Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Other Advice

Could I manage a new puppy along with my 7-month-old?

We have just moved to a house in the countryside. Our neighbours have offered us a puppy from their forthcoming litter which we are thrilled about, as I long for a dog. Our son Tom is 7 months now and is a happy, contented baby. He is still not yet mobile in any way, spending much of his time on a play mat on the kitchen floor. Are we taking on too much to consider having a puppy in the house in about two months? What are the problems we might face as Tom becomes more mobile?

Having a puppy in the house in two months time is not impossible, but you will need to think carefully about how you will cope.

Tom may well be crawling by the time the puppy comes to you. If he is not he will do so in the first few months of the puppy’s life, which will mean some extra think work now.

Deciding where the puppy will and will not be allowed, is the first consideration. If your kitchen is large enough and has access to the outside area then keep the puppy mainly here, at least until housetrained.
Consider where the dogs bed will be, and keep this place strictly off-limits to Tom at all times. Think how you can restrict the puppy to a smallish area overnight whilst house training him. Who will be the one to clear up in the morning? Tom may well be clamouring for breakfast when the kitchen floor is awash with soiled newspaper.

Consider where you will feed the dog and also where he can have access to a water bowl. Both places must be off limits to Tom and he must be taught not to go near the dog when he is eating or drinking. Keep all feeding bowls scrupulously clean. Putting them down on old newspapers greatly helps in clearing up after each feed.

Even when Tom begins to crawl he will probably still spend much of his time on the kitchen floor near to you. At this age he will put everything he finds into his mouth so keeping the floor well swept and washed daily will should prevent him from finding any stray dog biscuits if you have to feed the puppy in the kitchen.

Be aware that Tom will not know the difference between his toys and the puppy’s, so could pick up the puppy’s toys off the floor and put them in his mouth. Equally the puppy will not know the difference between his toys and Tom’s, and could well chew up rattles and bricks if they are left on the floor.
On a practical note wipe Tom’s toys over every few days with a mild disinfectant or anti-bacterial cleaner as you will be unaware what has or has not been licked.

Using stair gates to close off areas can work well in a kitchen. Once Tom is mobile he will not want to be “penned in” too much but at times you may not want both puppy and baby together under your feet at the same time.
Tom will need to be taught that the puppy is not just another toy and he may not pull or grab his tail or ears. The puppy will also need to be taught he may not nip, even in play.

Teaching Tom to have respect for all animals is a valuable lesson. When babies are bought up alongside puppies they are often unaware that not all dogs are as tolerant as their own, and need to be watched near unknown animals.

Just like babies, puppies thrive on routine, so think how you will manage on a day to day basis with them both.

Providing you have a safe outside area, you should be able to let the puppy out at regular intervals in the day. Be very careful about clearing up any mess, especially with summer approaching, as you will want Tom to spend time outside as well. If it is not possible to let the puppy out alone at times think how you will cope if you have to take Tom with you each time the puppy needs to go out.

If you decide to go ahead and take the puppy when he is ready to leave his mother, be prepared for a few frantic weeks. But the pleasure that a family pet can bring to you all will be worth the hard work which comes at the beginning.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Other Advice

What are the dangers of rough play with a 10-month-old?

What are the dangers of rough play with a ten-month-old? My husband likes to play with James in a very physical way, which leaves me unable to watch. I have told him of the dangers of flipping James’ neck too much, but James seems to love it and will cling to his father’s legs begging for more. Is rough play just a father/son thing?

There are some dangers in rough play with babies, but if both baby and father enjoy such times then, given a few guidelines, there is no reason to stop your husband. In fact, babies and small children benefit from this kind of play. It is mostly instigated by men and is part of their bonding process with their child. It helps a child learn self-control and self-confidence, and gives them an awareness of their bodies. Fathers may be unable to explain why they play like this with their children, but it seems to be an instinctive way of communicating.

All babies love and crave movement. They have a highly developed vestibular system, which originates in the inner ear and is responsible for their sense of balance and perception of movement. Small babies love rocking, swaying or being pushed in the pram, as it soothes this system and helps them to relax.

