It’s an exciting day when baby discovers how to use her hands. Around the age of four months, the development of binocular vision – the eyes learning to work together on depth perception – makes reaching and grasping possible. Mom may have to put away her dangly earrings for the next several months, and parents who wear glasses must be on the alert for babies who grab and fling these intriguing objects to the floor. Give baby interesting things to hold and explore with his hands at this age: lightweight rattles that are easy to grasp, a plastic or rubber ring to hold with both hands, toys that make noise when you squeak or shake them, small plush animals or dolls. Rattles that attach to babies’ ankles add excitement to kicking. At five to six months, babies begin to enjoy more time on the floor. Surround your baby with plenty of interesting toys to open up a whole new world of floor play fun you can enjoy together.
Gross motor development
During these months baby will gain more upper body strength and balance so he can progress toward sitting. Baby’s interest in his surroundings will prompt him to roll to the side and eventually all the way over. Tummy time will be more fun for baby as he begins to push up and eventually starts to scoot forward. Here are some ways you can promote these gross motor skills through interactive play:
- Babies begin to purposefully wave their arms and kick their feet. Give baby some play time in a bouncer seat so he can learn how his movements make him bounce.
- Your baby will begin to respond to your playful interaction by waving his arms and legs. Foot and wrist rattles will reward his antics with interesting sounds. Clap and cheer baby on and he will respond with more excitement.
- Encourage your baby to reach and roll over by placing a favorite toy next to him just out of reach.
- You can now enjoy some more floor time with baby as she learns to push herself up on her elbows. This newly acquired position gives baby a better view of her surroundings.
- Your baby will soon begin to tummy-crawl. Place some toys just out of reach to spur your baby forward.
Fine motor development
Baby’s accuracy steadily improves through these months until he can reach out and grab toys precisely. Your baby will transfer objects back and forth between hands and play with toys in a more purposeful way. Baby’s sensitive fingers will learn to explore different textures and smaller objects. Here are some ways you can promote these fine motor skills through interactive play:
- Your curious baby’s little fingers will be intrigued by movable toy parts, gadgets and varying textures. Show your baby the fun features on each new toy.
- Baby begins to reach out for anything and everything placed within his reach. Keep baby’s hands busy by engaging him with a toy whenever you are on the move together in a baby sling, stroller or car seat.
- A fun floor-time exercise is to dangle a favorite toy in front of baby to practice his hand coordination and aim.
- Baby’s two-handed grabbing skills will mature into a skillful one-handed reach. Challenge your baby with two toys at once so he goes for one with each hand.
- Babies begin to explore various body parts. One of the first is hands and fingers. Little finger puppets make this even more fun, and your own fingers can join baby in this playtime.
- Transferring objects back and forth between hands is an important coordination skill at this stage. Keep babies hands busy with favorite toys to enhance this learning.
- Take time to read through activity books together. These are great for practicing baby’s reaching skills.
Your baby can now see clearly at a greater distance. This will enhance his interaction with you and his surroundings. Baby develops better binocular vision which makes his play with toys more accurate. Your baby will try to make frequent eye contact with you to connect during playtime. Here are some ways you can promote these visual skills through interactive play:
- Baby’s visual tracking skills improve during this stage. Moving mobiles are a great way to enhance this skill. Watch as your baby follows the hanging toys in a full circle.
- Flashing colorful lights will draw your baby’s attention. These are even more fun when baby can activate lights and music on his toys.
- Mirror play is a fun way for baby to begin to explore her own features as well as yours. Keep several mirrored toys handy.
Social and cognitive development
During these months babies will show more decision-making during play. She will attempt to pick up two toys at a time and take more time to study and understand each toy. Baby will respond more to your interaction and begin to mimic facial gestures and moods. Your baby will laugh more responsively to your stimulation. Here are some ways you can promote your baby’s social and cognitive skills through interactive play:
- As baby plays, he begins to exercise his decision-making skills. As baby is engaged with one toy, place another before him. Watch as he decides to put aside one toy in favor of another, and back again.
- Show your baby the features of each new toy to help him discover toys are not just for chewing on.
- Baby will respond more socially to your antics. Take as much time as you can everyday for interactive play and watch your baby’s responsiveness and communication grow.
- Your baby will begin to communicate to you her need for relief from teething pain. Keep plenty of “teethable” toys on hand to soothe baby’s aching gums.
Hearing and language development
Babies will begin to use body language to express their needs. Baby sounds become more varied as your infant explores her vocal abilities. You will see your baby respond more readily to your voice, and turn more accurately toward interesting sounds. Here are some ways you can promote your baby’s hearing and language skills through interactive play:
- You can use sounds to engage your baby in play. Toys that rattle, squeak, crinkle or beep will help your baby focus in and locate objects by their familiar sounds.
- Help your baby learn cause and effect by showing her how to make sounds with each toy.
- Play “find the toy” with your baby by making some familiar toy sounds out of baby’s sight. Keep making noise to help your baby learn to focus on and locate sounds.
- Talk or sing to your baby as you move about your day. This will help baby recognize and be comforted by your familiar voice.
- Babies love to “sing” along with their caregivers. The more you interact verbally with baby, to more he will learn to imitate your speech sounds.
- Singing and music are perfect ways to delight your baby while in the stroller or car seat