8 Learning and Development Activities for 9-Month-Olds

At 9 months your little one is hitting a wide range of brain development milestones and is likely becoming more and more active. Keeping your 9-month-old entertained all day while also keeping them from swallowing everything in sight is far from easy. 

As parents, we get it—and we’re here to help. That’s why we chatted with Occupational Therapist Allie Ticktin MA, OTD, OTR/L on her top advice for this critical stage of development. Together, we’ve gathered some carefully selected activities for your 9-month-old, tips on how to keep them safe and insights into exactly what’s going on in their developmental world. 

What Are the Developmental Stages of a 9-Month-Old? 

While ages are helpful when assessing developmental milestones, each child is different, says Allie Ticktin. That being said, “at around 9 months I would want to see a baby crawling, which I believe is a really important milestone,” she emphasizes. 

Some other developmental milestones to look out for: 

  • Sitting independently
  • Pulling on furniture or anything else around to help them stand 
  • Cruising along furniture as an early sign of walking 
  • Clapping, waving and pointing 

In terms of fine motor skills, they’ll begin to use their thumb and index finger (which is called a pincer grasp) to pick up things like their food. “It’s so much fun to watch them begin to really explore their environment at this age,” says Ticktin. 

What Words Should a 9-Month-Old Be Saying?

At 9 months you’ve probably noticed your little one making a variety of different sounds (even if they’re not recognizable as words yet). At around this age, some babies are able to say things such as:

  • Mama
  • Dada
  • Baba

However, when your husband insists that he’s ahead of the game because baby said “Dada” before “Mama”, don’t worry. At 9 months your baby doesn’t quite grasp the relationship between these words and the people they refer to

Instead, your little one is flexing their vocal abilities and training up their brain through every sound they make. So, treasure and encourage every “goo goo ga ga”, because baby will be stringing proper words together before you can blink. 

The Best Brain Development Activities for 9-Month-Olds 

mom playing with her 9 month old at home

At 9 months your little one is developing fast and it can be a real joy to see how they’re coming along. To keep baby’s curious brain stimulated while they’re in this magical stage, try doing a few of the below developmental activities with them. 

1. House Exploration

The best activities for 9-month-olds don’t have to be complex or expensive. “At this age, they’re in the sensorimotor stage and their brain is rapidly developing, therefore it is important that a child has the opportunity to learn through their senses,” says Ticktin. A great way to do this is by allowing your tiny human to explore your home. 

How to do this: Ticktin recommends ensuring that your house is baby-proofed, rather than trying to contain your little one to a specific area. Once the house is ready to go, let your 9-month-old explore it at their own pace. Follow along as they travel around your home and look at everything with wonder. 

Skills developed: By allowing your little one to roam around your home, they engage all of their senses. “It’s through exploration and engaging these senses that they’ll build neural connections in their brain,” Ticktin says.

2. Container Play

Another brain development activity Ticktin recommends is container play. All you need are some cardboard or plastic boxes from your kitchen cupboard or recycling bin filled with fun stimulating items such as scarves or blocks—similar to DIY sensory bins

How to do this: Encourage your little one to take things out of the box and put them back in. 

Skills developed: This activity helps your baby to develop their fine motor skills as they play around in the boxes. The best part? It keeps them entertained at little to no cost. 

3. Peekaboo

While this may seem like a simple activity your dad does to make baby laugh, it can actually help your little one’s development. 

How to do this: Find a large piece of cardboard or material and ‘hide’ baby behind it. When you pull the material away and ‘find’ baby, make a lot of excited sounds and happy facial expressions. 

Skills developed: This activity helps your little one understand the idea of object permanence as they start to realize that just because someone or something can’t be seen, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. 

4. Sing-Along

Just because your baby can’t sing yet, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t expose them to music. 

How to do this: Find baby-friendly songs up on YouTube and sing along with your little one.

Skills developed: This will help them to develop their vocabulary. Plus, it’s a great bonding moment for both of you. 

The Best Sensory Activities for Your 9-Month-Old 

9 month old girl playing outside on jungle gym

“Babies learn by engaging their senses”, says Ticktin. To help your little one learn through sensory play and experiences, try some of the below activities.

