Think your babe isn't doing much other than eating, sleeping, and just being so stinkin' cute you can't stand it? Think again. Research shows the early years from birth to age 3 are vitally important for your little's brain development. In fact, more than a million neural connections are made each second in a young child's brain! So, even before your little one turns a year old, they are working hard on motor skills, self-help skills, and language development.
You can help this process by incorporating educational baby play ideas and learning activities into your daily routine. Read on to learn the age-specific milestones your baby should reach between six months and 1 year of age. We've also compiled some fun activities to do with baby at home to guide brain development!
Milestones for Babies 6-12 Months
Developmental milestones provide a guide so parents and health professionals can track children's abilities and identify potential concerns. But remember: all children develop at their own pace. Some master skills quickly while others may need a little more time. Try not to compare your babe to other children, even siblings. Let your child develop on his or her own timeline, and discuss any concerns with your pediatrician.
Here are some of the child development milestones your little may hit in their first year.
Gross motor skills
Gross motor skills are things your baby does with their large muscles, including those in the legs, arms, torso, and neck. Some things your 6-month-old through 12-month-old baby would be doing include:
- Sits independently
- Reaches for feet and toes
- Sits up from from tummy time
- Stands with support
- Walks sideways while holding onto furniture ("cruising")
- Stands briefly without support
- Takes steps while holding your hand
Fine motor skills
Fine motor skills use the small muscles in the hands and fingers. These include things like:
- Picks up small objects using hands and fingers
- Bangs two items together
- Transfers toys and objects between hands
- Points using the index finger
- Explores and examines toys by pulling, poking, tearing, etc.
- Drops objects into containers
Children at this age can learn skills that help them reach independence, such as:
- Holds their own bottle
- Feeds self with finger foods using the thumb and tips of fingers
- Attempts to use a spoon for eating
- Drinks from a lidded cup or takes small sips from an open cup
Cognitive skills relate to the mental processes of perception, memory, judgment, and reasoning. Between 6 and 12 months, this can include:
- Locate objects after watching them disappear
- Look at picture books
- Use objects as tools after you model how
- React to cause and effect toys that light up or play music
Identifiable speech and communication skills usually come closer to 12 months. By their first birthday, babies can usually:
- Respond to the word "no"
- Follow simple directions like "Go find daddy"
- Say mama and dada
- Use gestures, such as pointing, nodding head, or waving "bye-bye"
You need to be intentional when it comes to encouraging your child's development in these areas. The list of activities below will give your babe fun ways to develop these skills during playtime.
Fun Yet Easy Baby Activities, Ages 6-12 Months
Fun music sessions
Research shows that music can boost your babe's brain processing of new speech sounds, so expose them early and often to songs and rhythms. Help your child tap out beats with a song, and don't be shy about singing. Your baby will love it!
Baby finger painting isn’t just a fun pastime — it is also an effective sensory activity for little ones. In addition, it can help them develop their fine motor skills. While finger paint sessions can help all children, it is especially beneficial for kids with sensory integration issues, developmental delays, or children on the autism spectrum.
Encourage speech development and fine motor skills by reading age-appropriate books. Board books with large, colorful pictures are a great activity for babies 6-12 months. Point at pictures while you change the inflection of your voice for different characters.
Tried and true, peekaboo
This is an incredibly simple activity, and it’s a classic for a reason. Peek-a-boo is a long-time favorite that's great for fine motor skills, speech, and cognitive development. Plus, babies usually love it! Put a favorite toy on the floor, then cover it with a blanket. Ask baby "where is it?" They can reach under the blanket to retrieve the item.
Stacks on stacks on stacks
This is an easy educational activity for babies at home. Get some plastic cups from your cupboard, stack them up, and let baby knock them down. It encourages fine motor development as well as reinforces cause-and-effect relationships.
Play with rainbow spaghetti
Babies like to explore different textures and colors while practicing picking up small objects between their fingers and thumbs. For this activity, cook spaghetti noodles as directed. Rinse under cool water, add a drop of oil and food coloring. Mix well. Put the colored noodles in a sensory bin and let your child explore. Pro tip from Little Learning Club, where this idea originated: put down a plastic tablecloth or shower curtain liner for easy cleanup.
Sensory bag / basket play during tummy time
Easily add fun sensory play toys and ideas to your regular tummy time routine! Fill a basket or container with brightly colored objects of different shapes and sizes. Let your babe reach for and touch these items during tummy time. This will help with both gross and fine motor development.
Play with edible, baby-safe sand
Playing with sand is a great baby sensory play activity, but chances are really good the sand will end up in baby's mouth. Make taste-safe, edible sand by blending graham crackers and oatmeal in a blender. Put the mixture in a plastic tub and let your child touch, feel, and play with the "sand."
Your little can even learn (and have fun) during bath time! Take this time as an opportunity to converse with your children, helping with their communication skills. You can also introduce them to different objects (think fun, floaty baby toys) that can also aid in their development - such as stacking cups or rubber duckies they can count or squeak.
Explore temperatures with hot and cold bottles
This is an easy early learning activity for babies. Put ice water in a container with a cap (such as a plastic water bottle). Put hot tap water in another. Give baby these DIY sensory bottles so he or she can feel the different temperatures.Make sure to test water temperature before giving to baby.
Spending any time with your baby is time well spent, but these easy play ideas that encourage learning can help you make the most of your time together. If you have concerns about your baby's development, consult your health professional.Make sure you’re prepared for your little with these baby essentials, including pacifiers, teethers, and more.