What a game of peek-a-boo teaches your baby about you.
As your baby begins to move about on her own, a world of exploration is opening up. At this point, her brain development has turned her into a confident and curious individual—one who now has the physical strength to begin to get where she wants to go! By finding stimulating ways to play with your child and continuing to offer well-balanced nutrition, you’re boosting your little one’s ability to think and do for herself.
Don’t worry if your baby isn’t exactly following this timetable. She may be working on some milestones from the previous month or two, or on those coming up in the next few months. Older babies follow very individual schedules, sometimes focusing so intently on one new skill that others don’t seem to change for a few weeks. This is normal.
Keep the camera ready; here’s what you may see in your 8-month-old.
Your baby’s eyesight is almost fully mature, enabling her to recognize people and objects from across the room. She’s also beginning to know the sound of her name and may perk up or turn toward you when you say it. She continues to experiment with object permanence—that people and things still exist even when she can’t see them. When she drops something out of sight, she knows it’s there and may try to reach for it or cry for it. When you play peekaboo, she understands that your face is there behind your fingers, and she waits in anticipation of seeing it again. This eagerness also means that your baby now knows you’re nearby when you move out of her line of vision or into the next room. As her brain grows, she’s starting to realize that she can make things happen (“If I push this button, my favorite toy will light up!”).
Now that she’s sitting up for longer stretches of time, she’ll soon start to test her newfound strength and balance. She may spy an interesting toy, for example, and will work to reposition herself in order to reach it. The hard part for you at this stage may be resisting the urge to grab that toy and hand it to her. Instead, try making it into a game for the two of you: you place a toy within her reach and cheer her efforts to grab it on her own. She’s also likely experimenting with different rolling and scooting motions as she gets ready to crawl. She’s making big advances in both gross motor skills (use of the limbs and body) and fine motor skills (use of the hands). She may still use her hands like mittens to rake objects toward her, but now as her hand movements become more coordinated, she’s beginning to learn to pick up small objects using her thumb and index finger like a pincer. This new skill allows her to hold a wider variety of objects.
Without being able to say a word yet, your baby can now communicate in some fairly sophisticated ways. By paying attention to the ways you talk to her, she’s learned about conversational turn-taking—that two people go back and forth when they talk. Notice how she will babble and then pause for you to take a turn before she starts again. To encourage your budding communicator, talk a lot to her—ask her questions, tell her what you’re doing, read her books, and wait for her to respond back. Her babbles increasingly mix vowels and consonants, trying to imitate actual words she hears you say. And when she wants or needs something, she may point, crawl, or gesture toward the object—it’s another way she communicates.
Your baby knows the familiar people in her world very well and shows delight at seeing them. This means she can also distinguish who isn’t in that close inner circle. She may react with wariness or fear when faced with someone unfamiliar, like a neighbor or new babysitter—a reaction known as stranger anxiety. You can ease her mind in these situations by holding her close and letting her slowly warm up to the new person.