1. Park Adventure

A really easy way to engage your baby’s senses is to take them to a family-friendly park. Think of it as a much cheaper amusement park for baby. Everything they encounter is novel and interesting for them—go along for the ride and see the world with new eyes.

How to do this: Take your little one to the park and let them crawl around a clean area. 

Targeted senses: All senses are targeted with this activity. At the park they’ll encounter different textures and smells that will fuel their curiosity. The sound of a hummingbird buzzing, the feeling of slightly damp grass, and the beautiful smells and sights of brightly colored flowers are a feast for your baby’s senses. 

2. Couch Mountain

One way to help your 9-month-old develop their proprioception (where we are in space) is through the couch cushion game. Sound familiar? If not, here’s a quick rundown. 

How to do this: Place your couch pillows on the floor and position your little one’s favorite toy on the other side of the pillows. Encourage them to climb right over the couch pillows to get the toy.

Targeted senses: This activity challenges baby to have a sense of where their body is in relation to the toy they desire, helping them understand where they are in space. 

3. Dance Off

“Movement is an important piece of sensory play,” says Ticktin. So, challenge your little one to a dance off to help develop their sense of movement. 

How to do this: Try doing simple moves with your arms that your baby can then copy. Reward them with positive attention if they manage to imitate you. Try cycling through a few different genres of music to see what they respond best to. Is your little one more into doing the macarena or jamming out to classic rock?

Targeted senses: Helps them to develop a sense of their body and movement. 

4. Make Music 

On top of dancing, try making simple music with your little one. This will help them develop their auditory sense. 

How to do it: Offer your little one some pots to bang on or cushions (to spare your ears) and let them create away. Practice with them so they know what to do. 

Senses targeted: Making music stimulates their auditory senses and helps your tiny human discern different sounds. 

How to Keep Baby From Putting Everything in Their Mouth

You’ve probably noticed that your little one tries to put everything from the old cheerio under the couch to a dead bug in their mouth. “This is a tough one,” admits Ticktin. Babies explore the world through their mouths, which is one of the reasons why they’re drawn to putting everything and anything in there. 

Ticktin’s number one tip is to try to be proactive and keep all small items locked away or out of baby’s reach. When they do grab something they shouldn’t have, take take the item away and replace it with something safe—like a teether. 

Tips for Entertaining Your Little One All Day 

Let’s be honest—children at this stage need constant stimulation and attention which can feel overwhelming (and exhausting). Even after engaging in the above activities, your little one may still be bouncing off the walls. The next time this happens, try some of the below activities:

  • Let them play and paint with puree (safe and yummy!)
  • Give them a box of tissues to pull out to their heart’s desire 
  • Make bathtime about having fun instead of just getting clean by introducing bathtime toys or baby-friendly bubbles
  • Blow bubbles for your baby and see how they react with wonder 
  • Don’t underestimate how much your baby will enjoy you making funny faces at them
  • Read your little one a story—and do different voices for all the characters 
  • Strap baby into their stroller and take a walk down the street 
  • Take a day trip and show baby new sights and sounds

Last but not least, Ticktin encourages parents to turn challenges into learning moments. If your little one is struggling with something such as reaching for a toy, don’t just do it for them. Instead, make the task a little bit easier and/or offer encouragement until they succeed. 

Your baby at 9 months is an inquisitive and curious bundle of fun. Ticktin recommends keeping things simple and using the play you did as a child as inspiration. Remember to have fun and enjoy being silly with your tiny human. 

At GoodBuy Gear, we like to be there for every step of your parenting journey with the infant gear you need to help your little one reach their full potential. If you’re looking for more ways to keep your tiny human entertained, check out our toy collection


About Allie Ticktin

Allie Ticktin headshot

Allie Ticktin is an occupational therapist specializing in sensory integration. Allie is the founder of Play 2 Progress and the author of the book, Play to Progress: Lead Your Child to Success Using the Power of Sensory Play published by TarcherPerigee at Penguin Random House. Allie uses the science of child development and the joy of play to boost childrens’ confidence and enhance development within all areas of their life, from social and emotional to physical and academic. Allie believes that the best way to support children is by arming their parents, from inception, with the knowledge and skills necessary to encourage their child’s development for success through childhood and beyond.




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