Magic of Everyday Moments - Chart on everyday ways to learn (4-6 months)

Based on content from ZERO TO THREE®: National Center for Infants, Toddler and Families.

For every age range, there are important developmental milestones. Learn "What to expect" and "What you can do" to enrich your baby's learning through everyday routines and interactions.

What to expect between 4 and 6 months

I'm in Control

What To Expect:
Your baby has greater control over her body. She may be able to roll both ways, become better at reaching and grasping, and will begin to sit with assistance. She will also be able to use both hands to explore.

What You Can Do:

  • Place your baby in different positions-on her back, stomach and sitting with support. Each gives a different perspective on the world and a chance to develop different skills such as rolling, creeping and crawling, and using both hands while sitting.
  • Play reaching and grasping games. Hold enticing toys just within her reach and encourage her to grab them.

I Can Do It!

What To Expect:
Your baby learns how things work and that he can make things happen. He uses his new motor skills to pick up and explore objects in new ways. He will watch you to learn what to do.

What You Can Do:

  • Give him a variety of toys with different textures, shapes, weights and functions. Join in his exploration of them.
  • Show him different ways to use things: switching objects from one hand to another, shaking, banging, pushing and dropping.

What's Next?

What To Expect:
Your baby loves to anticipate what will happen next. She will look to you with excitement, letting you know she wants to do it again. It gives her a sense of control when she knows what to expect.

What You Can Do:

  • Speak to her while getting ready to feed her, whether it's by breast or bottle. This lets her know comfort is near and helps her learn to wait.
  • Play peek-a-boo; pause briefly after you've "disappeared" to give her time to think about what will happen next.
  • Establish routines. As much as possible, keep everyday routines in the same sequence; for example: dinner, bath, stories, lullabies, sleep.

All By Myself

What To Expect:
Your baby will want to explore his food and help feed himself. Touching and tasting different foods is an important part of his learning. Feeding himself builds his self-confidence.

What You Can Do:

  • Let him play with your fingers and explore the bottle or breast during feedings. This may get messy; but it is an essential part of his learning as he discovers what different foods and liquids feel and taste like.
  • As he grows, let him handle finger foods and encourage him to feed himself by giving him his own spoon.

I've Got Something to Say

What To Expect:
Your baby will make lots of different sounds to you, to other people, to her toys and to whatever else inspires her. All of this vocalizing is the foundation for speech. The more you respond, the more confident and eager she will be to keep "talking."

What You Can Do:

  • Listen when she talks and look right into her eyes. When she pauses, respond, and then wait. This turn-taking teaches her how to have a conversation.
  • Start lots of conversations and see if she picks up your cues. But don't forget about reading her signals. When she doesn't want to talk, don't push it. She may need a break.

It's All in the Mouth

What To Expect:
At 4 months, your baby is eager to explore every aspect of the world around him. He learns through his senses. Mouthing objects is just another way to "know" an object. It often has less to do with hunger or teething.

What You Can Do:

  • Make certain that any object your baby gets his hands on is clean and safe for mouthing. That means it must be big enough not to fit entirely into his mouth, and smooth enough not to scratch or irritate.
  • Offer toys with lots of variation in shape and texture. Bumpy, smooth, round and square are all distinctions that can be made by mouth.

Hand it Over

What To Expect:
Four-month-olds still aren't using their thumb to grasp things; and, as they shift from two-handed to one-handed play, they will hold things by pressing their fingers against their palms.

What You Can Do:

  • Offer your baby toys that are easily grasped, with lots of handles. And make sure they're light enough in weight for your baby to hang on to and big enough not to fit into her mouth.
  • Keep in mind that while your baby can hold onto a toy and even reach for it, she can't yet purposefully open up her hand and let it go. When a 4-month-old drops a toy, it isn't because she meant to drop it!

I am a Person

What To Expect:
By 4 months you have a good idea of how your baby is different or similar to other babies his age. During the next few months he will become very good at letting you know his likes and dislikes, as well as his interests.

  • When your baby turns away, arches his back, or starts to cry during play or at other times, don't take it personally; it may be his way of saying that he needs a break from this intense interaction. It might be the perfect time for a refreshing pause, like holding him close and singing a soothing melody.
  • Think about your baby's personality. Does he like noisy environments or prefer quiet? Is he a jump-right-in kid, or a let-me-wait-and-see kid? There is no single right way to be. You just need to understand and respect who he is.