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Month 4: Babbling &  Body Language

by Penny Warner

BABY'S PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Body is Growing

  • Pre-Standing – Your baby’s legs are straightening out more as the weeks pass. She’ll stretch her legs when held upright, and will try to press her feet on flat surfaces. She may even make stepping movements when held upright in a standing position, something she used to do as a reflex.
  • Neck Strength – Baby is gathering more strength in her neck, balancing her head so she can see more of the world. She’ll still need support when she sits for periods of time, but you may find her leaning forward in an attempt to control her head.
  • Arm Waving – While baby’s legs and neck strength are increasing, so are her arms. She likes to wave her arms simultaneously, flapping them up and down. She’ll soon be able to control her arms, but for now she’s practicing control of the movements.

How You Can Help

  • Pre-standing – As your baby stretches her legs and presses her feet down, you can enhance her pre-standing skills. Make sure baby has bare feet and is wearing loose clothing or a diaper. Lay her down on her back. Grasp her back and sides, and gently raise her to sitting, making sure her neck is strong enough to support her head. Then gently raise her to standing and keep her feet near the floor. Watch to see if she presses her feet flat on the floor, then with your continued support, let her balance on her legs. Check to see if she raises a foot. 
  • Neck Strength – To increase baby’s neck strength, place her in your lap and pull her forward a few inches, while watching to make sure she can support her head. Gently ease her back into the seat.
  • Arm Waving – To help your baby increase her arm control, give her lots of opportunity to move and wave her arms. The best position for this is sitting or lying on her back. When she flaps her arms, imitate her movements and watch her increase her waving and flapping. Then gently move one arm and see what she does with the other arm. 

BABY’S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Brain is Maturing

  • Scent Memory – One of your baby’s best-developed senses right from birth is her sense of smell. You already know she can recognize mom’s scent, and even dad’s. Now she’s able to recognize other familiar smells, such as your perfume, baby lotion, or certain fragrant toys.
  • Listening to Vocalizations – You baby loves the sound of her own voice! She’s added so many sounds to her repertoire, she can probably entertain herself for several minutes, just by vocalizing.
  • Circular vision – Baby’s ability to track objects is expanding rapidly. She can look side to side, up and down, and in a small circle. As her visual activity increases, so does her interest in her world.

How You Can Help

  • Scent Memory – As baby comes in contact with familiar scents, let her hold the items near her face so she can smell them. Say the names of the items, remove them from her face, then bring them back and let her smell them again. Let her smell a variety of items and watch her reaction. You might try a lemon, a banana, some cheese, or other food items. Make sure she doesn't place these in her mouth. Don’t bring her in close proximity to unpleasant smells.
  • Listening to Vocalizations – Tape-record your baby’s vocalizations as she makes them, and add a few of your own to encourage her to express herself. Then play back the tape for your baby to enjoy, and watch her listen attentively to her own voice.
  • Circular Vision – Try a game of “Roaming Spotlight.” Sit in a darkened room with your baby in your lap facing a wall. Shine a flashlight on the wall and watch baby attend to it. Move the light slowly back and forth, then up and down, then around in circles. Move slowly so she can follow the image.

BABY’S PSYCHOLOGICAL DEVELOPMENT

How Baby’s Personality is Unfolding

  • Gestures with Vocalizations – As baby increase her vocalization, she’ll begin to imitate your gestures as you talk with her, by waving her arms and legs. This back and forth conversation, using pre-speech and early gestures, is clearly a social interaction that takes place with babies and their caregivers. Conversations like these enhance baby’s cognitive skills and emotional attachment to her parents.
  • New Awareness of Environment – Babies at this age are especially attentive to their caregivers. You’ll notice that your baby gets upset when you leave, that she gets excited when you enter the room, and that she follows you with her eyes when you move around the room.
  • Eye Contact – Baby’s eye contact with you is increasing. She can gaze at you for longer periods of time without a lot of added attention-getters. It’s more than just watching; it’s an emotional connection that’s important to the bonding and attachment process. Notice she smiles, vocalizes and moves her body more when making eye contact.

How You Can Help

  • Gestures with Vocalizations – This is a good time for “Pat-A-Cake.” Properly harness baby in her infant seat and sit opposite her so she can see you clearly. Play pat-a-cake with her, going through the motions by holding her hands and chanting the song. Try it again without holding her hands. Then again, holding her hands. Soon she’ll begin waving in anticipation of the game.
  • New Awareness of Caregiver – Notice how baby watches you, following you around the room with her eyes. Play a game of “Peek-A-Boo,” by ducking behind counters and chairs, then popping out to surprise her. Move all around the room to keep her alert to the game, so she can try to anticipate your next move.
  • Eye Contact – As baby meets your eyes, talk with her to maintain the connection as long as possible. Move your head slightly, widen your eyes, blink and smile, to keep her interested in her gaze.