Raquel Anderson has 14 years of experience as a mental health provider in institutional and private practice. Aside from her private practice, she is an advisory board member for the Mental Health Association of Palm Beach County’s Be Merge Initiative.
Around the 6-7 month mark, your little one is developing personal preferences for toys. How can you encourage independent and group play in your infant? Raquel Anderson offers advice on how to get started.
Bundoo: How important is it to provide opportunities for play to children at 29 weeks, or about seven months of age? Should parents set aside time every day?
Raquel Anderson: Playtime is the method babies use to develop cognitively, socially, emotionally, and physically. They explore the world around them through play. You should absolutely set aside time to play everyday. At this age, your baby is going to be most fascinated with objects. He or she will bang them, taste them, push and throw them, and even hide them. Peek-a-boo is an especially fun game at this age. One of the key lessons your baby will learn is object permanence: just because he or she can’t see something doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.
Can parents “teach” play? Is there any advantage to that, or do kids figure out naturally what’s fun?
I recommend guided play. Babies are naturally inquisitive — you don’t have to teach that. You should, however, guide and engage with them through all their developmental stages. Like all humans, your baby will have personal preferences. Just like not every baby likes the taste of green beans, there will be play activities that some babies don’t like as much as others. Through guided play, be sure to expose your baby to a wide variety of activities that involve people, objects, and movement. Remember, repetition is important. The more your baby does something, the better he or she learns it.
For families that have older children, what can parents do to encourage healthy play between the siblings, while still making sure that safety is a top concern?
Individual play is as important as group play. Having siblings in the house offers a built-in opportunity to play with others. Older siblings, though well intended, may play too rough, have toys with small parts, or have little patience for a baby who cannot keep up with them. Having time for sibling play is beneficial for both the older and younger sibling. Closely observe their interaction. When you notice signs one or both have had enough, you should intervene and redirect them to a different or individual activity.
Are there any games you specifically recommend at this age? Is there any approach to play that we know is great for development?
Talk and sing with your baby often to boost language skills. Playing peek-a-boo is key to learning object permanence. Let baby explore action and reaction. They will quickly learn “if I do this, this happens.” Board books are a great way to engage and teach your baby. Babies also love bubbles, which are a cheap, portable, and very fascinating activity. You can suggest and offer new things, but your baby will gravitate to what he or she enjoys most.