by Julie Snyder
Nine months is an especially delightful age.
Your baby is active, playful, excited about learning, cuddly and affectionate.
His gestures, expressions and babbles tell that you are the most important person in his life.
You'll discover that she's becoming more aware of herself, her surroundings, notices if you're missing, and is communicating more with you. Add to that, he's developing his own sense of how things are done.
Social and emotional development
He may get upset when you leave him, even if it's for a short time. While he is learning that you really do exist when you are out of sight, he'll want to follow everywhere, even to the bathroom.
Separation anxiety usually begins as your baby starts crawling and lasts until 18-months or so. These meltdowns are a healthy and normal behavior -- he is checking with someone he trusts to be sure it's okay to explore. Research shows that babies who feel the most secure and protected now will become the least clingy children later.
You thought she chattered last month? This month brings in lots and lots of babbling. She may use a single sound and expect you to grasp the meaning; only problem is she may use this same sound to mean many things. Daddy comes into the room and she exclaims, "Da-da!" Then Mommy enters and she calls out, "Da-da!" The idea is there; it's just not perfected yet. Soon each parent will have their own special name.
As her vocabulary and understanding increase, she can play at following directions. "Can you give Mommy the spoon?" If you hold out your hand she'll give it to you. Thank her and cheer. Then offer it back. Pretty soon ask for it again. She'll be delighted to help you.
If you haven't already, take time to note your baby's special language of sounds and gestures. What sounds accompany her raised arms when she would like to be held? Does she explode with excitement when daddy comes into the room to signal she is ready to play? How does she look when she is happy? Many babies say ba-ba-ba to signal pleasure. When unhappy does she sound the universal "n" word, na-na-na? Does she point at things that interest her, expecting you to comment?
Big concepts he'll grasp this month include full, empty and size. Filling and dumping games help your little one learn all about these.
What better place for filling and dumping games than the bathtub! Give your baby bath toys and let him splash, pour and catch water. Talk to him about water and his play. Even though he won't be able to say the words yet, he'll begin to understand "empty," "full," "dry," "wet," "float" and "sink."
He's also learning about features. Using a doll or favorite stuffy, show him the nose or eyes. Ask where baby's nose is. When he's tired of the game, play hide and search for the toy.
You'll see indications that he's planning in advance. He'll cruise around the coffee table to get at a plant. He plays with different toys differently -- shakes a rattle, crunches paper, puts a cup to his mouth, pushes a button. Just a couple months ago every toy got the same treatment of grabbing, mouthing and banging.
Large motor skills
She sits steadily and can go from crawling to sitting and sitting to crawling. Some babies can hold a toy in one hand and crawl using the other hand and both knees. She's also able to turn around while sitting without tipping over.
Other cool accomplishments? She might be able to climb stairs and onto furniture. Some enterprising little ones can even crawl down backwards. You knew her practice two month ago of crawling backwards would come in handy one day!
Fine motor skills
He uses forefinger and thumb to pick up small things. That pincer grasp, in full swing, is perfect for nabbing cheerios and for offering parents a keen reminder to baby proof yet again!
Last month he learned how to bang toys. This month's improvement on that theme is banging two things together. Give him things to make different sounds -- wooden, metal and paper -- a pan and an empty oatmeal container to hit with a wooden spoon. He'll love checking out the different sounds. He's probably also learned to clap his hands together. This gives a new twist to patty-cake -- he can do it himself!
Note: These milestones may first appear this month. It's normal for them to happen later. Worried your little one isn't developing normally? Check out these developmental red flags.
The big picture
Life is so exciting; so much to examine. So much that isn't safe for little ones.
Practice turning your baby away from dangers in explorer-friendly ways.
For example, instead of "No! Don't put that in your mouth," say "We don't eat doggy's food. See how you can put this cup in that cup?" Distraction and redirection are valuable tools. Another perk? Perhaps if your baby doesn't hear "no" as often he won't use it as much.