From Baby to Big Kid: Month 10
What to Expect From Your Baby’s Development
As you read the chart below, keep in mind that development is not a race and that every child grows at her own pace and in her own way. Your child may develop skills faster or slower than indicated below and still be on track. If you have questions or concerns, talk with your child’s health care provider or other trusted professional.
What Your Baby Can Do
What You Can Do to Connect With Your Baby
I can understand more words than I can say.
I may become more choosy about the foods I’ll eat.
I can creep and crawl.
I know that things still exist even though I can’t see them—especially you!
I love to do things over and over again.
You may feel as if the days have sped up. With baby on the move, you are probably spending lots of time chasing after your little crawler as he explores every inch of the house and beyond. Babies at this age also require a lot more supervision than they might have before. Child-proofing the house is a must, but little ones still call for all eyes on them to keep them safe. So by bedtime, you are probably feeling as if you’ve been on watch duty all day…and you have. That’s why sticking to a daily nap schedule is so important. Babies, now that they’re moving, are using more energy than ever before. They really need daily naps to re-charge their batteries. And you need your baby to take a nap to re-charge your batteries. You deserve time to do whatever makes you feel good, whether it’s exercising, resting, talking with a friend, or catching up on your reading. (Flopping on the sofa is also allowed!)
Mommy gives me my usual today—baby food on a spoon. But I don’t want that stuff. I want those little cereal pieces shaped like O’s that I can feed myself! So I push away the spoon and I close my mouth. I am trying to tell my mom: No more baby food. I want to feed myself! I want to nibble on cereal or hold my own bagel or chomp on a piece of bread like my big brother does. So I start to bang the high chair with my hand and wave off the spoon again. Ahhh, finally…Mommy is putting down the spoon and going to the cabinet. She says, You are getting so frustrated. I wonder—why don’t we try these? And she gives me my cereal! I pick one up and put it in my mouth. I wish I could say, Thanks for the cereal. Now look at me, Mommy! Look what I can do! But for now, I just give her a big smile. She smiles back and says, Okay, I guess that’s what you wanted. But how about I give you some sweet potatoes to go with your cereal? She dips the spoon in the orange stuff. I think I can go along with that.
What Your Baby Is Learning
- Confidence that he can feed himself
- Relationship-building that he can count on his mom to read his signals
- Security that he knows he can express difficult emotions (like anger or frustration) and his mom will respond sensitively
- Managing strong feelings—as he accepts help in the feeding process from his mother despite his having a strong desire to do it himself
Language and Thinking Skills:
- That he can effectively communicate using his sounds and actions
- The meaning of words to describe feelings, like “frustrated”
- How to pick up small objects with his thumb and pointer finger. Hand-eye coordination as he swipes the spoon away from his mouth
By 10 months, babies have a firmer understanding of object permanence—the fact that an object continues to exist even when they can’t see it. A research study compared babies who were almost 9 months old with 10-month-olds to see how easily they could find hidden objects. First, the hidden object was only half-covered and both groups of babies found it easily. Next, the object was covered completely but made a noise to clue babies in to where it was. Only the 10-month-old babies found this object. In their minds, 10-month-old babies connected the object with the sound it made, and were able to use the sound to find it.
Reference: Moore, M. K., & Meltzoff, A. N. (In Press). Factors affecting infants’ manual search for occluded objects and the genesis of object permanence. Infant Behavior and Development, Available online 26 November 2007 from www.sciencedaily.com.
What the Research Means for You
Babies are becoming better and better problem-solvers. They are eager to figure out how the world works and use all sorts of clues—including the sound a toy or object makes—to problem-solve. This new understanding of object permanence is a great problem-solving tool as it helps babies make sense of separations and look for and find objects. They even begin to predict events—like when a toy car rolls under a chair, they know it should come out the other side. So now is a great time to play peek-a-boo and hide-the-toy games, which babies love and also help them practice the concepts they are learning about.
Between 9 and 10 months, babies start to develop some new skills by using their fingers and hands, such as using their pointer finger and thumb to pick up—and release—objects. If you watch your baby as she is beginning to master the physical skills involved with eating a cereal “O,” you’ll see that she is probably pretty good at picking it up. But when it gets close to her open mouth, you might discover that she isn’t able to effectively release it. There is a short developmental period when babies don’t quite get the “idea” of release and are quite surprised to close their mouths and find nothing there. If you watch your baby’s expression, you might see her look rather surprised because she really believes the “O” should be there. As she masters the skill of pick-up-and-release, you will see how your baby is learning to plan and act on a series of complex physical acts in order to accomplish her goal—getting that “O” into her mouth!
