Many development changes happen in a baby's first two years of life. The experiences he goes through now define what he will become later. Specialists divide this period into milestones. One such milestone starts at 8 months--with the baby's first signs of intentional behaviour--and ends around 12 months. According to Dr. Benjamin Spock, a baby at this age is well into his discovery and exploring phase, from his body to the world around him.
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Thinking and Understanding
Eight-month-old babies know the concept of object permanence. They know that objects still exist even when they are out of sight. At this stage, they learn through observation, while their growing memory helps them understand that an object remains always the same. As they get more mobile, they learn how to solve problems such as reaching the toy they want.
Your 8-month-old also understands the concept of cause and effect, as well as how objects relate to one another. He knows that pressing a button on a musical toy generates a sound over and over again. Just as well, he realises that smaller things fit inside bigger ones.
By 8 months, a baby's emotions become more obvious. She smiles and tries to kiss her image in the mirror and expresses anger and frustration freely. She learns to read other people's feelings and guess how her own actions will influence those feelings. She's also testing your responses to her behaviour. For instance, she'll throw an object on the floor just to see your reaction. Later, she'll do it again in order to see if you react the same.
Some babies even imitate moods and show their first signs of empathy, like starting to cry if they see someone crying.
Your baby understands that she is a totally different person from yourself. That her hands and feet belong to her, and that they help her move freely by crawling, bum shuffling or rolling. She can also differentiate between you, as her caregiver, and strangers. This cognitive leap can make her uneasy and anxious.
At this age, most babies show the signs of separation anxiety when you leave their sight, even for a few moments. They feel nervous and turn away when around unfamiliar people. Depending on their temperament, some babies are better at separations than others. This fear of separation fades away once they become more socially active and more confident that although you are leaving, you will also come back.
Dealing with Separation Anxiety
The reason why your 8-month-old starts crying when you leave her alone, even for a minute, is because she doesn't know yet that you will always come back. Hard as it can be to see her in distress, it's important for her to experience this. Leaving her even for a few minutes helps her develop trust and the ability to form attachments to other people. It is not a good idea to sneak out when her back is turned. This will only make her even more anxious. Instead kiss and hug her and tell her you'll come back.
All these discoveries take infants to the threshold of language. Your baby babbles in his own "language" and expects verbal answers from the people around him. Until he learns proper words, your baby begins to understand simple requests, like you telling him "no" when he tries to pull the books from the shelf, for instance. You'll know he understood this because he'll pause and look at your face--maybe even shake his head "no" in return.
Your 8-month-old explores objects by shaking, banging, throwing or tasting them. The idea that you do something to an object emerges, so your baby will be fascinated by an activity centre with lots of things he can bang, poke, twist, squeeze, shake, drop and open.
He will copy some things you do and is able to entertain himself more because he can concentrate for longer on his toys. He enjoys your readings from colourful books and recognises familiar pictures in them.
Your baby likes to drop things only to see them fall. You will pick it up, and he will throw it down again. He is not doing this to annoy you. He just finds the whole process interesting and fun. When you hide an object, he'll easily find it. This allows him to act on purpose and enjoy his "victory."
Your 8-month-old learns best through experience. His playtime is actually a curious exploration that helps him understand the world around him.
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