Kelly Ross, M.D.
Pediatrician at St. Louis Children's Hospital in Missouri, and mother of triplets
Providing a safe and positive environment for exploration is the key to fostering independence. Let your baby wander safe distances from you during play dates or visits with family. When he looks back to you, offer encouragement and reassurance that his distance is okay. When he gets too far, give him verbal cues to come closer. Allow him to climb on pillows or other objects or to cruise around furniture without sharp corners. When he falls, provide a simple "uh-oh" and allow him to try again. Through trial and error and your verbal cues, he'll learn to explore, build motor skills, and develop independence.
Samantha Maplethorpe, M.D.
Family physician in Issaquah, Washington, and mother of three
Babies this age often like to explore while being able to return to you frequently for comfort. Being there when he returns will help him gain confidence to explore further with less need for reassurance. Give your baby opportunities to do things for himself, like drinking from a cup and feeding himself. Find things that he can do (such as putting a napkin in the trash), and praise him when he does well. Babies need to feel confident and safe before they feel ready to explore independently. Each child will find his own independence on his own timeline.
Leslie Gavin, Ph.D.
Child psychologist in Orlando, Florida, and mother of four
Clinical psychologist in Orlando, Florida
Babies vary in their level of independence, but a natural movement toward independence occurs as they become more mobile. In most cases, you won't need to foster this skill because your baby will want to do things on his own, particularly as he begins to walk. This growth represents a natural unfolding of his own innate need to be a separate person. Sometimes, as parents, we feel a little ambivalent about our baby walking away from us. Consciously or unconsciously, we may try to hold on by continuing to hand feed him, discouraging him from becoming attached to others, and so on. It's important to let your child explore and develop his own likes and dislikes about activities and foods. You may even be able to let him play without you and make some simple choices ("Do you want the red socks or green socks today?").
some info for mama mama like me...from BabyCentre.com