At between six and twelve months, a baby gains more control over his head muscles. His vestibular system is now at its most sensitive and he enjoys movement of all kinds, especially rocking and bouncing. Head banging can also become an issue at this time. But with the growing awareness of ‘shaken baby syndrome’, it is important to know what is and isn’t safe. No father would want their baby to be hurt with this type of play, so explaining the dangers and giving some guidelines is sensible:

1. Don’t let your baby’s head flop around, and be aware of your baby’s ability to control it. This means that actually throwing a baby in the air should be avoided, but by all means “fly” them while securely holding their body with both hands;
2. Don’t swing your baby by the arms or hands, as his joints are still loose and easily dislocated;
3. Encourage your husband to “chase” James if he is a crawler. Provide them with a tunnel of some kind and they will both enjoy it. Balls can also be fun and men are often good at making up games with these;
4. A session of tickling can produce squeals of laughter, but be aware that some babies have a lower tolerance level than others. The laughter you hear is involuntary. It is the body’s response to the stimulation of pain receptors in the skin. Watch your babies face or body language for signs that he has had enough.

Although you personally may not want to have rough and tumble sessions with your baby, see these times as ones of bonding between father and son and let them enjoy it.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

My 8.5mth daughter has started to become very clingy to me despite going to nursery twice a week

My 8.5mth daughter has just started to become very clingy towards me. If she knows I am in the room she will whinge until I pick her up but isn’t a cuddly baby. She loved sitting with her dad when he gets home from work whilst I go into the kitchen to prepare dinner but this past week she has screamed as soon as I walk out of the lounge. Also, my husband takes her to bed and always brings her into the kitchen to say goodnight. She has also just started screaming as soon as he walks out of the kitchen. Is there anything I can do to make her less clingy? I thought going to nursery 2 mornings a week would help.

Separation anxiety is common amongst babies of this age. As it is a developmental stage it can happen regardless of whether or not they attend a nursery. The baby has come to realize that she is a separate person from you.

Up until now your daughter thought of herself as an extension of you. Now that she understands that she is a separate person she can become rather clingy, concerned that the person she loves so much is going to leave her. She has learnt that you can go away from her, but she does not know when you are going to return. At the end of the day, when she is tired, she may be clingier than earlier on when you left her at nursery.

If your daughter is already crawling you may notice that she will try to follow you wherever you go. If she is not crawling then she may be more clingy as she knows that when you leave her side she is unable to get to you. If you are in the same room and she is whinging to be picked up, try talking to her about what you are doing. Use a reassuring voice, acknowledging her needs but also encouraging her to wait for a minute or two before you attend to her. Getting the balance right between accepting her present need for being close to you and encouraging her to amuse herself for short periods on her own can be difficult during this phase. At certain times of the day she may need more holding and carrying than at others. When she is tired or hungry she may be less able to cope with her feelings about being apart from you. Accepting and understanding her needs will help you to manage during this phase.

This anxiety can continue for quite a while in varying degrees but will have probably disappeared after her first birthday, although it can overlap a period when she becomes very wary of people unknown to her.

To help your daughter through these times it is best to be sympathetic to her needs, but also help her to understand that, although you have disappeared from sight, you are not gone altogether. It can be difficult if you feel that your baby would prefer to be with you rather than her father. But this is a phase and it will pass so keep encouraging him to care for her. It will help get her used to being apart from you, although it may mean a few tears, if she is cared for by other members of her family, and spends time at nursery. If you try to ignore these feelings she has, by leaving her alone in a room with no warning or sneaking out so she doesn’t see, it may take her longer to get over it. She will become clingier in case you disappear rather then learning to cope with short absences.

Play lots of games of “peek a boo” with your daughter to help her realize that, although she cannot see you, you are still there and will return. Begin with being next to her and hiding your face behind a cushion or muslin. Call to her, “Where’s Mummy?” and then reappear. Once she has learnt how this game works she may try to find you by pulling at the muslin or cushion. Then begin to move further away from her, hiding behind a chair or sofa. Gradually extend the time that you hide, and move further from her side. Reassure her with your voice whilst you are hiding if she begins to look distressed. Play these games at a time of day when she is not getting tired so she can enjoy the surprise element rather than getting upset.

In the evenings when you leave your daughter to go into the kitchen, tell her that you are going and have a short phrase such as “Bye, bye, see you later” which you always use. This may not stop the tears completely but will help her realize that this is what happens just before her bath time and so help her become more used to the idea. Use a similar phrase when kissing her goodnight. The one that comes to mind is, “Sleep tight, make sure the bed bugs don’t bite, see you in the morning light”. Again, she may still cry at the parting but will come to understand that the phrase signals the time she must leave you. It can be distressing to hear your baby cry, especially just before bed, but it is a good idea that her father continues to put her to bed.

Try to keep upbeat and cheerful even if you don’t feel it yourself. It is much better that you ride out this phase by not giving in entirely to her cries for you. She will soon realize that her father is a pretty special part of her world as well. The more time he does care for her, the quicker she will realize this and begin to enjoy his company again. As she learns to cope with her feelings about leaving you and realizes that you do return, her anxieties should begin to decrease.

