With a determined baby on the move, you may be wondering, “How can they possibly create such a big mess in so few seconds?!” Whether it’s pulling pans out of kitchen cabinets, scattering toys, smearing poo, or painting the table with a breakfast puree, 10-month-old babies are little agents of chaos. 

Or, at least, that’s how it looks to us. However, from your child’s point of view, they aren’t making a mess, they are hard at work on some serious experiments: Those aren’t pots, they’re musical instruments and that food is wonderful edible fingerpaint. 

Yes, you are constantly cleaning up messes in your baby’s wake, but they are doing exactly what they’re supposed to. That said, it’s never too early to involve your baby in cleaning up. Try saying, “Okay, now it’s time to put everything away! Can you help me?” You’ll undoubtedly end up doing 99% of the work yourself, but your observant baby will join in soon enough.

Your 10-Month-Old Baby’s Development 

10-Month-Old Baby Toys: Stack ‘Em Up

Stacking toys may be a big hit these days. Stacking is a great way to practice focus, patience, persistence and—of course–hand-eye coordination. Their tower of toys may fall over…again and again, but what matters is your kiddo is learning to persevere and that they can start again! (In fact, don’t be surprised when they start intentionally knocking over their creations…for the joy of hearing it crash and the fun of building it up, all over again.)  

First Words From a 10-Month-Old Baby…Are Signed, Not Spoken

The first spoken words may be months away, but baby sign language is here already! Your little one will automatically learn simple signs like nodding the head for “yes” and shaking it for “no” or pointing to what they want or putting up a hand to push away unwanted food.

Sign language is a fun way to jumpstart “talking.” By 1 year, your little friend may be able to speak two to three words (sometimes more), but by using signs many tots can “say” 10 to 20 words. 

The ability to sign flourishes in your child’s “toddler” brain—that is, the right half where development is zooming ahead of the left “adult” half (the center of adult talents, like patience, eloquence, analytical ability, and delayed gratification…all of which will come online later). The right brain is the center of emotions and the place where we learn to use a wonderful set of “paints” (the loudness and tone of your voice, look on your face, pointing and shrug and other body gestures) that we use to color the words we say with our happiness, sadness, and full rainbow of feelings.

Singing Is Fun, Too

Another fun “toddler” brain skill that your baby is beginning to love is music! Don’t worry about your singing ability, you are your baby’s favorite pop star! They love your voice and they love little sing-song-y ditties. You’ll see that your child gets excited when they recognize familiar tunes. 

But don’t be afraid to spring a remix on them! They will also love it when you throw in some unexpected changes every now and then. Every few times you sing a song, play around by gently varying the speed of your singing, the high and low pitch, slight pauses, and accenting different words.

Baby Steps Toward Baby Steps for 10-Month-Olds

You’ve heard that crawling comes before walking. But that oversimplifies an absolutely enormous challenge that your baby has to overcome. In between the crawling and walking, your baby has to master standing independently and then cruising (that’s walking while holding on to something, like your fingers or a sofa). 

Why is this such a huge challenge? Because of your child’s huge, heavy brain. Your child’s head weighs about 2 pounds—which is the equivalent of our heads being twice as big and heavy as they are! And that’s not all, their neck is thin, their muscles are weak, and their ability to balance is like a tipsy sailor. Imagine being tipsy, with your head twice as big and your neck half as strong…as you try to balance on 4-foot stilts! 

Now you’re beginning to see why they keep their feet wide apart when they stand…and hold onto whatever they can for balance. And you can understand why it’s so exciting for them…and why they’re so proud when they take those first few steps!

On top of it all, standing allows them to have a thrilling new view of the world. They feel like they are suddenly 1000 feet higher than they are when belly-crawling on the carpet. No wonder why they don’t want to stop and pull to standing even when they wake at night.

After developing the ability to balance and coordinate, they will put the two skills together when they are ready for those first baby steps. On average, babies take their first solo steps around their first birthday, some a few months earlier or later. The timing has no relation to intelligence or even coordination, according to a study from the Swiss National Science Foundation. But it definitely tests our intelligence. We must be super smart and remove lamp and TV cords that a toddler can tug, install childproof latches on cabinets, put up gates around stairs, etc. 

Your Baby’s Sleep at 10 Months

Bedtime Routine for 10-Month-Old Babies

Now that your baby is in a more predictable day-night routine, it’s probably a good time to spiff up the bedtime routine. Here are a few things to consider:

  • In a sense, a good bedtime starts during the day with time outside for sun and fresh air and eating good food and taking naps to avoid getting overtired. 
  • About 30 to 60 minutes before you plan to turn the lights out, start the pre-bed routine: dim the house lights, turn on some rumbly white noise, turn off the TV, and do quiet play (reading, massage, bath time, etc).
  • Start the “get in bed” routine 20 to 30 minutes before bedtime. Some combo of singing, snuggles, and reading stories is a good place to start. The white noise is on, the lights are dim, and the temperature should be between 66 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit (19 to 22 degrees Celsius). Check that your child is not cold by feeling the ears and nose. If they’re cool to the touch, bundle your babe a bit more or turn up the room temperature.
  • A few other little tips can also help: Put a drop of lavender oil on the mattress or crib to give a calming, reassuring scent that gently reminds your baby “Ahhh...it’s bed time!” Another nice sleep signal is to play the same lullaby music every night in addition to using the white noise. Some babies love it when you warm the bed a little (before putting your little one in bed, warm the mattress with a bean bag that you microwaved for one to two minutes, but always remove the bean bag before putting your baby in bed).
  • If your baby loves the pacifier or little stuffed animals, around 9 months you can offer a pacifier and/or start to give your little one a hand-sized silky as part of the bedtime routine. However, to avoid suffocation, it’s wise to wait for the first birthday before allowing your child to sleep with a stuffed animal lovey or blankets. Until then, a sleep sack will keep them warm all night. 

What to do if your 10-month-old baby won’t sleep?

  • Use strong sleep cues, like low, rumbly white noise, which can cover up outside disruptions (the sound of a noisy car driving by) as well as internal disturbances, like teething pain. (For white noise we’re partial to our SNOObear, which plays special doctor-designed white noise…and looks adorable in any baby’s room!) 
  • Make sure your bub’s room is a comfortable temperature and is dark (even a little bit of light sneaking in can cause wake-ups). 
  • Take care of teething pain. Ask your doctor about giving ibuprofen or acetaminophen 30 minutes before bed (it takes a little time to work). A frozen washcloth can also be soothing on sore gums. (Related: How to help a teething baby)
  • Add extra fat to your little one’s diet. In addition to making sure your baby is getting enough breastmilk or formula, consider boosting the fat content of evening feeds with avocado, or a bit of olive oil or butter mixed into food.
  • Adjust bedtime. If you’ve tried everything else and ZZZs are still eluding your little buddy, it’s possible bedtime is too early, too late, or too irregular. 

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About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.