Month 5: Exploration & Experimentation

by Penny Warner


How Baby’s Body is Growing

  • Sitting Propped – Your baby is sitting better while he’s propped up, and enjoying watching his world. He can sit longer without toppling because his back is less rounded than it was. The lower back area is still curved but it’s beginning to straighten out, which will soon allow for more overall body movement.
  • Two-Hand Grasp – When you give your baby a toy, he tends to grasp it with both hands. He may let go with one hand temporarily, but will probably regrasp it with both hands soon. Then he’ll bring the toy to his mouth to check it out.
  • Wrist Rotation – About this time, your baby is beginning to rotate his wrist while holding a toy. This allows him to examine more angles and properties of the object. He’ll master this skill in another 3 to 4 months.

How You Can Help

  • Sitting Propped – Your baby enjoys being pulled to a sitting position from a lying down position, with a little help from you. As he’s lying down, let him grasp your thumbs or fingers and you’ll feel the strength of his grip. Then slowly pull him up to sitting. 
  • Two-Hand Grasp – Practice the single-hand grasp with your baby, the next step in deliberate grasping. Hand baby a toy in the center of his body and watch what he does. Then hand him a toy slightly to the side, closer to one hand than another. He should take the toy in one hand, but he may then hold it with the other hand as well. Then, give him another toy from the side, and see if he lets go with one hand to grasp it. 
  • Wrist Rotation – To help baby practice wrist rotation, begin by playing “Bye-Bye.” Seat baby in your lap facing you, then wave bye-bye to him, while saying the words. Raise baby’s arm and mimic the gesture with his hand. Play a few times, then repeat later and see if he begins to move his hand up and down.


How Your Baby’s Brain is Maturing

  • Fine Motor Skills – Your baby is enjoying his fingers more and more, as he begins to understand how they work and what they can do. Manual dexterity is important to all kinds of future tasks, so give him lots of opportunity for finger play by placing him in a sitting position so he can see and use his fingers. 
  • Syllables – As your baby’s language develops, he’ll begin to string sounds together. He’s practicing his syllables, another foundation for making words and sentences. He’s also imitating specific speech sounds he hears from you, and may string these together as well.
  • Location of Sound – Your baby’s listening skills are improving. He’s beginning to differentiate more sounds, and recognize the ones that are repeated and familiar to him. He’ll also try to locate sounds that may not be in his line of vision. Instead of just using his eyes, he may turn his head to find the sound, now that he has better head control. 

How You Can Help

  • Fine Motor Skills – Although baby enjoys playing with his fingers and can entertain himself for some time just wiggling, clasping and sucking on his fingers, you can enhance his manual dexterity with fingerplay. Begin with a simple game, such as “Itsy Bitsy Spider?” and as you sing the song, move his fingers to match the lines. 
  • Syllables – Singing to baby is one of the best ways to encourage his ability to vocalize in syllables. Using a simple tune as a foundation, sing strings of syllables, using the sounds baby makes or “la-la-la.” Let baby watch your face and mouth as you sing, and he may try to imitate the song. 
  • Location of Sound – Find two objects that make very different sounds. Properly harness baby in his infant seat with the objects out of sight, one on either side of him. Reach down and manipulate the object to make a sound and see if baby tries to locate it. Repeat with the other object. He may be following your hand to lead him to the object, as well as listening for it. Repeat the activity, this time sitting behind your baby so he can’t watch when you make the sound. See if he tries to locate it, using his eyes and turning his head.


Baby’s Personality is Unfolding

  • Special Attachment – Your baby may emotionally attach to a special toy, blanket, or pacifier at this time, so watch carefully to see his reactions to different objects. He may light up when he sees his favorite toy, then frown if he sees something new. Baby is forming an attachment to something other than mother, to help him cope with his loneliness, fears, and insecurities. 
  • Self Calming – When your baby gets upset, he may try to calm himself by sucking his thumb or fingers, or putting his fist in his mouth. This is the first step in self-control, and learning to cope with emotional discomfort.
  • Emotional Expression – Your baby will begin to express himself more and more through play. When he shakes a toy or bangs it on the floor or table, he may be sharing his joy, frustration, anger, or excitement. 

How You Can Help

  • Special Attachment – When you notice that your baby is fond of a particular object, make sure it’s available to him when he needs it. Attaching to a toy, blanket, or other item is a normal part of emotional development, and is not a sign of weakness. You can make him a special blanket for this purpose, and keep it with him when he sleeps, travels, or needs extra comfort. 
  • Self Calming – When baby begins to fuss, you might let him fuss a few minutes to see if he tries to comfort himself with his hands and fingers. You can also use a pacifier to help him calm himself, and make it available to him so he can get it when he needs it.
  • Emotional Expression – If your baby likes to bang his toys, but he’s driving you crazy with the sound, you can muffle the noise by putting a cloth on the table, or by letting him use softer toys to express his feelings.