For more on this subject have a look at Gina’s book Contented Baby to Confident Child, page 73.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

My daughter of 6mths screams whenever we go into shops. What can I do?

My baby hates any sort of shops. She is fine in the pram out and about but really screams in any shop. The supermarket was the first place, so I tried the supermarket with the pram but that still didn’t help. I always make she that she has had a good sleep before we go anywhere from home but this still doesn’t help. It makes my day very boring as I can’t go anywhere. She also seems grumpier when at other people’s houses; she can cry all the time I am there and be perfectly content when we arrive home.

It can seem very isolating if you feel that you cannot go anywhere because your daughter becomes upset. Both of you do need time out and about and visiting with friends. Since your daughter is obviously wary of new situations then begin in a very small and gentle way to introduce her to the world. You are sensible to have tried taking her out at a time of day when she has had a good sleep and is not getting hungry for a feed.

Your daughter will feel more secure if she is close to you. If you have a buggy or pram where you can sit her facing you then use that option as you then can talk to her about where you are going and what you are seeing. If you don’t have a buggy with this option use a baby carrier or sling for your first trips out. The carriers where the baby can face forwards are the best for this age. Your daughter will be able to see what is going on but have the security of your body close to her, and the sound of your reassuring voice nearby. If you do not have a carrier or can’t borrow one you may have to start by carrying your daughter in your arms. This will not be easy if you want to do a lot of shopping so use this method just to get her used to going into shops before trying to do the shopping as well.

Many shops today are brightly lit and have loud music playing. Before attempting to take her into a big, bright noisy supermarket take her into smaller, local shops. Finding a corner store, newsagent or greengrocer will be best for these first few trips. Talk to her about where you are going and what you are going to see. Although she will not understand your words she will understand your tone of voice. If you sound apprehensive or worried she will pick up on that tension and become wary and frightened herself. Your attitude to this problem will really help her. Hold her close to you, and keep talking and smiling at her. “Look, we are going to see all the fruit and vegetables, what shall we buy today?” is the sort of chat you need to keep up.

Take a moment to pause in front of the shop window before entering. If you feel your daughter is becoming apprehensive reassure her with your voice. Show her the pile of bright oranges and lemons or array of chocolate bars; “These are bright, they look good to eat”. Keep chatting to her about all you see. Provided the shop is not too crowded you may be able to buy a newspaper or some fruit and leave. Once outside praise your daughter for managing to stay calm and thank her for letting you get your errands done.

To help her get used to shopping try to go out every day and go into one or two small shops each time, even if just to look around. The step from getting her used to local shops to the supermarket is quite big but if you give her time, and remain calm and upbeat yourself you may decide in a few weeks she is ready to go with you on a supermarket trip. The more familiar she becomes with shops, lights, people and the general busyness of the world the less likely she is to get upset. Keep talking, and praising her and gradually go into bigger, brighter, busier shops as her confidence grows.

For the first trip to the supermarket don’t attempt to achieve a mammoth weekly shop. Have five or six items on your list. If she is happier in a carrier or being held, rather than being in a buggy, take her in that way and buy things you can easily put and carry in a basket. Until she is more familiar with the supermarket don’t attempt to put her in a trolley with a child seat. This step will come later.

If you can, try to choose a quieter time of day for your first visit together. Mid -morning or afternoon before the schools come out may be ideal. Keep talking to her about where you are going and what you will see. Remain confident and happy yourself. If your supermarket is very large and bright pause as you get inside the door and let her look around to take in where she is. Just as you did with the first trips out, draw her attention to what you are looking at whether it is the fruit and vegetable counters or the cereal aisle. Reassure her and praise her for being such a quiet girl and letting you get your shopping done.

If your daughter does start to get upset when in a shop try to calm her and carry on. If she refuses to be comforted then leave as soon as you can and reassure her all the way out. Don’t let a setback this put you off trying again. The more experiences she has of going into shops and busy places the quicker she should get over her fears. It may take a while to get your daughter to the stage where you can put her in the trolley and get the whole week´s shopping done but, taken slowly and in stages, your daughter should get more used to the noise and bustle of shops. The longer you both remain at home and don’t address the problem the longer it will take her to get used to new surroundings.