New Skills, New Cautions
Learning to use hands and fingers is a big milestone because it means babies can explore small objects. The upside: Your baby can start feeding herself, if this is a skill you want her to learn. The downside: She is not very choosy about what she’ll put into her mouth. Babies may pick up any old thing that looks interesting to them and give it a taste. They are also using their fingers to explore (hello, outlet covers!). This is why choking and other hazards should be at the top of your mind as you scan the house to make sure your rooms are ready for your baby’s curious hands and fingers. Child-proofing takes on new meaning once you have a baby who is on the move!
Fun with Fingers
Give your baby a chance to flex her new finger skills by playing some of the “hands-on” games below. These activities help babies develop and coordinate the small muscles in their hands and fingers. Both skills—muscle strength and coordination—help children learn to grasp a pencil and write later on.
As you play together, talk about what your baby is doing and discovering. This is how she learns language. And, most importantly, keep a close eye on her to make sure nothing goes in her mouth that doesn’t belong there.
- Fingerpaint. Give your baby the chance to dip his hands or fingers in a puddle of paint and then touch a piece of paper. Another idea is to try “car painting,” which involves dipping a toy car into paint and rolling it over the paper. This is a good choice if your child is sensitive to textures and doesn’t like the way the paint feels on his hands.
- Play “sticky ball.” Roll up a wad of masking tape that your child can gasp. See how she likes touching this “sticky ball” and moving it from one hand to another.
- Crumple and crinkle. Give your baby a paper lunch bag to crinkle between his hands. See how he likes the sound it makes when his hands crunch the paper.
- Muffin tin mix-it-up. Place some interesting toys or objects in each of the cups of a muffin tin. For example, you might put a baby washcloth in one, some crushed ice in another, an egg shaker in another, etc. Your baby will need to control her fingers and hands in order to reach in, grab, and explore each object.
- Play box-top peek-a-boo. Take a shoebox and put one of your child’s favorite toys inside. Then ask him, “Where did your [teddy bear] go?” Watch him as he tries to open the box (he may need a little help from you). Another option is to lay a piece of paper or cardboard over the box (instead of putting the top on) to make it easier for your baby to discover the toy. Celebrate his success: There it is! You found it!
- Try some new textures. Offer your baby a rubbery jar opener to touch, pick up, and handle. When she shows you she is tired of that, give her a piece of lace or some soft fake fur. Each time she becomes bored, offer her a new texture to explore. Which seems to be her favorite? Which is her least favorite? How does she let you know what she likes and doesn’t like?
- Explore different foods. Food—in all its shapes, sizes, colors, and textures—can provide some of the best props for exploration. Some families are understandably not comfortable with the idea of playing with food for a number of reasons. If the idea of pushing peas around is okay with you, then offer your baby some finger-friendly foods like a pile of mashed potatoes, cereal o’s, a squirt of yogurt, bite-size pieces of fruit, or pieces of bagel or bread. Let your baby pick up, smush, roll around, and explore these foods with his hands and fingers. (If you are worried about allergies, talk with your doctor before beginning this activity or choose foods your child already has tried.) Exploration of food in this way can also encourage picky eaters to try new foods.
- Tissue for You! Show your baby how the magical tissue box works—when you pull one out, another takes it place. See if your baby is able to use her thumb and forefinger to grab a tissue herself.
- Soccer for Crawlers. Get down on all fours with your baby. Roll a soft ball and crawl toward it, encouraging your baby to follow. See if your baby is interested in touching or grabbing the ball. When he’s done exploring it, roll it again and keep crawling. Continue until your baby loses interest.
What’s on Your Mind
I am not sure there is one. What I do know is that growing up with a pet can be an incredibly rich experience for a child. Having a dog teaches children about caring for another living being. And a pet often plays a very important role in a child's life—as an unconditional and always faithful friend.
Keep in mind that 10-month-olds are captivated by their ability to “do to” things. They are delighted by cause and effect: If I do this, then that happens. So it is very normal and expected that, at this age, your baby might do a lot of things to the dog (pull its tail, put toys on its back) to see what will happen. There will be a fair bit of work for you in managing the relationship between your baby and the dog in order to ensure that each is safe and happy. This doesn’t mean that the answer is no to a pet, but it’s important to go in knowing what to expect. It’s also very important to consider the individual characteristics of both your baby and the dog you are considering adopting.
First and foremost, make sure the dog is child-friendly and gentle. Research which dogs are best for kids. Whether you're getting the dog from a breeder or shelter, visit it several times to gauge its temperament and to see how the dog reacts around both adults and kids. Bring your son with you but hold him the whole time so he and the doggy can become familiar. When you are home, you will need to provide very close supervision. Never leave your baby and dog alone. As your child grows, be very clear and firm in teaching him never to tease the dog, pull its tail or ears, or antagonize it in any way. Using these guidelines will give your child (and dog) a wonderful gift.
