Your Baby's Development: Month Seven
Around now you will notice improvements in your baby's dexterity, particularly in their ability to pick up smaller objects. It is at this age that babies often learn to use a 'raking' motion when picking up objects that are too small to just 'grab'. This skill is extremely useful when it comes to self-feeding, but it poses obvious risks, too. Your baby is still determined to put everything he gets hold of into his mouth, this combined with their ability to pick up small items means that there is potentially a greater risk of them choking on something. Take care to keep the floor clear of small items - including coins and lids off small items such as bottles, pens or lipsticks and always check that there is nothing in your baby's mouth before laying them down.
Social and Emotional Development
You will find that your baby smiles a lot when playing with you. They will probably be able to distinguish now between different emotions expressed in both your face and your voice. Exaggerating your facial expressions during play can help them to learn these - so don't be afraid to overdo your 'surprised' face during peekaboo! Your baby will return your happy face with that of their own, and if you use an angry tone don't be surprised if they burst into tears, you won't want to do it again!
By this month your baby will probably start to object when you take a toy away from them - a behavioural trait you might see more often when your baby has older siblings! They may also start to try to get to a toy that is out of arm's reach - even if they are unable to actually get to it they will stretch and wriggle and probably whinge if they don't get it quickly.
Babies of this age love to play peekaboo. You can begin playing it from a much younger age, but by now they will really enjoy the anticipation of you revealing yourself, the toy or whatever it is that was hidden. You can start to get them involved in the action too, hang a muslin over their face when they are sitting upright (so that it can be easily pulled off) and say 'Where's Lily gone?', keep saying it and see whether they pull the cloth away from their face revealing themselves, then say 'Oh! There she is!' - remember that exaggerated emotions make it easier for your baby to understand what to expect from a game such as peekaboo.
Your baby may also be experimenting with gravity a lot now. Dropping things and then looking for them is common behaviour in babies from this age. It is an important concept for them to learn - that when they release something it will fall to the floor - but it can be a bit of a tedious one for parents repeatedly recovering cups and toys deliberately dropped from the highchair or buggy!
Offer your baby foods that he can hold and feed himself. Large pieces of toast or rusks are great to start with, particularly if your child is teething and is keen to mouth on things.
It is recommended that your baby takes all of his drinks from a cup, rather than a bottle, by the age of 12 months. Start getting him used to a cup now by offering his meal time drinks in a cup with no lid. You will have to hold it for him to begin with, but in time he will want to take it himself. Be patient with the initial spills, it takes some coordination (and practice!) to get the rim of the cup to their mouth and to tilt it to the right angle.
Signing up for classes? Music, arts & crafts, baby gymnastics, baby yoga, baby signing, baby massage - the list is endless. There is a lot to be said for most, if not all, of these group sessions - each of them help to develop certain key areas of a baby's physical, behavioural and communication skills, but only to a point. The general consensus among experts is that accelerated learning at a young age (i.e. hitting the so-called 'milestones' earlier than the average child) has no noticeable impact on a person's success or ability in the long run. These classes are a fantastic way of meeting other parents, and they are also a good way of ensuring that you spend some one-on-one time with your child with no other distractions - which is hard to manage at home sometimes. However, when it comes to your child's learning, keep it in perspective.
You and your baby want to enjoy this first year, there is no point in it becoming a marathon of courses and groups and learning new tricks. Everyday life in the home and out and about doing regular things such as supermarket shopping or even driving in the car all provide enough stimulus for a young child - if used effectively by you. They have so much to learn in simply managing to grasp a rattle, telling you they want a drink or mastering the art of turning pages in a book that you might be in danger of overloading them with too many extras!
Be Careful Of...
...Comparing your child to others. Whether you are unintentionally making other parents feel inadequate by boasting about your child's latest achievement, or giving yourself a hard time worrying that your child isn't keeping up with other children - comparing children's abilities is rarely a healthy exercise. Having said that, it is sometimes difficult not to do so. Society is fascinated by children's rate of progress when it comes to walking and talking. For a parent, it is undeniably a proud moment when your little one takes their first steps or demonstrates all the actions to a nursery rhyme, so of course it is going to come up in conversation with other parents. Just remind yourself to always be sensitive to others, particularly if their children are the same age as yours. And always remember that very few children are actually 'normal' when it comes to development. They all develop in different areas at different rates, so never let someone else make you feel that your child is less deserving of rapturous applause when their turn comes for saying their first word or growing their first tooth! (Just don't come back tomorrow and start boasting about it!)