The same techniques should be applied to visiting friends. Carry her into their house, or remove her from her buggy and hold her as soon as you get inside. Sit with her on the floor and hold her on your knee as she gets used to being in a different place. The first few visits may be spent entirely sitting on your lap observing all that is going on around her. Don’t put her down on the floor amongst other babies until you are sure she is ready. Again, move slowly towards the stage when she will play on the floor alongside other babies. Once she seems content and happy to watch the others, lie or sit her up close beside you, where she can see your face. Reassure her all the time, show her one or two toys and let her gradually get used to being with other people. Around this age separation anxiety can begin so it is best to accept she may need to be held or sit close to you when in strange surroundings. This phase will pass more quickly if you deal with it in a sympathetic and reassuring way, rather than trying to leave her on the floor in a strange house and move out of her sight.

Some babies are very sensitive to bright light, loud music, different smells and surroundings and react to new experiences with fear. Providing you stay close to her and reassure her that she is doing well and how pleased you are with her, her fears should begin to subside. The more you take her out and about, but acknowledge that she will need to be close to you and need a lot of reassurance to get used to new situations, the quicker you will both be able to enjoy both shopping trips and visiting friends.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

What should I be doing to help my 11mth son who has had a few changes recently and is far less settled?

My son was previously a perfect Gina baby, sleeping well for all naps and eating well. We moved house 2 months ago, I started work 1 month ago. My son started to become more unsettled. Now he always wakes crying and screaming whereas he used to chatter in his cot. He jumps up and down in cot in anger until we pick him up. Usually we control cry for at least 45mins in morning. We never bring him out of cot before 6.30am which is a fine time for us. We tend to give up more quickly when he wakes from day time naps.

Now he won’t settle for morning nap any longer, but really is too tired to drop it. So I give him quiet time in buggy, early lunch, and settle him early for his lunch time nap. But he is only sleeping a maximum of one hour at lunch time resulting in overtiredness in evening and early waking.

His chronic over tiredness is starting to make him cranky and now he has also started rousing frequently in the night although we don’t get up to him and he does settle again. How can we get back on track? It is difficult not being sole carer to enforce routines more rigidly but other the carers are on board to try things out. He is cared for by a child minder 2 days a week, my mother takes him for 2 days and I care for him the other 3.

He is ever so active during the day chasing cats and toddling around everywhere but is not as contented as he used to be and is becoming more wingy, clingy and he seems to be regressing further away from the routine that he kept so happily for so long. Is this normal for this age? I also carry a lot of guilt about returning to work and am unsure whether I am meant to be firm setting consistent boundaries or whether I should be reassuring and relieving new anxieties he may be having?

My son eats three meals a day having breakfast of cereal and fruit. He drinks cow’s milk and formula mixed from a beaker. He will have a small snack midmorning followed by lunch at 11.30-1145am. This is his protein meal of the day which he eats well. He drinks milk from a beaker at 2.30pm and eats a vegetarian tea with finger food. At 6.45pm he takes 7fl oz milk from a cup.

Your son has had two quite big changes in his life recently. He is of the age where separation anxiety can become quite intense so it is not surprising that he is a little more clingy and demanding of you.

How you deal with it is important. It can be so difficult when you have to return to work but feel it may be affecting your child. But given sympathetic, consistent but firm handling your son will begin to adapt to his new surroundings and daily routine. It may take a few months but will gradually improve. Being sympathetic to his needs doesn’t mean you need to give in to him all the time to compensate for your return to work.

The energy levels of a newly walking toddler are amazing but they can easily get overtired and so lose their good sleep habits, as you have already realized.

Try to build rest times into his day at regular intervals. As well as the quiet time you give him in his buggy before lunch take him out in it around 4pm. Even just a short walk at this time will help him to rest as he watches the world go by. Until he is more settled at night bring his bath and bedtime forward to nearer 6.30pm if this is possible. Having a quiet time after tea, followed by a warm bath, a short time spent looking at a book and then being settled for the night by 6.30/6.40pm should help him not become so overtired. This earlier bedtime may not show any immediate effects on his early waking or night time restlessness for a week or so, but keep with it. Make sure you follow the same simple routine every night so he begins to feel more secure and able to relax to sleep, rather than falling asleep exhausted. Keep bath time quiet and try not to let him run around too much afterwards. Getting him to his room and into his cot within half an hour of coming out of the bath will really help him calm down.

The early mornings should begin to disappear once he has more rest periods in the day and an earlier bedtime. In the morning you do need to be firm and consistent about telling him it is not daytime yet. He is still young but, if you use the same words every morning when he begins to cry and scream for you, he will come to realize that no matter what noise he makes you are not willing to start the day before 6.30am. Put a few board books and soft toys at the end of his cot when you go to bed so he has something to amuse himself when he wakes in the morning. It may take a few days for him to do this but eventually he will find them.

