Nearly 1 year old, your baby is almost a toddler. In addition to providing excellent nutrition, here are some easy activities you can introduce to help her reach new milestones and move on to the next exciting stage.
- Play peekaboo. Your baby now understands object permanence and loves to be in on the joke in peekaboo or other hiding games, or when you pull out a jack-in-the-box.
- Encourage dumping and sorting. Provide several baskets, boxes, or buckets full of like objects—for instance, one with blocks, one with stuffed animals, and a third with toy cars. Your baby will enjoy emptying the items, sorting them, and returning them to their original containers.
- Play pretend. Using toy versions of real-life objects, talk to one another on the telephone, arrange a tea party, or build a house of blocks using a plastic hammer.
- Roll a ball back and forth. Not only is this fun for her, it helps improve depth perception, visual tracking ability, and hand-eye coordination—and it teaches her about turn-taking. If a tennis ball is too small for her to handle, try using a soccer ball.
- Turn off electronics. Face-to-face interactions with real people and playing with objects that can be touched, mouthed, and moved will fuel her cognitive growth far more than a computer or television screen.
- Sing songs that involve hand and body motions. There are plenty of classics to choose from: “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “I’m a Little Teapot,” “Where Is Thumbkin,” “This Little Piggy,” and “Hokey Pokey” (although your baby won’t yet know left from right), to name a few.
- Take baby steps. Hold both of your baby’s hands and praise her efforts as she tries walking with you. Though some people debate whether shoes or bare feet offer a boost to walking, neither has a distinct advantage. Shoes are optional for beginning walkers; they're mainly for safety's sake, to protect tender toes and soles. Your baby will outgrow them very quickly, anyway. But if you do prefer that she wear shoes when she walks outside, make sure they’re wide enough for her feet and have nonskid soles. What really helps developing walking skills: practice, gentle encouragement, and time.
- Let her cruise. Push chairs and other sturdy objects close together, so your baby can navigate around the room by cruising from one piece to the next.
- Provide push toys. Child-size toy shopping carts, lawn mowers, and the like give your fledgling toddler something to hold onto for support while she practices walking.
- Give your baby toys that can be manipulated. Toys that can be stacked and knocked over, have buttons to push and levers to pull, or feature sounds and lights are big hits at this stage. They help your baby hone both her fine and gross motor skills.
- Talk to your baby often. Narrate your activities as you spend time together: “I’m chopping carrots. Then I’ll put them in the pot to cook them. Look at the steam!”
- Take turns talking. When your baby babbles and then pauses, it’s your turn to say something back; then pause, so she can respond in return.
- Respond to your baby’s gestures. When she raises her arms because she wants you to lift her, points to an object, or shakes her head no, for example, your response affirms that her gestures have meaning and encourages her communication efforts. Don’t worry that this will get in the way of her learning to use words; think of her gestures as stepping stones to verbal communication—and for now they have the added benefit of helping reduce frustration.
- Use gestures of your own along with your words. These actions will broaden your baby’s body language vocabulary and help her understand the meaning of what you’re saying. For example, when you say, “Come here,” beckon with your hand. When you say, “Sit here,” pat the seat next to you. When you say, “Give me the cup,” hold your hand open.
- Reflect together. Stand in front of a full-length mirror with your baby and enjoy her budding understanding that the reflection she’s seeing is her own. Pat her head or clap hands with her, so she can both feel and see what’s going on.
- Don’t force sharing. Your baby can’t yet grasp the concept of sharing, so if she gets into a conflict with a playmate over a toy, it’s better to draw her attention to another appealing toy or activity rather than to insist that she share.
- Limit the guest list. As you plan a celebration for your baby’s first birthday, keep in mind that she may be overwhelmed by a large group of unfamiliar people. Other triggers that can upset the birthday girl: lots of loud noise, an evening party (when she’s tired), or forced rituals like opening presents (she may be more interested in the wrapping paper and boxes than what’s inside). Just enjoy the simple celebration of the day—and the year you’ve spent together as a family.