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Mealtime can be another chance to learn that actions have results. This game is particularly useful when your baby seems bored or tired at meals and resists eating.
Appropriate for: 9 months to 2 years
Skills developed: Sense of cause and effect, a good appetite
What you'll need: A stuffed animal or doll, a baby spoon
If it seems that being fed by you just isn't enough of a thrill to help the food go down, enlist some help from a favorite doll, teddy bear, or other stuffed creature.
Bring the toy to the table and explain that a special friend is going to be serving dinner tonight. Holding the spoon in the stuffed animal's paw or the doll's hand, have the dinner guest feed your baby her food. Teddy's cajoling is guaranteed to get better results than Mom or Dad's nagging.
You can also seat the doll or animal next to your baby, tie a bib around its neck, and announce that you are going to "feed" your baby and her guest in turns. Later, when she's learned to hold a spoon well herself, let her spoon-feed her friend. (Be prepared to wash its face afterward, though.)
Story time is extra-special now that your baby seems to treasure particular books. Make it even more fun by turning it into a "campout." (It's a good way to get in some quiet cuddling time on a cold winter night or a long midsummer evening when darkness doesn't come early enough.)
Appropriate for: 9 months to 3 years
Skills developed: Verbal, pre-reading
What you'll need: A large sheet or blanket, two or three chairs, a flashlight, books
Position two kitchen chairs near a third piece of furniture, such as a table or sofa, or use three chairs, and stretch a large sheet or blanket over them to make a tent. (Use a cool cotton sheet on a hot night or a cozy, woolly blanket on a cold one.) Use nonbreakable weighty objects like shoes or books to anchor the edges.
Settle in together with some books and a favorite bedtime toy or blankie, and savor the joys of reading by flashlight. Pick a simple, familiar book, since your baby will likely be a bit distracted by the tent and the flashlight itself .
A word of caution: Don't leave your baby unattended in the tent – she might pull the blanket down and get tangled in it.
Remember: Each baby develops at a different pace, so if yours isn't quite ready for this week's activities, don't worry – just try them again in a few weeks.
Visit your 9-month-old, week 4 page