Your Child's Brain in Week 55
You're already an old pro at playing certain games with your child: horsie (oh, your back!), "I'm-gonna-get-you," peek-a-boo (which never gets old), and pat-a-cake, to name a few. Now that your child is into her second year, your game roster will expand along with her skills: Games signify an advancement of cognitive and social ability, because the players repeat actions, take turns, have roles, and play by rules. (And you thought they were all about fun!)
What the Research Shows
Researchers examined developmental changes in games played by mothers and infants during normal activities at home. This longitudinal research project involved observing mothers and their 6- to 12-month-old children in six 40-minute sessions.
At six months, the infants played relatively passive roles, while Mom chose all the games and did a lot of coaching and coaxing. But by 12 months, the babies played a much more active role and initiated many activities.
Not only did the infants' behavior change over the six-month period, but the mothers displayed increasing sensitivity as they adjusted their own behavior to keep pace with their children's development. When playing ball, for instance, the mothers would repeatedly roll the ball to the babies. At first, the babies would receive the ball but not do anything with it. So the mothers would roll the ball back to themselves and receive it with excitement, repeating the actions again and again. In time—a few days, weeks, or months later—the babies would catch on, receiving the ball and then rolling it back to their mothers on their own.
These mother-infant games teach social skills such as reading expressions, paying attention, expressing pleasure or excitement, controlling and predicting behavior, and engaging in "dialogues"—all under the guise of just having a good time.
Week 55 Brain Booster
Not sure how to change up playtime with your child? The following games may seem simple, but toddlers find them fascinating because the activities build upon skills they first became familiar with just months ago:
Ball: Roll a ball to your child when you're both sitting on the floor, or roll the ball across the floor so the child will crawl or toddle to retrieve it. Eventually, she'll participate by presenting the ball or returning the ball to you, which helps develop her physical skills. (Use different sized balls to present fun challenges.)
Vocal exchange. Listen to the sounds that your child makes spontaneously (ba, da, or ma, a raspberry or popping sound, or actual words). Then attempt to elicit verbal play from your child by making those sounds yourself. These verbal and vocal exchanges in game form are actually primitive conversations.
Stack and tumble. You build a tower of blocks, your child knocks down the tower. Repeat the sequence many times. Remember, older babies and young toddlers are intrigued by unstable objects, and so find joy in knocking over a stack of blocks as they master the principles of physics: "Every time I touch a tower of blocks, it topples!"