Controlled crying, when carried out, would mean you lengthen the time before going in to your child each morning. Have a look in Gina’s Complete Sleeping Guide, page 45, for a full description. As your son is waking early and demanding attention it would be a good idea to leave him for about ten minutes and then go in to him. Lay him down in his cot and using the same words each morning tell him; “Go to sleep, it is not daytime yet” then leave. You may have to do this every ten minutes or so for at least a week before he realises that you do mean what you say. This will also help him trust you. Although you are not giving in to his demands to get out of his cot, you are acknowledging that he is awake. By using the same few words you are not rewarding his shouting and crying but teaching him that he has to wait for you in the mornings. Boundaries do need to begin to be put in place at this age, but they need to be appropriate for a very young toddler whose comprehension is still limited. Your tone of voice and body language are the way he understands that you are not going to change your mind about early mornings.

As well as needing to set boundaries you also need to relieve your son’s anxieties, which is hard work for you. Keeping to his routine, asking his other carers to do the same in terms of quiet times in the day and accepting that he no longer needs as much daytime sleep, should all help him. The consistency he receives from all who care for him will help him over this phase of his development. By using the routines and the same rituals when you leave in the morning and come home at night will all help him feel more secure in himself. A toddler of this age thrives on knowing what is going to happen next. He will accept the changes in his life with your help and guidance. Acknowledging and understanding this next stage of his life will help you. You seem already to realise that his needs are changing and you are adapting to them as best you can. How you handle the early mornings will help you as he grows more independent and assertive in other areas of his life.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Behaviour

At 8.5 months old my son is crawling fast and into everything

Although I was excited when my son began to crawl at 7.5 months, I had no idea how much chaos he would begin to cause. I seem to be constantly tidying up and putting back the books and videos he pulls from the lower shelves. I don’t want to keep saying no to him but the house always seems to look a mess and it really gets me down at times. How do I balance his need for freedom and my need for some domestic order?

Once a baby learns to crawl it is quite amazing to see how quickly he learns to empty shelves and cupboards and delights in doing so. Getting the balance right is a very personal thing. Some people can live in the chaos and it does not worry them at all. They may decide to have one big clearing up session once a day, or not at all. Other women find it hard to see their house strewn with toys and the contents of their shelves and cupboards and are constantly running around picking up. Taking the middle road is the best option.

Decide if you are going to have some “baby free” areas. Shut these off using doors or stair gates. If you have enough room you may be able to keep a sitting room free in this way and so know that one room is suitable to show unexpected visitors into, should they arrive.

Having somewhere as your own personal space is important. It maybe your bedroom or your own desk but whatever corner of the house you decide on, be prepared to be firm and consistent in keeping it for yourself. Although you will not want to constantly say “no” your son does need to learn the meaning of the word and will do so if it used for a few areas and items consistently.
The areas of the house where you spend most time are likely to be centred around the kitchen. Although your baby will like to be near to you, you may decide that the kitchen itself is too small or dangerous with hot stoves to allow him to crawl around and possibly trip you up. Again use stair gates to prevent his entry. He can play beyond the gate and still have you in his sight. He may protest at this until he gets used to the idea but it is better there are a few tears than having to deal with a nasty burn or scald. If you make the area beyond the gate interesting and child proof he will learn how to amuse himself there.

Babies love to empty shelves and drawers. By providing him with a low shelf and or drawer of his own filled with things which will not hurt him if he pulls on them he can be taught that yours are off limits. One way to prevent shelves being emptied is to pack books or videos really tightly so he is unable to pull one out and so clear the lot. Having a drawer of his own will keep him occupied for a time. Fill it with household items such as plastic boxes and lids, wooden and plastic utensils, cardboard tubes from loo rolls and kitchen roll, an old saucepan and other things which you know will appeal to him.

There are plenty of child-proofing items on the market such as door- and drawer locks, film to protect glass doors, video locks and plastic table corners. Look at the room or rooms that your son will spend most of his time in whilst down on all fours and you will be able to see it from his point of view. Use these products to provide a safe but interesting area for him to spend time in.
It is very tempting to constantly clear up behind an exploring baby. You should keep certain areas of the house clear: such as the stairs, hallways and frequently used passageways to prevent accidents. To begin to teach your baby that tidying up is part of the day decide to do a general clear up at certain points of the day. These may be before lunch time, before you go out and before bath time. He is still too young to really grasp the idea yet but if you tell him every time that it is “tidy up time now” he will begin to realise what you are doing. Ask him to hand you a brick or toy to put into a basket or box. Keep his toys in order using baskets or plastic storage boxes for different things rather than a jumble of everything in a one big toy box. Watching you daily he will begin to grasp the idea although he may not be of much help yet. You may have a quick tidy whilst he is around and then a more intensive one once he is having a nap or gone to bed in the evening. He will be able to play more contentedly if he is able to find his toys in the same place rather than living in constant chaos. Let him explore during the day but teach him that some order is a good thing.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Learning

What type of toys should I give my 9-month-old baby ?

