “I think there’s a happy medium,” Butcher says. “You can understimulate and overstimulate a baby, and both can hinder the development of new skills.” That said, if you want to help your baby learn this skill, have fun with it—with no pressure. “Practice having him take an object out of a container, then you put it back in. You’ll both have fun while practicing the repetition that will help the skill become ingrained.” Butcher adds that you should practice with a single object, as babies typically master this ability using one item at a time. If your baby hasn’t gotten this down pat by about a year, talk to your pediatrician.
It’s playtime! Ever wonder what games you can play with a 6-week-old? Or what activities an 8-month-old is ready for? Then join Productive Parenting, a free online resource that offers age-appropriate activities for newborns to 5-year-olds. Simply register online (productiveparenting.com); you’ll be asked your child’s age and then given daily suggestions of activities you can do together. Not only will your baby be learning in a healthy way, but who knows—you might even pick up a thing or two yourself!