Your Baby's Cognitive Development 6-9 months
Indulge your baby in repetitive actions and games – this is how he learns new skills and boosts his memory
Your baby at a glance
With an increasingly sophisticated understanding, your baby is starting to imitate your sounds and actions, and to recognise the meaning of common expressions. During this stage you are likely to see your baby:
- Enjoying making different sounds and hearing his own voice (practising different volumes too)
- Interacting with toys by making sounds, and smiling happily to own mirror image (she won’t yet understand that the baby is her)
- Becoming more hesitant in the company of strangers (distinguishes between familiar and unfamiliar people)
- Beginning to understand the meaning of some words, e.g. 'dada', 'mama' and 'bye bye'
- Listening to and understanding emotions in your voice and facial expressions
- Starting to understand that an object continues to exist even if it falls or is moved out of sight (object permanence)
- Improving memory and associations, e.g. showing that she remembers sequences of songs
Your baby's story
Your baby will now be able to reach out for things and grab them with both hands. He will explore most things that are within his reach, and may still put most things in his mouth in order to find out about them. You will probably notice that he is starting to investigate objects in a more sophisticated manner, checking out if they have more functions or make more noises than just one. He may interact energetically with his mirror image, smiling to the "baby in the mirror”.
During this stage, your baby is starting to understand the meaning of certain words, and in particular 'bye-bye', 'mama' and 'dada'. Recent research into language development suggests that the brain is hardwired to pick up such repetition words, and this is how baby’s first words and sounds often are ‘dada’, ‘mama’, ‘gaga’ etc. She also listens to and understands the emotions you display in your voice and your facial expressions. Your baby may start becoming more hesitant with strangers, which means she is now able to recognise the difference between familiar and unfamiliar people.
You may see the beginnings of object permanence between 8 and 9 months of age, which means your baby is looking look for a toy if you hide it under a blanket. Object permanence is the understanding that objects continue to exist even when they cannot be seen, heard, or touched. During this stage he gains understanding of cause and effect (if I do this, that happens) at a basic level and explores this by banging, rattling and dropping objects, repeatedly. The game of him dropping things and you picking them up – endless times – begins, and he is entertained every time.
In terms of memory progression, she will probably show that she remembers familiar sequences of songs or games you have done with her (e.g. jack-in-the-box that jumps up at the end of a song). Recent memory research tells us that babies’ long term memory is better than previously thought. During this stage, you will experience that your baby remembers familiar sequences of songs or games you have done with her (e.g. heads, shoulders knees and toes). She is advancing her recognition of familiar places and people. Although she may not remember specifics, she is experiencing and expressing the associated emotional reactions (e.g. smiling when seeing a grandparent or crying and fussing when brought to a place she has experienced something upsetting such the GP’s office for vaccinations).
What you can do to support and encourage your baby's development
Gradually getting better at sitting up, your baby’s balance and learning will benefit from playing with his favourite toys while sitting. His confidence increases and he learns how he can do things differently in this position (as opposed to lying on the floor). Start trying out stacking toys now.
The best thing you can do for your baby’s development is to make time to play with her. She will learn from seeing what you do, and from listening to you describing what she is doing when she is playing and exploring. Singing songs that have physical actions helps learning about actions and words, and seeing words acted out assists memory and learning of those words. Encourage her to do things along with you, such as clapping. (e.g. Pat-a-cake and head-shoulders-knees-and-toes).
Daily routines, and repetitions within play help memory development. Sequences of repeated actions will help your baby remember how to play with a particular toy and learn a particular motor skill (gross or fine). Good things to keep in mind: your child’s attention is quite short, and she learns new skills through repetition. In other words, provide opportunities to practice something new several times and for a short period each time. Also, indulge your baby in playing the pick-up game. It may get a bit tiring for you at times, but there is great fun and learning in it for him, both through interaction with you and being able to make things happen.