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Month 12: Walking & Talking 

by Penny Warner

BABY'S PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Body is Growing

  • Fine Motor – As your baby’s finger manipulation becomes more finely tuned, she’ll be able to use her pincer-grasp to retrieve small items, put objects inside other objects, and take objects out of small spaces. All this dexterity practice will enable her to eat without spilling, dress herself, and do many other fine motor tasks in the near future.
  • Sitting – Your baby is growing more adept at moving in and out of a sitting position, to crawling or standing. She’s also able to turn her body while sitting and reach for an object to her side or behind her. 
  • Cruising – Around this time your baby may walk, assisted by the furniture around her. She may pull to standing, find her balance, then take a step or two, using the couch for support. This is the next step toward walking alone.

How You Can Help

  • Fine Motor – Give your baby more fine motor experiences by doing large piece wooden puzzles, using a peg board, picking objects out of containers, and finger-painting on large sheets of paper.
  • Sitting – Give your baby sitting challenges by placing objects nearby but slightly out of reach, so she has to change her body position in order to acquire them. Place toys at her side and behind her, to get her to reach around. And place an object on the couch, so she has to pull to standing and reach to retrieve it.
  • Cruising – Set your baby next to the couch in a standing position. Set a toy at the end of the couch, so she has to “cruise” to get it. Sit near the toy and encourage her to come and get the object, so she’ll have the confidence to try. Bare feet are still the best for baby as she learns to travel on foot.

BABY’S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Brain is Maturing

  • Language – There’s soon to be an explosion in the area of language, as your baby readies for her first word. Parents continue to use “Parentese,” a natural form of teaching baby language that includes short sentences, simple vocabulary, a high-pitched voice, an animated intonation, and lots of repetition. Baby talk is all right, as long as you don’t use it all the time, so she’ll learn real words, too.
  • Descriptive Concepts – While your baby is learning primarily concrete nouns, such as “doggy”, and simple phrases, such as “bye-bye” and “hi!”, she’s also receptive to descriptions of objects and actions, and capable of understanding more complex concepts such as “dirty”, “hurry”, “surprise”, “hungry”, and “wait”.
  • Sequential Play – While your baby seems to play with toys randomly, you might notice that she does things in sequence. For example, if there are blocks on the floor, she might put them back in the box one by one, until they’re all gone. This is a major step in cognitive development and organized thinking.

How You Can Help

  • Language – Your baby needs lots of repetition of familiar words in order to learn how to say them. It’s especially helpful if you rephrase the sentences in simple ways for clarity. Use lots of expression when you talk to your baby, to enable her to understand you better. Never correct her speech, but set the example instead. Criticism may inhibit her language development.
  • Descriptive Concepts – Increase her receptive vocabulary by describing objects and actions throughout the day. For example, as you clean the house, change her diaper, or take a walk together, describe what you’re doing, what you see and hear, and what you’re feeling.
  • Sequential Play – You can teach your baby sequential play by putting things in order, and talking about what you’re doing. For example, show her how to put each block in a box, how to take the puzzles pieces out one at a time, and so on.

BABY’S PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Personality is Unfolding

  • Positive Reinforcement – Your baby understands when you appreciate something she does, and will repeat it if the praise and positive reinforcement continues. Continue to smile at her, laugh with her, encourage her, make eye contact, and simply watch her.
  • Imitation Play – As your baby watches you, she learns from you, and will often imitate more of your actions, behaviors, facial expression and vocalizations. You might find her “talking” on the phone, “cooking” with your spoons and bowls, or even trying to undress herself. 
  • Anticipation – When reading a familiar story to your baby, you may find she anticipates what’s going to happen next, through vocalization, such as “Uh-oh!” or through gesture, by clapping her hands. She’s retaining more information, as her memory increases.

How You Can Help

  • Positive Reinforcement – Watch for positive behavior in your baby and reinforce it, through body language and speech, so your baby will learn what’s expected of her and what’s not. In other words, catch her being “good” and let her know her positive behavior is appreciated. Ignore negative behavior as much as possible and it will tend to disappear.
  • Imitation Play – Give your baby opportunities to imitate your actions, by providing play phones, plastic bowls and spoons, dress up clothes, plastic keys, a steering wheel, and other adult-like props. This type of play helps her prepare for the real world.
  • Anticipation – Each time you read your baby a familiar story, include gestures and vocalizations that are easy to imitate. When you read the story the next time, give her a second to recreate the gesture or sound before you do it yourself. She’ll soon pick it up and anticipate nearly every page!