What toys should my 9 month old be playing with? We have a basket full of rattles and soft-shaped contrast toys which I think she is bored with now. I look in the shops and think most things look either too difficult or too easy for her. How do I know if a toy will help her development? Should I look for toys marked with her age now or for a few months time? Can you give me an idea of how I should play with her?

To a nine month old everything she handles is a toy. Watch any baby of this age with a wooden spoon and plastic container and you will notice how intently she explores them. Your baby learns all the time whatever she is doing.

Most toys in shops are marked with ages, but are only a general guide to what a baby between those ages is capable of doing. Your baby may only just be reaching those milestones or she may be nearly at the next stage already.
When selecting toys for her think what she is able to do already. Can she hold a small object in each hand? Can she pass them from hand to hand? If she is given a selection of small brick cubes she may now be able to build two, possibly three into a tower. Look at stacking rings which help her place objects on top of each other.

Is she crawling or trying to crawl? Soft balls and wheeled toys can be chased.
Does she move small objects from one container to another? Stacking cups are ideal for this.

Does she want to stand up and cruise about the furniture? There are activity tables in various forms which will be stable enough for her to stand at.
Encouraging your baby to play does not always mean showing her how a toy works. If you have bought a toy suitable for her developmental stage she will discover for herself how it works. This is how she plays. By stepping back and observing, you allow her to learn at her own pace.

Whilst at this age your baby will still want you to be within her sight, it is not essential to play with her all the time. Let her have time and space to work things out alone.

Look at each toy before buying and try to see how it will help her with skills she already has and encourage her further to explore the toy on her own.
Many of today’s toys are battery-operated. Although there is a place for one or two of these in your child’s toy box, look out for toys which may seem simpler but offer greater opportunities for learning and developing.

Your baby’s sense of touch is well-developed and she will enjoy different tactile experiences. Well-made wooden toys are a worthwhile investment; bricks, cars, bead frames, simple shape sorters can all be readily found.
There are plenty of textured, feely toys available as well as board books which incorporate different textures. Show her how to feel the surfaces with her fingers. She also uses her mouth and tongue to feel with, which is why everything goes into her mouth. Remember this when selecting toys and playthings.

To develop her manipulation skills which are refined by now, look for activity centres which all offer a good variety of moving parts. Things to turn, twist, push and pull all require different movements of her fingers and hands.
As well as conventional toys, everyday household objects can be given to her, providing you check them for rough, sharp edges or small pieces which can be swallowed. Providing her with a basket full of household objects can be fun. Look around for different textures, such as smooth, rough, shiny and soft. What looks like just a bottle brush to you will give her plenty of chances to explore its qualities with her hands and mouth. Include as much variety as you can and change the objects on a regular basis so there will always be plenty more discoveries for her to make. Quality is more important than quantity. Too many toys can overwhelm her, and she will probably pay more attention to the box and wrappings than yet another toy.

Only give her one or two toys at a time and keep things stored in cupboards or storage containers. Begin to organize her toys, such as books in one box, bricks in another so she will not be confused once she is mobile enough to explore the boxes for herself. Too many toys at once will overwhelm a baby and they end up not really exploring the full potential of anything as they move endlessly from toy to toy.

Have different toys for certain times of day. For instance, bath-toys which remain in the bathroom and quiet-time toys such as a musical soft toy.

All babies learn as they play. If you watch your baby and see how she learns new skills, you will be able to provide her with a rich learning environment.
At times you will interact with her and enjoy stories and rhymes together, but be conscious of how much she learns by herself when provided with suitable playthings.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Other Advice

How do we manage to stay with relatives with our 11-month-old daughter?

In July, when Jessie will be 11 months we have been to asked to stay with my husbands aunt and uncle. They have never had children so I am very apprehensive about how we will manage with a crawler in their house.

The house is quite large and is full of antiques, both furniture and china. Many of the floors are flag stoned with rugs over them, the stairs are steep and twisty. In all, it is not really a child-friendly environment.

