Engaging Your Four-Month-Old in Play

by Joee Stephan

You're funny!You've been waiting since the day your baby was born for your little one to awaken from a newborn slumber and start taking notice of the world around! By this time your little ball of wonder is able to hold that wobbly head up straight and easily look from side to side. Ever improving vision and ability to see color brings a whole, new dimension to the world. Your tiny explorer has also discovered arms, hands, and possibly even feet. Your four-month-old takes great joy in reaching and stretching to grasp everything within reach.

You now have a new task ahead of you -- entertainment! The beauty of this age is that it takes very little effort on your part to keep your baby engaged and happy. Remember, YOU are his favorite toy. Not one device available can match the awesome power of mommy or daddy. Your baby is all about being the center of attention and will bask in every conversation and silly face you make.

Try These Activities

Sing and clap: Supporting baby on your lap, hold his hands and help him "clap" while singing an upbeat song. No need for perfect harmonization or even logical lyrics. He will reward your efforts with coo's, smiles and giggles galore!

Chat it up: Wherever your baby is, you can "talk" to her. Your words aren't as important as an upbeat voice inflection. Because these tiny ones are programmed to mimic, you may be surprised by her "copying" your expression! Many will also begin to form recognizable syllables such as "mammama" or "daaadaadaa." Mimic their "conversation" back to them and they will in turn mimic back again. Every time you talk with your baby you are teaching them.

Put on some music: Babies adore music and will be even more thrilled by you helping them dance to the beat. Holding up to standing position or even swaying in your arms while you be-bop around is sure to bring some big grins and belly laughs.

baby interested in older brotherGot siblings: Babies LOVE children. If you have more than one, allow your other children to entertain baby for a while. Chances are he will be fascinated just watching his brothers or sisters runs circles around him! If not, look up a local playgroup and take him to meet some of his peers! Always observe sibling/child interaction for safety.

Join the zoo: For busy days, lay her on the floor in a safe and common area. The bustle of family activity will keep her more than entertained. Cooking? Assign her title of sous chef and plop her in the highchair with your favorite plastic spatula. Be sure to stop when you walk by and have a little chat! She will quickly anticipate your "visit" and start squealing before you even get there.

Operation Discovery

exploring that toy monkey byth mouthAs vital as it is to interact with your child, it's equally important to allow the opportunity to discover things on their own. With so many toys and gadgets on the market choosing age appropriate and safe toys can be intimidating to both new and seasoned parents. A small amount of research can help narrow down these choices.

Safety first: Keep safety as the number one decision maker as hundreds of infant items get recalled every year. Inspect all toys for defects before giving them to baby. Most internet sites will offer customer reviews on their products, and you can always check the Pregnancy.org forums for more opinions and experiences.

Not just toys: As appealing as baby toys are, don't underestimate the draw of ordinary household items. A cardboard box, plastic measuring spoons, or a small piece of cloth become intriguing objects in the eyes (or mouth) of your baby.

Suggestions to Get You Started

Babies need a place, too: Invest in "seat" that allows baby to sit supported on his own. Some of the more popular and safe choices are: Bumbo™ seats, Jumpers, Exersaucers and Bouncy seats. While these items are only for limited use it can be an excellent and fun way for your baby to play and exercise on his own, and for mom or dad to buy a few minutes time to catch up on a things. Remember that your baby should never be left unattended!

Hello, good lookin': Babies love their own reflections. While they may not realize it is themselves peering back they are more than happy to babble away at the baby staring at them! With strict supervision put him in front of a mirror and let him explore the mysterious baby on the other side.

Toys: At this age, grasp is still rather weak and movements can still be a bit jerky and unpredictable so soft toys are the better choice for now. Choose toys with bright colors and a variety of textures. Toys that play music or make sounds are even more enticing. Everything you hand her will surely make it to her mouth, so never give baby a small toy, or toys with small pieces!

Getting the Most from Toys

You have the toys, now what: Offer toys one at a time, so as not to overwhelm them with too many choices. Encourage baby to use her skills by allowing her to take them from you.

Giggles from above: While your baby is lying down dangle the toys above him so he can reach and grasp them. When he succeeds, reward with claps and verbal encouragement so baby knows he has done something good!

No idle hands: Since both sides of the brain need to develop, don't favor one hand over another. Show her that both are equally capable of doing work by switching toys from hand to hand and offering to both sides of her body.

Enjoy every sweet moment this age has to offer. Take advantage of that insatiable desire to learn and discover. Slow down and appreciate the wonder and excitement these inquisitive, little one have for the world. Let your baby take the lead and encourage him to take in all joy of the world around him.

Joee is a stay-at-home mom to three little, rambunctious boys. She has been many things in her past, but none more difficult or rewarding than being a mommy.

Copyright © Joee Stephan. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.