LEAP 5

The first (fussy) phase of this leap into the world of relationships is age-linked and predictable, starting about 26 weeks after the due date. The first perception of this new world sets the development of a whole range of skills and activities in motion. For example, the ability to perceive spatial relationships is a precondition for crawling inside or under things, but this skill normally appears anywhere from 6 to 11 months.

During these weeks, Liam will make the fifth leap in his mental development, which is known as the world of relationships. After this leap, Liam will start to perceive relationships between objects and people, including distance. Suddenly, your baby’s world is a very big place, and he is a very small part. Relationships include simple things like the distance or the juxtaposition between objects as well as the placement of objects in relation to each other. For example, something can be inside, outside, on top of, next to, underneath, or in between something else, and Liam will play with these notions. Maybe your baby suddenly cries if you move a little further away from him. This is very normal. Your baby now understands that the distance between you and him increases!

Your Baby Understands Short Commands

After making this leap, your baby can also better understand the relationships between words and their meanings. In fact, he may even make the connection between words and the gestures that go with them. He will be able to understand short, daily commands like “No, don’t do that”, “We are going to eat”, or “Come, we are going now’. However, your baby can only understand these things in his own surroundings and as part of a familiar routine. If he were to hear the same sentences in a strange place, he would not have a clue as that transferable skill does not develop until much later.

You may also notice that your baby’s prelinguistic speech sounds change again around this time and become more complex as he combines consonants and vowels. This is because your baby can now use his tongue better and can even blow a bit. If you notice that your baby likes playing with words and gestures, you can use this to his advantage. There are several things you can do to help your baby understand what you are saying. For example, you can use short sentences with clear and obvious gestures, explain the things you are doing, and let your baby see, feel, smell, and taste the things you are talking about. If your baby attempts to say or ask for something with a sound or gesture, it is important that you show that you are thrilled with this. The best way for you to teach your baby to talk is by talking to him a lot. It is helpful to your baby if you call everyday items by their names, let him hear nursery rhymes, play singing games, and ask questions such as “Would you like a sandwich?” when setting his place at the table. Also, if your baby shows a particular appreciation for music, it is important that you do lots of singing, dancing, and clapping songs with him. This way, he can practice using words and gestures together. In short, you can help your baby’s linguistic and musical talents blossom by making speech attractive.

Distances Between Objects

After your baby has made the leap of relationships, he will understand the concept of distance for the first time. Your baby understands that the distance between two objects can get bigger. A baby at this age can also understand that mommy or daddy can walk away, creating more distance between him and the caregiver. For this reason, you may see the beginning of some anxious behaviors in your little one. Your baby may feel that he has no control over the distance between himself and you, and this can make him feel helpless. At first, it is hard to accept that this state of affairs is progress, but it is a clear sign of a mental leap forward. Your baby has to learn how to deal with this development and make it a part of his world so that it is no longer frightening. You can help your baby achieve this through understanding, compassion, patience, and, above all, time. If your baby shows fear, you have to accept that fear and support him. Your baby will soon realize that there is nothing to be afraid of since you are not deserting him. Generally, babies panic the most at around 29 weeks of age. This improves somewhat until the next leap begins. Parents can ease their baby’s anxieties by staying close by, giving him a warning before walking away, talking to their baby while you are out of the room, and helping him experiment with coming and going through play. You can do this by sitting on the floor in the center of the room and allowing your baby to crawl back and forth to you as he plays. You will see that your baby is experimenting with the concept of distance when you watch his behavior.

Exercise – Imagine Your Dependence

To fully understand the challenges that your baby is dealing with, you must be able to imagine them. Imagine that you live in a world where you are fully dependent on one person, but that person can leave without your permission. You cannot follow that person because you cannot move. How scary would that be?

Exercise – Do You Actually See It or Do You Know It?

Look at the environment around you, and take a mental picture. What do you see? What can you not see but know it’s there? Think of the simplest things. The floor runs underneath your desk. The cables are tidied up behind your screen. Of course, they are not cut off or stop existing if you do not see them anymore. Take a look at yourself. Your legs are underneath a desk. They are there, but you do not see them. Therefore, you know a lot of things exist that you cannot see because your brain fills in the missing information for you to create a coherent experience.

Exercise – In, Above, Under, and Behind

Consider how many things you put ‘in’, ‘above’, ‘under’, or ‘behind’ something else on a daily basis. We will not ask you to make a list for this because the list would be too long. Think about the huge number of relationships you perceive throughout an entire day. Your baby has just been confronted with them for the first time. Just realizing that will provide you with enough insight to understand that this leap is a giant one! That’s a good idea if you could invent games to play with your little one, just moving stuff around.

The results of what Liam can do after taking this leap are very noticeable. You’ll start to see a whole different human being.

These are examples of your baby’s skills and interests after going through this leap:

• Shows interest in people who “act differently” compared to “normal”.

• Shows immense interest in details such as zippers, labels, or stickers.

• Lifts things up to see if anything is underneath.

• Tries to untie laces.

• Throws something to see the contents.

• Puts food in the mouths of others.

• Makes connections between words and deeds.

• Blows air.

• Protests as dad or mom walks away.

• Imitates sounds with his tongue.

• Stands up with a little help or pulls himself to an upward position.

Note:  a baby never does all of these things at once!

You will notice that your baby reacts the same way to this leap as he did with all the other leaps. By now, you know what your baby’s leap behavior is like.

Your baby:

• Cries more often or longer.

• Asks for more attention.

• Sleeps less, sleeps worse, and eats less.

• Has mood swings.

• Is not pleased with many things.

While going through this leap, parents often notice that their baby starts to protest when being dressed or when a diaper is changed.

Do you notice your baby grabbing or “talking” to his teddy bear more often? This is also a sign that Liam is going through a leap; your baby is looking for comfort.

You will notice that each leap will be more intense for you, too! With every leap, your baby is able to demand more of you, and you will notice this. It is very normal that you feel exhausted at the end of this leap.

After having gone through this leap, Liam is potentially able to master so many new skills that it is impossible to master them all at once or to do them all at the same time. Your baby’s unique preferences determine what skills he masters first. For example, a physical child will try to master the motor-based skills first, and a more socially interested child will suddenly start to talk more. Paying attention to your child’s choices and observing the things that your baby is interested in after making this leap are the keys to discovering his personality!

The best way to help Liam is to observe him, see what he would like to explore or learn, help him, and elaborate on it. Play games with your baby that will help him master the skills that he is trying to get a handle on. The right games are aimed at this particular leap and your baby’s preferences within the possibilities of that leap.

Typical games that you could play during this leap include:

• Peekaboo.

• Hide and seek (ensure that the hidden object is still a little visible).

• “Reading” picture books.

• Songs and motion games.

• A box filled with toys (the fun part is taking all of the toys out of the box!).

• Sit and stand games.

Tip:  This is the age where you can start feeding your baby his first solid foods. Emphasize the fact that the spoon has to go into his mouth, especially since this is a typical example of a relationship. This way, you will turn the first eating experience into a fun learning experience as well.

Christmas day will be Liam’s first solid foods day.