Stages of Play: Four to Six Months Old

It's time to play. Learn how to engage with your little one as they become more interactive.

Stages of Play: Four to Six Months Old

Serhii Sobolevskyi/ Getty Images

Want to know what to expect from your growing baby? These guides share general timelines for developmental milestones and how to encourage new stages of play.

Before you get started, learn how to calculate your baby's adjusted age based on their due date and birth date. Much of your baby's development is tied to time in utero so babies born early may need time to reach full-term development.

Why tummy time is so important at this stage

You made it through the newborn period—and those around-the-clock feeds—that deserves to be celebrated. Now, you’re entering a new stage with your baby, one where they are more alert, more interested in their environment, and more awake during the day.

As your baby becomes more alert and mobile, each day will bring new adventure—and it’s recommended that those days start with tummy time. 

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics says a baby can start tummy time as early as their first day home from the hospital.
  • Tummy time is a great way to help your baby strengthen their muscles and gain more confidence on their belly (which is important once they start rolling). 

Some babies hate tummy time, which can feel discouraging. If your baby is still fussing in tummy time, practice is key. If you're wondering how much tummy time does your baby need, don't worry. Even a minute or two a few times a day can help strengthen their neck muscles.

  • Remember: all babies develop at their own pace.
  • If your baby isn’t rolling yet, rolling them in and out of tummy time is a great way to encourage them to start. 
  • Often babies will roll from their tummy to their back first (usually by accident because of their heavy heads).
  • Moving from their back to their tummy comes second, but don’t worry if you initially see one and not the other.
baby laying on tummy looking at the camera Source: Getty

How to support a baby's development at this stage

When your baby is propped over your shoulder, you may notice their head is a bit more stable. (This is thanks to tummy time.) You may also see that they’re starting to grab at things like your earrings or hair. This is because they’ve just realized they have hands and they’ll begin to use them with purpose.

  • Your baby will stick their hands in their mouth, and use them to grab their feet or reach for toys.
  • Your baby will use their mouth to discover the taste and texture of objects. It helps strengthen their tongue and other muscles needed to manipulate solid food and talk later on.

While it may feel like you need to engage with your baby around the clock, it’s actually healthy for them to explore some independence (here is where you can sneak in a hot coffee).

  • Use toys and activities that allow your baby to explore, move, and learn.
  • Your baby’s best play space is unrestricted and on the floor, inviting them to discover their bodies.

Around this age, your baby will start to recognize familiar faces, voices, and smells. It’s also when their personality starts to show. You’ll begin to see your baby express basic emotions such as happiness, anger, sadness, distress, and surprise.

And you’ll notice your voice and touch bring them comfort. Soothing and snuggling your crying baby is entirely okay. It will not cause any bad habits. 

Another great perk of this age is the giggles. Your baby will start to anticipate familiar games (for example, become excited when tickled) and will laugh and smile when socially engaged. You may also hear them babble closer to the end of this range.

There are many toys great for this period of development

  • Various teething toys are popular, especially ones your baby can get into their mouth and explore with their tongue. 
  • Different sensory balls and rings that move are fun, too.
  • To encourage reaching, try wobble toys. Babies love to bat at them and watch them wobble in place.
  • Rattles are also fun, as your baby can hold them, shake them, and put them into their mouth.
  • Another fun favorite is using a mirror. Babies love to look at themselves and are very interested in the baby looking back.

Has your little one passed the six-month stage? Check out the rest of our stages of play guide covering seven to nine months and up to four years old.

This article was originally published on Mar 29, 2023

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