Until now, your baby has lived by the adage "out of sight, out of mind." If he couldn't see something, it didn't exist. As far as he was concerned, you disappeared every time you walked out of the room. And if a ball happened to roll under the couch, it might as well have slipped into another dimension.
Now that he's in his seventh month, he's ready to make a mental leap. He's slowly coming to the realization that things don't vanish just because he can't see them. As a child development specialist would say, your baby is grasping the concept of "object permanence." He might announce this breakthrough by calling for you when you're in another room. He might also start looking for favorite toys that aren't immediately in his line of sight.
Picking up on peek-a-boo
It's no wonder babies of this age love to play peek-a-boo. It's not just a fun game with Mom or Dad; it's a chance to refine their new theory. Mom can cover her face with her hands, but she's still there. Wow!
After a good round of peek-a-boo, try playing some hide and seek with a favorite toy. Put the toy under a blanket and watch the wheels in your baby's head spin. If he looks baffled, show him the toy and cover it up again. He'll be thrilled to realize that he can find hidden things all by himself.
Your baby still lives in the moment, but he's also starting to think about the past. He remembers familiar faces and favorite toys. He remembers how people treat him, too. If you give him cuddles and kisses while he's playing quietly by himself, he's more likely to play that way in the future. And when he tries to pull the cat's tail, give him a firm "no" and divert his attention to something else. He'll think twice before doing it again.
"No" is just one of the words that will suddenly make sense to your baby. If you talk to him often and point out objects throughout the day, he'll develop an impressive vocabulary long before he actually speaks his first words. Give him plenty of chances to hear useful words often -- words like mama, daddy, hot, doggie, and go -- and use his name when you talk to him. Reading books with simple words and plenty of interesting pictures will also help build his vocabulary.
And when your baby starts babbling, listen. There might actually be a pattern to the nonsense. If you pay close attention, you may discover that he says certain syllables when he's hungry and other syllables when he wants to play. If you can pick up on these cues, respond to them promptly and consistently. Your baby will feel less frustrated, and he'll learn that language has power.
Some babies are more talkative than others. But if your baby isn't babbling at all by the time he's seven months old, contact his pediatrician. At this age, silence can be a sign of a hearing problem.
Chances are, silence is the least of your problems. Most babies of this age love to make noise, whether it's with their voices or a metal pot. Yelling, banging, crying, laughing --he's making an important statement. He's a part of this world. A loud, important part.
American Pregnancy Association. First year of development. Updated 10/2007. http://www.americanpregnancy.org/firstyearoflife/firstyeardevelopment.html
Virginia Cooperative Extension. Understanding growth and development patterns of infants. May 2009. http://www.ext.vt.edu/pubs/family/350-055/350-055.html
Sears, William and Martha. The Baby Book: Everything You Need to Know About Your Baby From Birth to Age Two. 2003. Little, Brown and Company.
American Academy of Pediatrics. Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five. 1998. Bantam Books.