As you near your baby's first birthday, he hardly resembles that helpless bundle placed in your arms just 10 short months ago. While he once depended on you for everything, your curious baby is now gaining his independence, which means you'll have to work double-time to make sure he stays safe. By knowing what to expect in terms of development, you can stay one step ahead of your tiny mischief-maker to make for a safe, happy, and healthy tenth month.
Eats More Solids. By now, your little one should have progressed out of puréed veggie territory and is now more interested in finger foods. With new teeth and developing interest in new dishes comes longing looks when you're picking at your own plate. Indulge your child's interest by letting him explore new tastes and textures, but make sure that you continue to delay certain types of allergy-prone vittles, particularly if you have food sensitivities as well.
- Put off feeding your little one nuts and nut butters, eggs, and wheat, suggests pediatrician and parenting expert Joanna Dolgoff. Start introducing these foods after a year, since early exposure could trigger an allergic reaction. Pass on low-fat foods for the first year as well; full-fat yogurt and cheeses allow your baby to get all the calories and fat he can needs to grow.
- Dice up all of your budding epicure's food to avoid choking hazards. Pea-sized foods are best, since they're small enough to be swallowed without chewing. Skip out on hard foods as well; steam vegetables like carrots, and opt for soft choices like cheese. Since older babies can move quickly, keep your food out of reach.
Plays with Others. If you're dying for some adult interaction, now is a perfect time to start arranging for baby classes or playdates. While your little one's probably more interested in side-by-side play rather than making friends, he's definitely old enough to be stimulated by new people, places, and things. You'll find that his playing goes from mostly random to more specific; stacking objects, nesting bowls, and banging things together make playtime more interesting.
- Don't stress if your kid isn't a social butterfly just yet. Separation anxiety still permeates much of his thinking, so he might not be ready to leave your lap in favor of playgroup. Just stay nearby and encourage play so he gets the hang of it.
- Offer different objects so your babe can test out new ways to play. Bowls and measuring cups are perfect for nesting smaller objects into larger ones, and plastic cups are fun for stacking. You don't need the latest expensive "developmental" toys to watch your little one explore and have fun.
Imitates Your Actions. They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, and it's that's the case, you should be totally flattered. Your baby will start to catch onto many of your daily habits and movements, and loves to try them on for size himself. There's a good chance you catch him pretending to play with a phone, trying to press the buttons on the remote, or even pretending to brush his teeth.
- Narrate the things that you do on a daily basis to help build out your little one's vocabulary. He knows how to hold a phone to his ear, so talk about it. Say "Oh, are you calling grandma on the phone?" to help give words to the actions he's trying out for himself.
Uses Language with Purpose. All of those months of unintelligible babbling starts to really pay off this month, when your baby goes from a language novice to more advanced applications. "Infants will begin to use mama and dada to communicate to their parents and imitate sounds and names of objects, pets, food items," notes Melisa Brown, a pediatric speech language pathologist.
- Use the correct names for objects. Your little one will probably make up his own words for items that he has trouble saying, like using "baba" for bottle. Make sure that you continue to use the proper words, even if your little guy's made-up ones are adorable. It just means he'll catch onto proper names and pronunciation faster.
- Grab a book or magazine with common items depicted inside. You can test your baby to see what items he knows by asking him to point out the cat, the apple, or the baby. He'll love this basic version of "Where's Waldo," and you can help him round out his vocab.
Gets Mobile. Your baby should now be creeping, crawling, and even walking with your help. Babies who seem uninterested in movement altogether should be seen by a pediatrician, since there might be some developmental issues. Of course, each child is an individual, and a late bloomer doesn't automatically indicate a problem. Even if your little guy isn't on his feet just yet, he'll find other ways to get around.
- Offer your hands or a wheeled toy to help your little one get used to putting pressure on his legs. After months of crawling and scooting, walking can feel weird to a newbie, so be patient. Once he learns the benefits to walking upright with assistance, he'll probably beg to try it again and again; hey, it's good exercise, right?
- Block off your stairs. Even though your baby might be an expert crawler, stairs are difficult for him to navigate; typically kids can go up easily, but struggle with the downward crawl. Save that lesson for when your little one is older and steadier.
Wants Independence. Fastest way to get your almost-toddler to melt into a fit of screams? Take away his independence. About this time, your little one is learning to assert himself, get what he wants, and check out new environments all on his own. While setting limits is important, you'll probably pick up on likes, dislikes, and other personality traits more this month than before.
- Check out new environments for your little one to experience. Whether it's an indoor toddler playground or your backyard, you can find safe spaces where your baby can roam free, whether crawling or walking with a little help from you.
- Be creative in getting your little one to behave. He understands the word "no" is negative, so you'll probably get backlash if you interrupt his play agenda with a stern word. Instead of saying "no" constantly, try redirection or distraction as a way to stop dangerous behavior; it'll help diffuse a possible tantrum while still giving your little one room to roam and feel more independent from you.
You should clearly be able to see the change happening in your baby during the next couple of months. You might actually find yourself a little nostalgic for those first few months where he needed you to do everything. But new independence and development definitely has its perks; more sleep, a more predictable routine, and concentrated playtime might have you feeling a little more independent too.