By the age of eight months, greater mobility and an ever-increasing curiosity boosts babies' learning potential. Although they are more interested in objects now and slightly less fascinated with people than they were at six months, babies continue to look to their primary caregivers for encouragement and support. They still have quite short attention spans and often move quickly from one exploration to the next. However, babies' responses and actions at this age are often more purposeful and less random. Activities to support cognitive development of eight-month-old babies are ones that encourage babies' curiosity and motivation to learn. Eight-month-old babies are often fascinated with ordinary household objects as much as, if not more than, any expensive toys you buy for them. However, you must always check carefully that all objects are safe for babies to play with.
Hide and Seek
The cognitive development of eight-month-old babies leads to an awareness of "object permanence" (the knowledge that objects still exist even when you can't see them). Hide and seek activities support babies' learning by motivating them to find out what or where something is. Babies of eight months are often more interested in things that are slightly out of reach, so place an object or toy inside a box, shake it to make a noise, and then place it for baby to crawl toward and discover what's inside. Support babies' brain development by challenging their language and memory skills: hide three different toys or objects, such as a teddy bear, a cup and a book under three different blankets and then ask babies to find each one.
Play With Purpose
By the age of eight months, babies are ready for more purposeful play than simply picking up objects, chewing them and then dropping them on the floor. Stimulate brain development by encouraging them to find new ways to play with familiar toys. For example, sit baby opposite you and roll the baby's soft ball toward him or her. Show your delight if baby tries to roll it back to you. Stimulate babies' learning and language development by speaking to a toy telephone, pretending to tell someone about the events of the day. Hand the phone over to baby and give lots of smiles and praise if he or she tries to copy you with vocal sounds or by babbling to the telephone.
Sounds and Meanings
In an interview for the About Our Kids website, David Steinberg, M.D. describes "critical periods" of babies' brain development as "times when the brain is most ripe for the learning and acquisition of new skills." Steinberg explains that the period between eight months and three years is a critical period for babies' learning of both receptive (listening and understanding) and expressive (spoken) language skills. Activities such as looking at colorful picture cards help babies memorize new vocabulary and make new vocalizations. Name the picture on each card and make the sounds that go with it, such as animal noises, or vehicle sounds. Sit babies in front of you and sing rhymes such as "Pat-a-cake," "This Little Piggy" or "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," encouraging them to join in with hand gestures and vocal sounds. Give them lots of eye contact, smiles and positive feedback to encourage babies' learning of the "give and take" of communication and conversations.