What could I take with me to help me “child proof ” it a little and help Jessie settle in strange surroundings? We will take a travel cot and high chair as well as some toys. What else could make this stay a little bit of a holiday for us, even though we will have to be extra vigilant with Jessie?

Depending how well you know your husband’s relatives, you may be able to talk to them beforehand about taking Jessie and what her needs will be at the time. If they have never had children and are unaware of the dangers in their home they maybe grateful if you make a few tactful suggestions as to how you all will manage. Give them a general outline of her routine so they have some idea of how the days will be.

If you are concerned about dangers from the stairs, consider taking a foldaway travel barrier. This could be used across the doorway of the room where Jessie will sleep (or your room if you are sharing).

Many old houses do not have standard width stairs, so the gate could always be moved downstairs by day and used to prevent Jessie leaving the area you will be in, and getting onto the stairs.

Make yourself up a small pack of the most useful “childproofing” products. Include at least 4 socket covers, a set of corner protectors, two door slam stoppers, and a few short bungees (use these to keep cupboard doors shut) or cabinet slide locks. These should be enough to make the area that Jessie will be in, as safe as possible, although she will still need to be watched.
Pack a small first aid kit with plasters, antiseptic cream, Arnica cream, Calpol, teething gel and a thermometer. This should cover most medical emergencies.
As well as Jessie’s high chair, take along a splash mat to put underneath it and also a large child’s place mat so you can feed her without causing too much mess to clear up. Remember to pack her bowls, baby cutlery and beakers. If you are not travelling too far, why not take an insulated bag with some frozen meals for Jessie. This would cut down on your meal preparation time in a strange kitchen and also give her some familiarity at meal times. Perhaps a quick call to your host beforehand will ensure that there is some freezer space for you on arrival. You could also check if there is a microwave available.

Take her favourite cereal in case the ones available are not really suitable. Also have a few healthy snacks such as raisins, rice cakes and breadsticks with you.

As well as Jessie’s cot and bedding, take one or two familiar toys from her cot and favourite books with you. Going to bed in a strange house can be daunting at this age. Pack a night light even if she sleeps in the dark as it is useful to have it plugged in to check on her or deal with her in the night. Pack your baby monitor as you may not be able to hear her in a large house. If you have a small CD player why not take that with some soothing music as well as familiar nursery rhymes. This can all help her settle in.

It may be sensible to pack two sleeping bags if used, and a few changes of bedding and night clothes as well as day wear. This will prevent any problems should the laundry facilities not be able to cope with the demands of a baby!
When you first arrive at the house, try to look for any potential dangers and find the best place to set up Jessie’s play area. Don’t feel embarrassed about asking if some things such as trailing wires to table lamps can be moved if they are in her “area”. It will much easier than apologising for a lamp which has been pulled over and broken. Look for hanging window cords, unstable furniture, sharp corners, heaters and ornaments at reachable levels.

Sometimes it helps to get down on the floor and look at the area from Jessie’s viewpoint. Check there are no houseplants at her level, poisonous or not, as she may well get into the soil.

Decide on a rota with your husband so one of you is always “in charge” of Jessie. This leaves the other parent able to relax a little more or have a lie-in.
Taking a baby away to an unfamiliar house does take thought, but also can be an enriching experience for you all. Jessie will probably enjoy the attention given to her by her relatives, and is old enough to participate in some family meals and outings, which should help you feel you have had a holiday of sorts.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Other Advice

How do I adjust the routines to help my 8mth son adapt to his new nursery?

My son is due to start nursery in 2 weeks time and I would appreciate your advice on how I adapt his routine to fit in with the 3 days he will go to nursery.

I am going to get him used to nursery over a 6 week period before I go back to work by leaving him gradually more and more. My concerns however are around how he will eat and sleep there. He has been an amazing ‘contented baby’ and fitted in with the routines from 5 weeks old and at 4 months when I pushed back the routine by 30 mins. At Nursery however, lunch is at 11.45am (usually 12.15pm for my baby) and tea at 3.45pm (usually 5.30pm). Can you please suggest how I can make sure he stays in his current pattern for the 4 days he is not at nursery? He currently has his afternoon milk at about 3pm so I am sure he will not be hungry for his tea at nursery. I had thought I would give him a snack at 5.30pm to keep him going?

