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6-12 months

Angela Oswalt, MSW

Between ages six to twelve months, you can continue to encourage physical growth and motor skill development through interactive games and activities. While your baby is in the bathtub, encourage him or her to kick in the water (start by gently moving your baby's legs in a kicking motion). Once babies realize that they can make the water splash and that it's fun, they'll learn to kick on their own. Using water toys (even plastic cups, bowls, etc) can also help develop hand-eye coordination.

For more upper body growth, create a climbing mound of pillows and cushions. Place your baby on the mound and encourage him or her to move toward you. The soft moving mound can be a fun and challenging way to help growing arm muscles, coordination, and balance. For fine motor skills, toy unwrapping fun doesn't have to be saved for holidays and birthdays! You can wrap toys that your baby already plays with in brightly colored paper. Freeing the toys from the paper will take fine finger control along with providing baby the excitement of finding out what's underneath.

Babies will also enjoy exploring tactile sensations, especially different textures. You can create a "feel box" by putting safe objects with different textures and coverings (pieces of different textured cloth, feathers, larger rubber balls) together. Make sure that these objects are "mouth friendly" (non-toxic, too large for babies to choke on, and not sharp or pointed).

For more social and emotional development, you can play light chasing and surprising games by crawling around the living room or other space. This simple activity will send almost any baby into a fit of giggles while s/he is learning to interact and to participate in a give and take activity with others. You can also begin to clapping games such as patty cake with your baby to further practice give-and-take sociability, language and cognitive skills. Even though it might seem boring to you, babies enjoy hearing the same fun, lyrical words used over and over again.

Another way to help build sociability is to expose babies to new social situations. Taking field trips to places such as the library, the zoo, or the park are good for all children from infancy through middle childhood as these trips expose youth to how people interact. Moreover, they're a fun change of environment. You may also consider joining playgroups with other babies and caregivers. These are wonderful outlets for young children to learn how to play alongside other kids, and to share. Furthermore, this can give you an outlet of friendship and support from other adults that are experiencing the same joys and stresses of parenthood.

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