If you've ever watched your 8-month-old and wondered if she was actually part monkey, you're not alone. Most parents of older babies notice that with mobility comes even more curiosity. And with that curiosity comes way more mischief than before. Never fear, though; it's all part of the process. As your curious tot explores the world around her, you can see how far she's come in the past few months, and assess her next milestones as she continues on the path of healthy and happy development.
Takes First Steps. Once your 8-month-old masters the art of crawling, she'll be ready to conquer a new frontier: cruising. Cruising is the name for those first steps your babe takes when she's still hanging on to furniture or your hands. Pulling up using couches, tables, and her crib sides is a major precursor to cruising, and it's perfect practice for walking.
- Lower the mattress in your baby's bed to allow her to pull up safely. If you leave the mattress too high, she could pull herself up and over those bars; a major safety no-no. Consider taking other precautions as well, like adding cushy corner covers to your coffee tables.
- Buy a push toy for your little one. Walkers that contain your baby in a chair are advised against by the American Academy of Pediatrics, but wagons or toys that can be pushed around by your newbie walker are fine as long as you're there to supervise.
- Skip the shoes. Even if you've bought cute kicks, it's easier for your babe to learn to walk sans footwear. Her bare feet offer the proper balance—shoes can wait until she's mastered the art.
Feeds Herself. You've probably done the baby food thing for a couple of months now, and noticed that your little one's less interested in the mushy jarred grub and more tempted by whatever you're having. That means that she's ready to self-feed. Your budding epicure has mastered a pincer grasp by now, meaning she uses her thumb and forefinger to pick things up.
- Offer foods that are safe and easy for self feeding. Small chunks of banana, soft cheese, fruit puffs, and small cereal pieces are all perfect for grabbing, and the variety of tastes and textures is sure to keep your little one occupied.
- Never allow your rear-facing little one to eat in the car. Handing back snacks might be a great way to keep her happy on long car rides, but her reclined position makes for a major choking hazard. Another round of "Old MacDonald" is a safer way to pass the time.
Loves to Play. Your little one once preferred to spend time amusing herself while laying on her belly or gazing up at a toy bar. Now, she wants way more interaction than before. Eight-month-olds are highly social, so don't be surprised if you're met with wails every time you try to walk away. Your best bet is to nurture her love of play.
- Give her as much face time as possible. Pediatric occupational therapist, Elizabeth Moser, has some ideas for play. "The biggest thing that parents can do is to physically get on the floor and play with their children each day," she says. "So many babies spend much of their days in various pieces of baby 'equipment' and they need to be on the floor playing with their hands and moving their bodies. Everyday items such as a pot and a wooden spoon or a kitchen towel to play peek-a-boo are often the best 'toys' to develop cognitive, speech, social, and motor skills."
Understands Language. Sure, your baby might not be ready to discuss politics with you, but that doesn't mean she won't voice her opinion in other ways. Eight month old babies are starting to vocalize more and more, and those sounds will eventually evolve into actual understandable language in the future.
- Encourage your baby to communicate by showing pleasure when she squeals, or makes silly noises. Making them back to her will probably net you a gummy grin as she gets a chance to hear what she sounds like.
- Read board books with pictures of common stuff. Chances are your baby will be able to point out the "kitty," "spoon," or "baby" when you're paging through during reading time. She should also be able to point out her eyes, nose, and other body parts. Just point out your own as you rattle off the names; she's bound to pick it up.
Develops Preferences. When your little one is learning more and more each day, it's no wonder she's a total bundle of joy. Sure, she keeps you hopping, but her silly faces, happy disposition, and complete mischief will probably keep you laughing as well.
- Pay attention to what your little one prefers. She'll start to play favorites with toys, snacks, and even types of activities. That way, you'll already know what keeps her happiest and will be prepped and ready to head off tantrums and crying jags.
- Keep your baby stimulated throughout the day. Even the happiest infant gets bored while looking at the same four walls, and you'll probably find that a bored baby equals a testy tot. Going for walks around your neighborhood, checking out a local library or museum, or even signing up for a baby class are all perfect ways to keep a perma-smile on her face.
Possible Sleep Issues. A 2010 study published in the Journal of Sleep Research found that babies were most likely to have their sleep schedules interrupted during periods of rapid growth and development. The "eight month sleep regression" is a common complaint among parents. It's when your little one reverts to newborn sleep habits. It's frustrating, but it's a sign that your babe is working hard at her development.
- Reevaluate your baby's sleep patterns during the day. If she's undergoing a sleep regression, it might help to move naps around so that they're farther from bedtime.
- Start sleep training again, if it seems appropriate. Sometimes, older babies wake out of habit, rather than actually having a need. That means it's a great time to practice going into her room and talking to her in a soothing voice, but leaving her in her crib so she realizes that you won't take her out to play.
As always, keep a close eye on your growing babe and talk to your pediatrician anytime you have concerns. By now, you'll be meeting with your doc every few months, so it's smart to keep a notebook handy with any questions you might have since the last appointment. Armed with the right information and an assuring word to quell concerns, you can focus on keeping your mischievous monkey out of trouble.