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Little Kids, Big Questions
is a series of 12 podcasts that translates the research of early childhood development into parenting practices that mothers, fathers and other caregivers can tailor to the needs of their own child and family. Click here to listen to or download the podcasts. This podcast series is generously funded by MetLife Foundation.

How can I help to motivate my 9-month-old to move around and explore? He seems to prefer sitting and observing the action.

Q: How do I help my 9-month-old be more motivated to explore?  He prefers to sit and watch, and doesn’t often seek out new toys or show much interest in crawling all around like my friends’ babies do.

A: Just as adults have their own approach to the world, so do babies. Some are outgoing and eager for new experiences while others need more time to get used to new situations. Some are very action-oriented and love to explor through movement.  Others are content to observe and explore in less active ways. Your baby may be just as curious about the world as his peers, but his style of learning right now may be by watching, rather than doing. (If you have questions about his physical development, it is important to discuss this with  your child’s health care provider.)

Being sensitive to your baby's cues and respecting his temperament is important for fostering his positive self-esteem. You can nurture your son’s curiosity and motivation to learn about the world by following his lead--seeing what he is interested in and building on that. Children learn so much more through activities that capture their attention and natural interests. For example, if your son likes music, play it for him often, make and play instruments together, dance together. If he is fascinated by colors and patterns, put colorful pictures at his level, give him books to look at with beautifully drawn illustrations, and let him experiment with finger paints when he gets a bit older.  Last but not least, don’t forget to be curious yourself. Take a walk outside and wonder aloud with your baby about the trees, the sky, the stars. 

A version of this question first appeared in American Baby magazine.

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