By 7-8 months typically developing infants have usually learned to sit independently which frees the hands for exploration and manipulation of interesting objects and toys. Sitting erect also changes the infant's field of vision, introducing new possibilities for visual and manual exploration.
Between 8-15 months the infants' exploration of interesting objects and toys becomes more systematic, complex and attuned to their shape and size and they start to understand the possibilities for action afforded by different objects.
Research by Michelle Lobo the team from the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Indiana has tracked the development of these exploratory behaviors in typically developing and preterm infants. The identified 10 exploratory behaviors, including holding, transferring, shaking, banging, looking, manipulating, picking, fingering, mouthing, rotation, squeezing.
See Lobo, M. A., Kokkoni, E., de Campos, A. C., & Galloway, J. C. (2014). Not Just Playing Around: Infants’ Object Behaviors Reflect Ability, Constraints, and Object Properties. Infant Behavior & Development, 37(3), 334–351 Article
At this age infants' manual actions also start to become more goal directed - they start to build towers, remove toys from containers and pack them away again, post objects through apertures, take things apart and fit them together again.
Typically when encountering a new object infants will engage in a series of actions that include fingering, mouthing, shaking, banging, passing from one hand to the other and turning it over.
Inspecting and exploring toys
Flexes and extends the fingers repeatedly when exploring a toy
Infants take particular delight in playing with flaps and labels on toys.
Grips small flat objects between thumb and forefinger
Notice how Roan (9 months) carefully positions the hand in readiness for grasping the flap on the toy.
Spends time exploring a new toy using two hands
Infants take time to inspect a new toy using both hands. They turn the toy over, turn it around, shake it and bang it on hard surface, taste it.
They also watch their own hand actions and visually inspect the toy with sustained attention. For subscribers: Videos of Will 9 months iexploring toys
Visually inspects a toy - turns it over and around
The infant looks at the toy with great interest , turning it around and inspecting it from all angles.
This visual exploration is important for making the connections in the brain that link what the infant sees to how the toy feels and behaves and also to the hand movement that are used to grasp and move the toy.
Adjusts shape and position of hand ready for grasping
Here you see how Will aged 10 months opens the fingers and aligns the hand in readiness for grasping the toy with the left hand.
At this age the hand will still open a lot more than needed for the action.
Shakes a toy to discover if it makes a noise
If the toy does not make a noise, the infant will usually stop the shaking action.
If the toy does make a noise, the infant will shake it several times before continuing to explore the toy in different ways. For subscribers: Exploring differnt ways to shake bells
Mouths a toy briefly to explore texture and taste
At 8 - 10 months the infant will still spend a little time exploring the taste and texture of a toy with the mouth. However this is usually quite brief and the infant quickly moves on the exploring the toy in different ways.
Passes toy from one hand to the other
Infants pass toys from one hand to the other repeatedly.
This is important for learning to use the two hands together, including moving the hands to the right place at the tight time.
Approaches and picks up larger object with two hands
Infant quickly learn when an object needs two hands for lifting.
Shaking, banging and drumming
Shakes a toy that makes a noise
Spends time shaking the toy in different ways to explore how different movements change the sound that is produced by the shaking action.
Stops and starts, speeds up, slows down and changes the direction of movements, changes hands. For subscribers: Exploring different ways to shake bells
Bangs toys on a hard surface
Vigorously bangs toys on a hard surface to discover if it makes a noise. Toys that produce a satisfying sound are banged repeatedly.
Bangs two blocks together
Picks up small hard toys such as blocks and bangs them together repeatedly.
The accuracy of the banging action improves over tome.
Drums with hands on hard surfaces that make a pleasing noise
Bangs an open hand against a flat surface that produces an interesting sound. Explores drumming with one hand or both hands together.
Drumming is usually done in response to a demonstration by a play partner. Video clips for subscribers: Drumming games with Pam
Takes turns in a drumming game with a play partner
The infant watches and copies the actions of a play partner who initiates the game. Infants are sensitive to turn taking.
Knocking over and building towers
Knocks over towers and other tall toys
Stacks two or three blocks or tubs to make a tower
Drop, throw, hide and look
Drops toys over side of feeding chair - watches them land.
This action teaches the infant a great deal about what happens when a toy falls onto a hard surface: What sort of noise does it make, does it bounce and roll?
Throws toys backwards and then looks for them
This seems to be a favorite game for infants.
Tipping out and unpacking
Reaches into a container to retrieve a toy
Tips toys out of a box or tub
Packing in and posting
Packs toys into a container
Holds toy over the opening and releases it.
Posts a ball through a round hole in a box
Infants love posting games.
Posts a rod into a hole
This is more difficult than posting a ball into a round hole. The stick needs to aligned at right angles to the hole to fit through. Short rods are easier than longer rods.
Taking things apart and fitting them together
Takes lids off and puts them on again
Takes apart a toy egg or tub
This requires a strong grip and forceful pulling action. Fitting them together again requires precision in matching the pieces.
Grasp and pull
Pulls toys apart
Knows how to grasp firmly and pull hard to pull a toy apart.
Pulls on a cloth to bring a toy nearer
Picking up and moving large objects
Infants enjoy the challenge of picking up and moving large objects. Heavy objects provide an added challenge.
Imitation and following instructions
Copies simple actions
Imitates caregiver's everyday actions
Copies a complex action on a toy.
Here I show Roan how to pull a toy apart.
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