Child development: 6-9 months

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You and your child are starting to feel (and act) like separate people. Your child is starting to sit up, move by rolling, and to reach out and act on the world. Your child worries that you might not come back when you go away, and lets you know it. Your child will really respond to you, so give him/her lots of things to look at, touch, play with, and safely put in their mouth.

Time playing on his/her tummy on the floor, will strengthen their back and get legs into crawling mode.

Social and emotional development

There are some big emotional and physical developments in your child, which you will notice between 6 and 9 months. Your child is becoming able to move around, and take a much more active part in family life.

  • Your child will begin to realise he/she is a separate person, surrounded by their own skin and finishing at their hands and feet. Your child no longer experiences floating in a sea of feelings, and needs, where the outside and the inside are all mixed together. Instead your child begins to feel that they have an outside and an inside and to know where the boundary of the outside is. Your child will start to understand that you are separate from her, and it will worry her when she can't see you or feel you nearby.
  • Your child will begin to recognise and identify his/her own feelings, and that they are different. For instance: your child may know the difference between feeling hungry and feeling lonely, and may be able to give you some clue as to whether he/she wants food or a cuddle. Your child knows this because you have helped him/her to recognise different feelings by responding to their hunger with food, and their loneliness with cuddles etc.
  • Your child will begin to have desires of their own; simple things he/she knows they want, like wanting to hold an object or wanting to be picked up immediately. His/Her desires may not always be the same as yours, and for the first time you may feel yourself clash with their tiny will!
  • Your child will, in the course of these months, come to recognise the important, familiar people in their world, and therefore become sensitive to strangers. By 9 months, your child will be shy with strangers, and for a while he/she might not even want to be too close to people they know, such as grandparents, but this will change. With familiar people it is a very sociable age, and your child will love playing and chatting.

Physical development

Your child will put everything in his/her mouth. Their lips and tongue are the most sensitive part of their body, and will give lots of information about texture, shape and taste. Also, you can swallow some bits of the world [such as food], but not others, and your child is just learning this. Safety is very important!

  • Your child will start to eat some mashed solids around this time, and later some soft finger food, such as toast, [under your supervision].
  • At first it is hard for him/her to work out the eating action because he/she is used to sucking, so keeping the food inside their mouth can be a challenge!
  • Just because the mashed pumpkin gets spat out, does not necessarily mean he/she hates it; he/she may not yet have got the hang of keeping it inside their mouth and swallowing it.
  • Different textures feel very strange to your child at first.

Moving

At some time during these four months, your child will be able to:

  • roll over, front to back and back to front
  • sit alone for a few moments, when you put him/her into a sitting position, then manage to sit by themselves without falling over
  • do push ups when on their tummy, i.e. lift head and chest off the floor, and support themselves on outstretched arms
  • start to move while on their tummy, first 'commando' style (i.e. pulling along on arms), then crawl on all fours
  • reach for a rattle and shake it
  • swap a toy from one hand to the other
  • find their feet, play with them, and put them in their mouth.

Seeing

Your child's eye muscles will be working well, and they will be able to focus on small objects. They will also develop perception of depth, and therefore can be afraid of heights and falling. By 9 months, your child can not only see a drop, but understand that it is scary. Despite this, some children let the desire to move overcome this feeling and try, for example, to roll off the change table.

Hearing

Your child will turn towards familiar sounds and voices, and want to make sounds themself, not only verbally but by banging objects together.

Speech and language

While your child has been cooing and babbling for many weeks, their sounds will now take on a closer resemblance to real words.

  • Your child enjoys making sounds, and knows that he/she has made them.
  • Your child will experiment with, and copy, different sounds like clicks, lip bubbles and "raspberries", as well as their own word-like sounds.
  • Your child will use lots of different sounds to express different emotions; frustrated grunts, squeals and chortles of delight, are all in their repertoire.
  • Your child will listen to you carefully when you speak to him/her, and will 'talk' back to you using babbling sounds
  • Your child will also probably be putting a vowel and a consonant together as in "muum", or "bubbub".
  • Your child might say 'ma-ma-ma' because they can, rather than understanding that this sound is a word he/she can use when wanting mother. Even though it may still be accidental, these same sounds will be repeated, as he/she works out how to make the noises.

Activities for the 6-9 month old

Children love to touch and grasp, and to 'make things happen', i.e. make things shake or bang or move towards them. These activities are great fun, and also help teach cause and effect. If we want our children to be well-rounded when they are grown up, this is very important.

Conceptually children are learning about up and down, as well as coming and going, and will love to play games that act these things out.

Your child would probably love to:

  • have you look into their eyes and share a conversation
  • lie on their back and grab their feet
  • lie on their tummy and reach for a brightly coloured toy or piece of paper
  • have you play, "here is your nose - here is mummy's nose"
  • drop toys from the highchair or pusher, endlessly, and delight in watching you pick it up
  • play 'ahh boo', as you bring your face quickly down to their tummy
  • play 'peek-a-boo', as you hide your face behind a book or cloth, and say his/her name when you come out.

At this age, although they want things that they can hold, and shake, and drop, and put into their mouth, children need most of all to be with, and to have fun interacting with, people. Most especially their parents, and other people who are close to them, such as their brothers and sisters and grandparents. People are much more interesting than things.

Safety

A moving, mouthing child, needs constant supervision and can quickly swallow small objects, or creep into unsafe places. Children are unable to understand about danger. Lock away unsafe objects, or put them up high and out of reach.

Alert!

You should check with a health professional if, by 9 months, your child is not:

  • sitting up without help
  • smiling and laughing out loud
  • grasping, holding and shaking things
  • reaching out for objects and putting them into their mouth
  • turning towards you when you call their name
  • beginning to try some 'solid' foods
  • making lots of different sounds.

Every child is different, but if you are worried that your child is out-of-step with things that most children do, it is a good idea to check with your community child health nurse, or a doctor. If there are any problems, getting help early is important. If there aren't any problems, it will be reassuring to know that all is well.

Summary

Social emotional

A child at this stage usually:

  • knows familiar people, and starts to withdraw from strangers
  • begins to turn around, when their name is called
  • starts to become anxious, if their main caregiver is out of sight
  • stretches up their arms to be picked up
  • initiates gestures such as cough, poking out tongue.

There may be a problem if a child:

  • does not show pleasure when seeing familiar people
  • is not making eye contact
  • cannot be reassured by mother, or close caregiver.

Motor skills

A child at this stage usually:

  • sits without support, by 8 -9 months
  • starts to move around, by 8 months (rolling, creeping)
  • takes objects to mouth, by 6 months.

There may be a problem if a child:

  • is not sitting by 9 months
  • holds their body stiff, and cannot be put in a sitting position
  • is not interested in, and reaching for, objects by 8 months.

Daily activity

A child at this stage usually:

  • can hold a bottle to drink
  • can start to drink from a cup, which is held by an adult, by 6-8 months
  • holds a spoon but cannot use it, by 7 months
  • begins to try some 'solid' foods.

Understanding

A child at this stage usually:

  • looks for a fallen object, by 7 months
  • plays 'peek-a-boo' games
  • cannot understand 'no' or 'danger'.

There may be a problem if a child:

  • does not recognise mother
  • does not show interest in surroundings.

Speech and language

A child at this stage usually:

  • babbles, by 6-7 months, making one and two syllable sounds e.g. 'dada'
  • listens to a person speaking, then 'answers' in babbling sounds.

There may be a problem if a child:

  • does not babble, imitate or make other sounds, when someone talks to him/her.

The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care.
If you have a particular problem, see a doctor.

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