Look what I can do!
By 5 months, she’s discovered her hands and is amazed at what they can do. She is still working on efficiently using hands and eyes together in a coordinated way by setting her sights on an object and attempting to bring it to her mouth. Rattles, teethers, plastic keys, and small hand-held toys will continue to have appeal. Crinkly sounds and textured items will also add interest.
Forget about toys with push buttons and electronic sound effects. Commercials keep telling us that these toys will keep children fascinated for hours, but it’s not the case. Babies explore with all their senses – sight, sound, touch, and taste. They pick up items, view them from every angle, shake them around and gnaw on them. Heavy electronic toys don’t fit the criteria.
Homemade Activity: Bowl of Balls
-Stainless steel kitchen bowl
-a set of these can be found at Walmart for about $7 and can be used for other activities in the coming months – then they can be used permanently in your kitchen.
-Plastic or wooden balls about 2” in diameter or larger
-these types of balls often come with other toys you might have received as a gift or from an older sibling. Large wooden lacing beads work well too.
Playtime: The bowl fits snugly between your child’s legs while they are in a supported sitting position. The metal bowl provides two types of stimuli: visual interest as all the colors of the balls are reflected in bowl and a satisfying clattering sound as they are dropped into the bowl or swirled around.
This activity gives baby great practice reaching her hands in and grasping at the balls and eventually bringing one to her mouth.
Homemade Activity: Sensory Blocks
-Empty Gerber baby food containers from fruits/veggies (the rectangular plastic type)
-Objects that are safe in materials and size* (colorful spools of thread, small wooden disc from a stacking toy, a figurine from Fisher Price or Playskool playsets).
Playtime: You've created a handheld toy with visual interest to grasp, shake, and make sounds.
Homemade Sensory Block Example:
Cause and Effect
By about 7 months, baby is an old pro at grasping items and moving them from hand to hand and hand to mouth. She’s ready to make some music.
Playtime: Using the same metal bowl, offer your baby a stainless steel measuring spoon (or lightweight teaspoon, but watch the long handle as it will probably end up in her mouth). A quick demonstration by mom or dad on how to bang, bang, bang on the rim of the bowl should get your little musician banging away. For a different tone, you can turn the bowl over and tap on the bottom.
If you don't have a metal bowl, you can substitute an empty formula canister or Gerber cereal canister. Turn it upside down and bang away on the metal bottom. For the smaller size canisters, you can add a small block (or the plastic scoop it comes with)to the inside and cover it up for a noisy shake toy that baby can grab with both hands.
Object Permanence - Things Still Exist Even Though I Can’t See Them
Sometime around the 8-month period, stranger anxiety and separation anxiety can begin as baby notices when you are gone from the room. This is an important developmental milestone as your baby discovers that you and she are not one person; you are individuals and exist separately from each other.
Homemade Activity: Now You See It, Now You Don’t!
-Two plastic food storage containers or small bowls (one clear, one opaque)
-Baby’s favorite rattle or toy
Playtime: Cover the toy with the clear container so it is visible. Tap the container to draw baby’s attention to the toy. See if she will try to lift the container to get the toy. (As with all activities, if your child does not seem interested, it may be too early – try again next week or the week after that).
After a few successful attempts at retrieving the toy, let her watch as you hide the toy under the opaque container. Does she try to uncover it or does she look away and become involved in something else?
If she tries to get the toy it means she has an understanding that things still exist even when you can’t see them. She has officially entered the object permanence stage and knows that when mommy or daddy aren’t in the room, they still exist.
Pincer Grasp Activities
Picking up items with thumb and forefinger is another important developmental milestone. Towards the end of this month period you can begin to offer a Cheerio or two on the highchair tray to encourage the pincer grasp. Babies usually start out with a raking motion using all fingers and it can be a hit or miss proposition.
Playtime: Once your baby shows an interest in picking up small items with her fingers, you can challenge her further by using an egg carton with one or two cheerios or puffs in each segment. This increases the likelihood that she will try to use her fingers rather than her whole hand. (As with all activities, the goal is to challenge but not frustrate. Your child will let you know if she is ready for this game. If not, try again next week)
Exersaucers/Stationary Activity Centers
These short-term toys are useful for approximately ages 4 to 7 months depending on your baby’s size. They can be expensive for the amount of time used, so check with friends or the consignment shop first. While not necessary for baby's development, many parents enjoy having this option to add variety to the activities of the day.
Stationary activity centers allow your baby to sit in a somewhat supported position before they can fully do it on their own. After awhile they learn to pivot around to check out the different attached toys and activities. At the younger end of the range when back muscles are still developing, a few times a day for short periods of 15 minutes or less is sufficient.
Flat Feet or Tippy Toes?
There’s much debate about flat footed versus tippy toes when sitting in a saucer. Early childhood educators were once taught that flat footed was best as it allowed baby to stand up and strengthen legs. Having only toes touch was thought to put unnatural weight on the toes and encouraged improper toe walking.
Manufacturers now recommend that baby only have toes touching the base because some children continue to use saucers beyond the appropriate age and being flatfooted allows them to physically tip the saucer over or climb out.
When a child's legs and bodies are really starting to move, it’s time to put the saucer away and allow floor play to encourage crawling. It’s always helpful to ask your pediatrician for his view.
For over 15 years the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has recommended that walkers not be used. The AAP campaigned to have the manufacture and sale of these items banned. Unfortunately, they are still in use today.
While it may seem that they help children learn to walk, this isn’t true. When using a walker, babies use their tummies to push forward and if their feet are not flat on the ground, they learn to toe walk. These muscle groups are not used when learning to walk naturally.
Safety is a major concern because babies can move quickly and end up in dangerous locations that they otherwise wouldn't have access to. You can read more at:
American Academy of Pediatrics
Nanny's Book Note: Always check your local library first for a test drive. It's a great way to find out which books are truly worth adding to your child's cherished collection.
Next Week: 9 - 11 Months
*All small toys should pass the safe materials and size test. Use a paper towel tube to check the toys'size safety. If it passes through the tube, it is small enough to be a choking hazard and should not be used for children under three years of age.
Photo Credit: todobebe