We are going to be visiting my parents' house in a few weeks where my 10-month-old will be sleeping in a portable crib. This is his first time away and his first time sleeping anywhere but his own crib at home. Any tips on making the transition easier?
A friend once told me that there was no such thing as a vacation with a baby. She shared nightmare stories of trying to put her son to sleep in unfamiliar cribs. But with a little planning, you can increase the chances that your trip will be a restful one for all.
Bring a portable crib if you have one or see about borrowing one from a friend. Let your son explore and play in it for limited periods each day so it becomes a familiar, soothing place for him. In the beginning, place it in a common room in the house. Then move it to different rooms, including his bedroom, so he gets used to it in different places. You can also visit friends around nap time or in the evening and put your son to sleep in the portacrib. This helps him connect the portacrib with sleep—no matter where it is.
Before you leave, be sure to pack the portacrib sheets you’ve been using at home. Once you’ve arrived, put the portable crib in a room that can be darkened for nap and bedtime. Because visiting relatives can be very stimulating to little ones, help your son wind down with quiet time with just the two of you (cuddling, reading, singing) before bed.
But (unfortunately, there is often a “but”), some protesting from your son is normal and expected. Sleeping in a new place can make children feel insecure and fearful. Plus, at 10 months, your son understands that you are still out there even though he can’t see you anymore. He cries to make you re-appear. If he cries, peek your head in every few minutes to reassure him that you are still there and that he is safe.
Some parents worry that babies who wake up a lot while on vacation will carry this behavior over at home. However, after a few days of being back in their own beds, babies usually return to their normal sleep patterns if their regular bedtime routine is maintained.
I have a 10-month-old daughter who used to eat anything, but now when I try to feed her vegetables she clamps her lips shut, cries, and pushes the spoon away. When we give her fruit or open the Cheerios box, all of sudden her legs start kicking, her eyes get wide, and she opens her mouth as wide as can be. What can I do to make sure she has a well-balanced diet and eats the veggies? Every mealtime is turning into a huge battle and my husband and I are starting to dread it.
You are not alone. There are so many babies who do this, and so many parents who worry about it! I have consulted with several pediatricians and they all tell me your baby will be just fine. She is getting the nutrients and calories she needs from fruits, cereal, and milk (be it breast or formula).
So you don’t have to worry about your daughter’s physical health. In fact, her behavior is actually letting you know that she is doing very well in many key areas of her development. She knows what she likes and doesn’t like, and is able to effectively communicate that to you. When you read and respond to her cues—in this case by not forcing her to eat what she is telling you she doesn’t want—you are teaching her that her feelings are important and that she is a good communicator. This builds her self-esteem and encourages her to develop good language skills.
It is important to avoid power struggles over eating. When parents get anxious that their children are not eating enough, there is the risk that they will begin to force the child to eat. This leads to several problems, including:
- Actually eating less. Research shows that letting children decide what and how much they want to eat leads to their eating more than those who are forced.
- A negative impact on the parent-child relationship. Children pick up on their parent’s frustration and may feel less secure in their relationship and connection to their parent.
- An increased chance that the child will have struggles with food later. When parents disregard their child’s cues and force her to eat, she may learn that her feelings are not important, and that she can’t trust her body’s signals telling her that she is hungry or full. This can lead to eating disorders and obesity later in life.
Talk with your pediatrician to get the assurance that your child is growing fine. In the meantime, here are some strategies you can use to encourage your child to eat and enjoy a broader range of foods:
- Let your child hold one spoon, while you feed her with another. Holding the spoon gives your child a sense of control over eating.
- Offer three to four foods at each meal (in small portions), including at least one new food. Offer the new food before you give her the old favorites.
- Don’t give up on new foods. Research has shown that you might need to offer a new food 10-15 times before your child will try it and know if she likes it.
- As your child grows, make mealtime fun by involving her in cooking—let her stir batter, spread butter on bread, dump veggies in the salad bowl, etc.
- Notice when your child tries something new. You licked the green bean. It’s great that you tried a new food.
Rebecca Parlakian, Senior Parenting Resources Writer and
Claire Lerner, LCSW, Director of Parenting Resources, ZERO TO THREE
Terrie Rose, PhD, President and Founder, Baby’s Space
Ross Thompson, PhD, Professor of Psychology, University of California at Davis
Robert Weigand, MS, IMH-E, Director, Child Development Laboratory,
Arizona State University