Regarding sleep, he only really sleeps in his cot in a dark room, very rarely in a pushchair or in the car. At nursery, they have a separate cot area for sleeping but it will be noisier and light. There are only 6 babies in the room he will be in but I am sure he will not sleep how he sleeps at home. Can you please suggest how I change his routine to ensure he keeps going to a 7.30pm bedtime? I will be able to pick him up at 5ish initially so he will be able to have a short nap in the car. At home he has no comforter and does not suck his thumb – he usually cries for a few minutes and then settles. I have started to give him a muslin to sleep with so he has something at nursery – is this a good idea? I don’t want to disturb his sleep at home!

Any ideas or tips you can give me will be appreciated. I have real confidence in the nursery but know that it will change his routine despite their efforts to stick to it.

At present my son takes 4ozs formula, weetabix or ready brek with fruit and mixed with 3ozs formula for his breakfast. He has a small snack at 10.15am with water if he hasn’t eaten well at breakfast. Lunch at 12.15pm is approximately 8tbsps of savoury followed by fruit or yoghurt. 3pm 4ozs formula, 5.30pm approximately 8tbsp of savoury with water to drink and 7pm 6-7ozs formula.

My son naps at 9.45-10.15am and 1-2.30pm. He sleeps from 7.45pm to 7.15am.

It will take your son a time to adjust to nursery, so it is sensible to introduce him slowly. Most mothers are initially concerned about how their baby will cope with eating and sleeping along with others when they have been used to the quiet of home. Most adapt amazingly well. Initially, you may find he does not sleep at nursery quite as long at lunchtime as he does at home, but this may lengthen once he grows used to the different noises and sights of nursery. In the first few weeks however well he sleeps at nursery, he may well be tired when he returns. The adjustments he needs to make, the new surroundings and people are a lot for him to take in. Although you are eager for him to remain with his 7.30pm bed time, in the first weeks after starting nursery you may need to make this earlier until he is more settled. As he will not be at nursery every day you can make adjustments to the time of bedtime depending on what has happened earlier in the day. On the days he is at home remain on your present routine if it suits you. Once he has got used to being at nursery he will probably be able to have a 7.30pm bedtime every night.

The milk he has at 3pm could become part of his nursery tea at the slightly later time of 3.45pm. Once home, offer him a healthy snack. How much of this he will eat is an unknown. It is something you will only be able to gauge as you get into the nursery routines. Offer him easy things such as mini sandwiches, cheese sticks, goujons of fish or chicken. If you have introduced egg yolks or eggs to him then make a simple frittata or omelet. He may be tired, not wanting to eat much, but something nutritious and filling such as these should be easy for him to eat. Try not to push him too hard even if you feel he has not eaten well at nursery. Providing he still sleeps well at night his appetite will pick up once he feels more settled in his surroundings. He is more likely to pick up on your tension and begin to play on it if you keep trying to tempt him to eat once home. Offer him his snack when he comes home and if he seems to have lost interest after about 20 minutes finish the meal. As he is still having a good bedtime feed then he will probably adjust to this new way of eating in a few days.

On your days at home you may decide to keep in his 3pm bottle until he begins to lose interest in it, possibly in the next month or so.

Giving your son a muslin as a comforter is a good idea. If you give it to him at his daytime naps now, before he starts at nursery, he will also begin to associate it with sleep whilst he is at the nursery and be more settled there.

Separation can begin to be an issue around this age. It is a perfectly normal stage of a baby’s development and, providing you handle the issue with understanding and sympathy, your son will soon become used to his new carers. Many nurseries have a policy of key workers, so one or two will be assigned your son into their care. This makes it easier for him as he can begin to relate to the familiar face he sees each day. If you always use the same words when leaving him he will come to know the routine and realize that you will reappear again. In the beginning he may be a little tearful at being left each time. If you can build a friendly rapport with the staff, especially those directly involved with him, then he will learn to trust them as he sees you smiling and talking with them. Your body language and facial expressions will help him feel at ease. However you are feeling inside at the prospect of leaving him, by remaining cheerful, positive and smiling you will really help him get used to his new experience.

Development FAQ: 6-12 months – Other Advice

Have you any advice for potty training when using cloth nappies?

My daughter has been on Gina’s routines since birth – they have worked brilliantly – thank you. Although she is only 8-months-old, I have a copy of Gina’s potty training book and have glanced through it. Does Gina have any special advice to give to someone, like myself, who uses cloth nappies as opposed to disposables?

The only difference that you might notice is your daughter’s awareness of being wet and dirty. With cloth nappies this may start earlier, especially with wet ones; than with a toddler in disposables which draw the moisture away from the skin. Although your daughter may notice being wet and perhaps dirty at an earlier age, make sure that she is showing all the signs of being ready to be trained before attempting to begin – a good few months on from now!