Learning Guide 8 – 12 Months
By Olynda Smith
Your Baby Has Grown So Much!
As your little one becomes mobile, they begin to explore everything! The items in this box are intended to support them as they develop their concentration, independence, confidence, curiosity and problem-solving skills. Below are a few ways you can support them in their endeavors.
Free to Explore
So much happens developmentally during these four months! At first, your little one may be more interested in simply exploring the items. They will be especially interested in how everything feels in their mouth! Let your baby do as much exploring with their mouth as possible - that is one very important way they learn about the world around them.
Your baby, as they grow towards their first birthday, will likely take more and more notice that these toys invite them to work on new skills. As they work on those new skills the design of these activities will clue your baby into whether or not they are on the right track. The best way to support them is to give them time and space to learn.
Many of the items in this box are based on Montessori materials. They help your child learn without a lot of input from you by design. These educational activities are designed to help your little one learn on their own because they are self-correcting. That means that The toy itself has clues within it’s design that help your baby know if they have mastered the skill they are working on or not. We’ve marked the items that are self correcting in their corresponding material’s guide.
The joy of discovery is theirs when we stand back and let them do something on their own - even if it takes a very long time for them to master a skill or solve a problem. Let your child know that you see they are working on a skill and that you know they will be able to figure this out. The message they will receive is that they are intelligent and capable. They will get comfortable with the process of meeting a challenge that is appropriate for their skill level.
Of course, if they are asking for help, do give it! But give your support without intruding on their process. Be in the practice of giving the minimum amount of “help” necessary. Perhaps help them grasp the ball in a slightly different way, or reposition the board closer to them, rather than doing the whole thing for them. By doing less, you actually help them the most.
It may be hard not to insert yourself to save them the “trouble” of figuring out one of the activities! But that “help” actually takes the valuable work of contemplating and learning through trial and error away from them. In fact, that work of trial and error is exactly what they are meant to be doing here! The work of failing and trying again helps them know from a very early age that failure is part of learning and developing. It is the first step towards having a growth mindset. This is the belief that abilities are highly trainable and developed through effort and failure.
It is helpful to model the work for them - but take care not to insert yourself into their work while they are working. We’ll be diving deep into the topic of modeling in our next box. For now, know that doing the activity yourself in front of your older infant can help give them clues about that work. When you do this, speak as little as possible, model total concentration and move slowly!
So what do you do instead of helping your baby as they explore? Slow down and just watch them as they grow in their ability to move around. See what they are attracted to doing, and how they do it. Your presence and positive attention nourish your baby. Your regular interaction through “conversation” and play helps them connect to you and learn everything from language to empathy. Every moment that you can give your undivided attention to your child is golden.
Take a Screen Vacation
Being fully present in the moment has never been easy. It is increasingly hard in our modern world as most of us are managing multiple information streams all the time. It will benefit your baby greatly if you can make time each day to have all screens and notifications turned off. Ideally, even have your phone hidden away.
This will make it easier to give yourself and your child the gift of uninterrupted time together. It will also give them a simple space to begin to develop their own ability to give something their undivided attention. As with any habit, start small but be consistent - perhaps commit to 30 minutes without screens or notifications each day. If you are able, slowly grow the amount of this mindful time together.
The ability to allow them to discover and develop on their own will become increasingly important as your baby moves into toddlerhood and then into early childhood. This is a great time to practice presence while you witness their work.