Ready, set, explore! Babies at this age are motivated to move, even if they can't get very far yet. "They're now trying to venture a little more into the environment, a little more into the world, and there's an increased intensity," says Thomas M. Seman, M.D., a pediatrician and president of North Shore Pediatrics in the Boston area. "There's a lot more interacting. So [your baby is] grabbing objects and cubes and moving them from hand to hand, and grabbing everything and wanting to see what it does."
What to expect: "The most remarkable change is that in the sixth month, babies are moving out into the world around them," says Thomas Odinak, M.D., a pediatrician at Pediatric Healthcare Associates in Fairfield, Connecticut. "Able to roll, they are no longer stuck in one place. [As they learn] to sit unsupported, their hands become free to reach and manipulate objects." Before now, she tended to put everything in her mouth -- in part because of the density of nerves there -- but she'll now start to use her hands to explore objects by touch, Dr. Seman says.
Progression: "At 6 months, the infant will go from sitting in a tripod to briefly sitting erect," Dr. Odinak says. "He uses a raking grasp to pull objects closer and can hold toys and move them from one hand to another. He will delight in gazing at mirrors, babbling and examining objects but, most important, he'll begin to observe his actions cause reactions."
How to help: Take advantage of your baby's increasingly busy hands and boost her fine motor development with soft balls and toys that have hand-holds. Let her explore a basket full of baby-friendly toys with different textures, including ones that squeak or make other noises, to help her sensory development. Try placing an interesting object tantalizingly out of reach to motivate your baby to scoot or belly-crawl toward it.
When you should worry: If your baby is still struggling to roll over or push up. "By this age you want to see kids actively looking at and engaging in their environment," Dr. Odinak says. "They should have the trunk and shoulder strength to move around by rolling and pushing up. Your baby should also show interest in going after an interesting object. "If kids have visual difficulties, you're not going to see that drive to want to crawl to get to that next place," Dr. Seman says. "So whenever there is a delay you do need to make sure there's not a physical reason behind it."
Don't freak out if: Your baby isn't crawling yet. "Crawling is a complex skill. Some babies belly-crawl; others are content to roll or pivot. Eventually, they will be able to crawl, even if they walk first," Dr. Odinak says. "Also, as babies begin to distinguish the people in their world, they may show signs of stranger wariness. Around those they don't know, they may become silent, watchful, and reluctant to show off their latest tricks."
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