Now is the time to make sure your home is fully babyproofed because your baby will soon be motoring around on his own, if he isn't already. "Their goal is figuring out 'How am I going to interact with the environment?'" explains Thomas M. Seman, M.D., a pediatrician and president of North Shore Pediatrics in the Boston area.
What to expect: "The biggest things we see are those jittery baby movements becoming fluid movements," says Michelle Linsmeier, M.D., a pediatrician in the Milwaukee area. On average, most babies start to roll between 3 to 5 months, and your baby might use rolling as a method of getting from one place to another.
"You're seeing more interaction, more eye contact; you're going to start to see real laughing, and more rolling over and moving from side to side, trying to figure out how to sit up a little more as they change their perspective from being on the belly," Dr. Seman says.
Progression: "At 4 to 6 months, we get the progression from figuring out how to get up on all fours and getting ready to crawl to the drive of wanting to crawl. That has to do with the child's improving vision," Dr. Seman says. "By 4 months, their vision is expanded. They're now seeing 10 to 12 feet away; color is starting to come into play. As they progress from the fourth to fifth month and fifth to sixth, color becomes much more intensified, and with that drive of seeing more is [a greater] impetus to go and see how to get there." Your baby may begin the "army crawl" on his belly, slithering across the floor as quickly as his little arms can pull him.
Naturally, that means even more things to discover -- and taste. "Most of their information is still coming through their mouth," Dr. Seman says. That's because young babies have the highest density of nerves in and around their mouths, something that will change as they get older. Their fine motor skills are also advancing, and they'll begin to transfer an object from hand to hand if they haven't already.
How to help: Reading, talking and playing are all key from infancy on, but play becomes even more important as your baby gets older, Dr. Linsmeier says. "Playing with your baby can really make a difference," she says. "Get out that baby mirror -- babies love mirrors; they can see their reactions and see that visual." Bright books might take on a new fascination now that your baby's vision is better. To develop her fine motor control, give her toys she can manipulate with her fingers and encourage her to practice holding and dropping items. "That's really important because that's how you hand something," Dr. Seman says. Continue to boost your baby's strength with tummy time and sitting practice.
When to worry: If your child still hasn't rolled over at least once. "By 5 and 6 months they should be able to roll over easily both ways," Dr. Seman says. If your child doesn't follow an object with his eyes, you should mention it to your pediatrician. "[Your baby's] not seeing means that she does not want to be part of the environment," Dr. Seman says. "Then the question is are they not hearing, are they not seeing, do they not have the physical strength, or do they not care?"
Don't freak out if: Your child doesn't simultaneously progress in gross motor, fine motor, and language/social development. "Your child isn't going to say 'Dada' and 'Mama' and sit up and crawl all at the same time," Dr. Seman says. "It's watching to see did they do step one before they did step one." Over a couple of months' time, your child should show progress, however. It's also OK if your baby doesn't roll all the time as long as he shows he can do it. "Some kids don't like to roll," Dr. Linsmeier says. "Even if they have the skill of rolling, if they can't stand tummy time, they're not going to do it. ... You start to see the want versus the can."
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