A profile of a mobile explorer

Babies move in their own characteristic way. Some creep on their tummies. Some crawl. Some bottom shuffle. Some bear walk.
Some roll over and over.
Some go straight on to their feet and walk.
However they move, mobility is the key to exploring and learning more about the world.

The older baby is an explorer. Babies learn about the world through the senses and as they move. Once a baby can sit, two hands are free to hold and investigate objects from every angle. Once babies are mobile they can explore exciting places for themselves. It is often trying to reach a desired object that motivates baby to move. At first it is frustrating but from 9 months of age baby can move around the floor.

At around 6 months the baby can sit up with support. Strength and balance develop so baby can sit securely and use both hands to manipulate objects. At first baby uses a palmar grasp with the whole hand to grasp toys. Babies enjoy investigating everyday objects. If an object is light in weight, safe and chewable, this is excellent learning. A baby takes objects to the mouth. The baby's mouth is sensitive and chewing can confirm if the object is hard or soft. It takes time to learn to use fingertips to explore different textures. Meanwhile the mouth is very useful.

The next stage is passing objects from hand to hand. The baby looks carefully at objects and turns them round to investigate thoroughly. Learning to use the hands and eyes in co-ordination helps the baby learn the nature of objects. The shape, colour, size and texture. Although, he or she has no understanding of colour and texture baby can experience what it feels and looks like. All these impressions help the baby to learn about the world. Physical and cognitive development work together. Sensory objects that are brightly coloured, make a noise, have different textures and move are attractive to babies.

It is fun manipulating two objects, one in each hand and trying to bang them together. Then baby points to small objects and pokes them with the index finger. The pincer grip develops and by the time baby is 1 year old it is easy to pick up tiny objects using the thumb and index finger. Nothing is safe from a baby's busy fingers and adults need to be vigilant to prevent accidents because babies can choke on small objects.

Learning to let go is harder than picking up an object, but it all comes together at about 8 months of age. The baby learns to voluntarily let go of objects and also learns an important feature of the world. Things and people do not disappear just because you cannot see them. Piaget calls this "object permanence." When something drops out of sight a young baby does not look for it. Gradually, babies realise things do not disappear forever and will look for a dropped toy. Throwing things out of a highchair is great fun and teaches baby physics. Baby does not know about gravity, but sees the effect when things that are dropped fall down.

Using the hands is an important skill for independent life. From 8 to 9 months of age babies enjoy finger foods and given the opportunity can feed themselves. Bread, bananas, pasta, fingers of vegetables and sausages go down well. Using a spoon is more tricky and messier but babies like to try. By the time baby is 1 year old, he or she is skilled in picking up objects with both hands and with fingers, skilled in exploring objects by looking, banging, shaking and poking and can eat finger foods.

The social friendly baby becomes nervous of strangers. This is because baby is learning to recognise the family. Baby thrives on interaction and a new favourite game is Peekaboo. It is fun when baby knows their caregiver is still there and the surprise makes baby laugh. Babies enjoy rhymes and action songs especially clapping hands and waving. Language develops. The baby understands and can respond to simple requests e.g. clap hands. Baby shouts and points to gain interesting things. The tuneful babbling sounds like a conversation as baby immitates sounds. First words are names of people and things e.g. Dada, Mama. By 1 year old, the baby knows his or her own name. The baby is mobile, manipulates objects with both hands, knows the family and their own name, understands language and can make their own wishes known. Learning more about the world advances as the baby becomes more independent and mobile.
    The mobile explorer:
  • rolling, creeping, crawling, bear walking or bottom shuffling
  • learns to stand and may take first steps alone
  • sits alone with a straight back
  • grasps and holds objects with whole hand
  • investigates objects by looking, chewing, banging, shaking
  • pokes small objects
  • picks up tiny objects using a fine pincer grip
  • learns to drop objects
  • learns object permanence and enjoys peekaboo
  • finger feeds
  • waves byebye
  • recognises family and is wary of stangers
  • understands simple requests and says single words

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