Expect your baby to show more interest in her surroundings as her behavioral development progresses in the fourth month of her life.

By Nicole Sweeney Etter
Alexandra Grablewski

Keep an eye on what's within Baby's reach because your little one might be quicker than you think. With new hand skills and rolling movements in her repertoire, she is busy exploring her environment more than ever before.

What to expect: "[Babies] begin now to reach out and take something," says Kenneth Wible, M.D., medical director of the Pediatric Care Center at Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri. "Their hands should be fully open for sure and they should be able to reach out and grasp things, and they will begin to bring [things] up to their mouth."

Most babies should be able to sit with support at this age, and they'll enjoy standing upright with support, as well, Dr. Wible says. But the most exciting milestone that often happens in the fourth month: rolling. "Rolling is significant because it's the beginning of the skills of locomotion that move baby from one place to another," says Donna Eshelman, a movement specialist and founder of Stellar Caterpillar, a Los Angeles-based business that helps babies reach their gross motor milestones in the first year. "That's an exciting change for the baby -- to be able to move from here or there, and it becomes like a game to them."

Progression: Many of your baby's movements are the same as they were in the third month. "But there's a lot more strength in them and they're doing them more easily," Eshelman says. "They're lifting their head much, much higher. ... All of the skills they learned in month three are stronger and clearer."

In the first few months, your baby depended on you for entertainment. Now he might enjoy a little independent playtime. "They begin to be able to entertain themselves," Dr. Wible says. "If you leave them on their back, they might grab their feet or fingers and stick them in their mouth. If there's a toy, they'll shake it and taste it."

Your baby's vision has also improved -- last month, she could probably see across the room but not as clearly. Now, her vision is probably 20/40 or 20/50 and she can tell the subtle difference between shades, Dr. Wible says. "That's why it's sometimes so difficult to feed a 4-month-old -- because [he's] looking all around the room," he says.

How to help: Continue to make floor time part of your baby's routine. "Tummy time should be something that is able to keep babies occupied for awhile," Eshelman says. "They have enough strength to keep their head up for awhile and play with something and use their hands a little bit more."

Your baby might be able to manipulate bigger and heavier toys by the end of this month. "There's a lot more engagement of their arms and hands, so provide toys that have different textures, different sizes, toys that invite discovery," Eshelman advises. Soft books and toys that make sounds when manipulated can reward a baby's curiosity.

The fourth month can also be a good time to introduce swimming, Eshelman says. "When babies are in the water they can meet milestones much earlier than when they are on land," she says. "They love it. It's a great way to strengthen their muscles, especially the legs."

When you should you worry: If a baby isn't reaching for objects by the end of the fourth month, it could indicate a problem with vision or motor development, Dr. Wible says. As always, check with your pediatrician about any concerns that you may have.

Don't freak out if: Your baby doesn't seem to be measuring up to another baby in your moms' group. Remember, it's not a competition. Dr. Wible recalls a former patient who could crawl the length of the exam table at 4 months. "I wondered if she'd become a super gymnast or something of that sort -- but she was just an average kid," he says with a laugh. And there's a wide range of normal when it comes to motor skill development. "I've seen the most variability in grasping things and being able to bear weight," Dr. Wible says. "A lot of babies this age don't want to put their legs down and stand, even with support."

Copyright © 2013 Meredith Corporation.

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