Moving with Maddie: Developmental Play Milestones, 4-6 Months

Kids at play
Helping your child learn and grow starts at a young age by interacting and playing with them.

DEVELOPMENTAL PLAY: Chapter 2

Helping your child learn and grow starts at a young age by interacting and playing with them. Follow along with Maddie to learn some fun playtime activities that you and your child can perform together!  

 

*Please note the information described in the “What to expect” sections represent an average timeframe of when specific gross motor skills are achieved. Every baby is different and will have a different developmental timeframe. Please use this as a guideline for your baby’s developmental skills and a way to help encourage skills through fun playtime activities. Always reach out to your pediatrician if you have any specific concerns about your baby’s development.  

4-6 Months Old

What to expect?  

  • When placed on their tummy, they can bear weight through their elbows. They may also attempt to push up on straight arms during this timeframe for a few seconds. 
  • When placed on their tummy, they will be able to unweight 1 arm and reach and play with toys in front of them.
  • When placed on their tummy, they may “swim” and reach their arms and legs out straight in front of them.
  • They may begin to crawl forward on their stomachs around 5-6 months of age. 
  • When on their back, they will begin to reach for their knees (around 4 months), their toes (around 5 months), and bring their toes to their mouth (around 6 months).
  • They will begin rolling from tummy to their back around 5 months and from their back to their belly around 6 months. They may not perfect their rolling from either side until 7-8 months of age. 
  • They will begin to sit with support from parents and/or place their hands in front of them to help keep their balance. 

How to play with your 4-6 month old baby?

Encourage reaching to their knees and feet

  • Place toys (chain links, rattles, beads, or rattle socks) on their knees and toes for them to look at in order to encourage reaching and grasping. 
  • Reaching for their toes and putting their toes in their mouth helps to strengthen their core muscles which in turn will help prepare them for independent rolling and sitting. 

Hands being reaching towards their knees at 4 months

Hands being reaching for their feet around 5 months and they will begin to grab their feet and bring them to their mouth at around 6 months

Supported Sitting Activities

  • Place a boppy behind your child in sitting to provide them with some support and stability when they are learning this new skill. Place toys in front of them to encourage putting their hands on the floor to further improve their stability. Once they are starting to improve their core strength and sitting balance, begin to place toys at eye level in order to encourage them to achieve a more upright trunk posture and to allow their arms to be free to reach and manipulate toys.  
  • Place the boppy in front of them when sitting to help encourage weight bearing through their arms to help promote a more upright trunk posture and upper extremity strengthening.  
  • Place them in a laundry basket filled with pillows, balls and/or favorite toys for them to play with. The pillows can be placed behind them or on the sides of them in order to provide them with adequate trunk support as they are learning this new skill.  
  • Place them in an inflatable bathtub and fill it with toys for them to reach and play with. This bathtub is similar to placing your baby in the laundry basket as it will provide your baby with good back and side support to help keep them safe and sitting upright on their own while they begin to learn this new skill. Place their favorite toys in the tub with them so that they begin to reach to the side and in front of them to further strengthen their core muscles.  
  • Have baby sit facing you while you wrap your feet around their hips. This position will encourage baby to sit with a more upright trunk posture as they no longer can feel any back support. You can further encourage them to achieve an upright posture by placing a toy in front of them that they can manipulate and potentially push their arms through in order to work on strengthening their upper extremities.  

Independent Sitting Activities

  • Playing with pots and pans :Once your little one is sitting independently, keep them entertained in sitting by stringing pipe cleaners through a strainer. This will challenge baby’s balance and fine motor skills as they try to maintain an upright sitting posture to pull the pipe cleaner out of the strainer. They will also be interested in manipulating the pipe cleaner to feel its new and different texture. You can also add a spatula or whisk for baby to manipulate – they will love to make some music!  
  • Playing with bubbles : This activity is great when your little one is sitting independently. They can work on their visual tracking skills as they watch the bubbles float around them. You can also try and catch bubbles on the wand for baby to reach to and pop! Have baby reach up, to the side, and across their body as they try and pop the bubbles in order to improve their strength and coordination.  
  • Exploring the grass: This is great for baby’s developing sensory system! Let them explore this new surface with their hands and feet. They might not like it at first, but keep giving them opportunities to explore this new and different texture!  

  • Manipulating/finding objects: Try this fun activity using a cupcake pan and plastic balls/toys with your baby when they are sitting independently in order to challenge their fine motor skills and sitting balance. See if baby can reach and pull off the tape in order to get to the ball or other hidden toy.  

Tummy Time and Sensory Play

  • Now that your little one is able to hold their head up well when they are on their tummy, introduce some fun playtime activities such as water play. You can fill a sheet pan with water and put some toys in it for them to play and splash around with.   
  • Put some shaving cream and food coloring in a zip lock bag and let your little one squish and play with it while they are on their tummy. 
  • Freeze ice cubes with a few drops of food coloring mixed in and let them play with the cubes on their tummy. An alternative to finger painting with ice cubes could be finger painting with baby cereal (rice cereal mixed with water and food coloring.) Place your child on their belly with a plastic tray in front of them and let them move their hands through the cereal to make colorful artwork.  
  • Put your little one on a blanket outside with just their arms off the edge so that they can reach and feel the texture of the grass. They might not like the feeling of the grass at first, but keep giving them opportunities to explore this new and different texture
  • Put your little one on their tummy with ball pit balls around them and watch them reach and play with the balls. This is great for their developing sensory system to work on their body awareness. 
  • Read various textured books to them while they are on their tummy so that they can reach, feel, and play with the various textures.
  • Place toys that can hang in front of them when they are on their tummy to encourage reaching and shifting their weight onto each arm – this will help prepare for moving on their belly (i.e. pivoting and belly crawling.) You can also put items through the slots of a laundry basket (i.e. bandanas, colorful scarfs, clothes, blankets) to encourage them to reach with one arm at a time.  
  • Tummy time with a DIY busy board: Secure various household items to a board (i.e. shoe string, key chains, locks, light switch) for baby to explore and interact with while on their tummy.  

Pivoting on Tummy Play

  • Encourage your little one to pivot to various tactile/sensory objects:  DIY sensory bags – Fill zip lock bags with various textured objects (i.e. rice, straws, pipe cleaners, pom-poms, bubble wrap) for baby to explore with their hands. Place in a semicircle pattern and tape them to the floor in order to encourage pivoting and moving on belly.  
  • Pivot to books placed in a circle or semicircle so that baby can pivot in a circle pattern to look at the colorful pages and touch/feel the various textures.

Baby Planks

  • Baby planks are a fun way for baby to improve their upper extremity strength. It helps them push through straight arms when they are on their tummy which helps to prepare them for rolling, prop sitting, crawling, and pulling to stand. To make the activity easier have most of baby’s stomach resting on the support surface. To make it harder slide baby forward so that only their belly button is supported on the surface, this will make their arms more “top heavy” and have to do more of the work.  
  • You can perform this over the boppy, a couch cushion, or your leg.  
  • Place them in front of a mirror with a suction toy at eye level to encourage them to push through their arms and lift their head.  You can also place a book in front of them to encourage them to push through their arms and lift their head to engage with the pictures within the book 

Side lying Play Activities

Side lying play is important to strengthen baby’s arms and neck. This skill will help baby to roll and perform transitions such is moving from their side or tummy to a sitting position.  

  • Perform over the ball so that you can adjust the degree of difficulty for baby. The more vertical baby is, the easier it is for them to hold their head up and push through their forearm. The more horizontal baby is, the harder it is for them to hold their head up. Start in a more vertical position and progress to a more horizontal position as baby tolerates. 
  • Once baby has gotten good at lifting their head when side lying over the ball, perform this skill on the floor. Have baby bear weight through their forearm. Hold them at their hips for stability as well as under their trunk. Encourage baby to reach forward with their non-weight bearing arm to a toy at eye level.  

Rolling

Belly to back rolling:

Encourage rolling tummy to back by having your child track a toy over their shoulder in either direction to help initiate the roll. If your child is having trouble completing this roll, try and have them perform it on an incline surface with their head facing up the incline (i.e. incline wedge or couch cushion with a book placed under one side.) This will make it easier for your baby to push through one forearm and initiate the roll from their tummy to their side and then eventually from their side to their back  

*As shown in these pictures, a couch cushion with a textbook placed underneath can help create an incline. Place your child on their tummy facing up the incline for this activity.   

Back to belly rolling:

  • Encourage rolling back to tummy by having your child reach across their body towards a toy (i.e. hold up a toy on their right side so that they can visually track it and begin to reach for it with their left arm.) They will reach for the toy and end up in a side lying position. Once in side lying, continue to have baby track the toy up and over their head to finish the roll onto their tummy.   
  • Tip: You can also try having your baby roll from their back to their belly on an incline couch cushion (as previously shown) to help make it easier for them to perform this skill.  

Want to continue (developmentally) playing with Maddie? Follow along as we outline why playing and interacting with your child is so important for their development.

If you are concerned your child is not meeting age appropriate developmental milestones, please take our quiz below. 

Take Our Developmental Milestone Quiz!

As parents, we all want to ensure that our children are meeting crucial developmental milestones. Use this tool to see if your child is on the right track.

Amanda Morgan

Amanda Morgan

Amanda attended Sacred Heart University and has been with Cheshire Fitness Zone since the beginning of her career as a Physical Therapist in 2012. She specializes in Aquatic Therapy, Constraint-Induced Movement Therapy and is a Children’s Yoga Instructor. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family and friends, traveling, hiking, bike riding, going to the beach, teaching graduate students at Sacred Heart and cheering for the Patriots!

Amanda is the author of this exerpt with the help of her daughter, Maddie.

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