As your baby closes out the fourth trimester, you'll notice they're gaining head control and seemingly taking an interest in daily activities you're doing. And that's true! Dr. Maria Montessori noted babies are absorbing everything during these early years. New parents can assist baby's growth with this list of best activities for 4 month olds I've used with my kids.
At four months old, babies are becoming eager explorers of the world around them. Interactive play becomes even more critical in nurturing their rapidly developing brains and bodies. These playful moments not only strengthen the parent-baby bond but also pave the way for a host of developmental strides in areas like sensory perception, cognitive abilities, and motor skills.
This article will offer a spectrum of activities from sensory exploration with textured toys and melodious sounds to the foundational practice of tummy time. Additionally, we will touch on dance and movement exercises, the power of reading aloud, and interactive playtime ideas that bolster crucial skills.
Ultimately, playtime is more than just fun; it's a vital aspect of early childhood education and development that rewards both the caregiver and the infant with lasting benefits.
Understanding Your 4-Month-Old's Development
By the time babies reach the age of 4 months, they are typically ready to embrace new developmental milestones.
At this stage, they begin to show more control of their head and neck, and their interactions with the world become more deliberate.
They also show growing interest in the world around them using their arms to swing at toys and holding objects placed in their hands. Babies may even start to rock, and eventually roll over around this time.
Tummy time is still critical during this stage. You may notice your baby is able to hold longer as they've gained the ability to hold their head steady without your support. Babies may even begin to push up onto their elbows or forearms during tummy time!
Interacting with various stimuli during play can stimulate a baby’s development across various domains, including sensory, cognitive, and motor skills. Selecting activities tailored to their developmental stage ensures that the challenges they encounter are neither too easy nor too difficult, but just right for encouraging growth, learning, and a sense of achievement. Engaging them in age-specific play supports their budding abilities and nurtures their eagerness to discover more about their environment, laying a solid foundation for future learning and development.
Sensory play, an influential component of development, nurtures their curiosity.
Awaken their sense of touch by opting for different textures. Activities like grasping textured toys creates deep cognitive development as they explore. Exploring new things tactiley can even encourage children to work on their gross motor skills of hand strength (wanting to hold that new squishy toy you placed in their hand longer) and hand-eye coordination (swinging for the smooth toy that makes noise when shaken).
At this age, babies visual senses are also deepening. Now that they can see in color, this is a great time to introduce sensory bottles. These are usually just a plastic bottle full of glitter or interesting objects in clear liquid, sealed off very well, for them to shake and look at.
And while your baby's senses are deepening during this stage, don't forget to have some sensory activities featuring different sounds. I like to set out a musical toy for baby out during tummy time that encourages them to swing for it. This way even if they don't have the coordination to grab and shake the toy yet, if they hit it, a sound is produced and it still feels rewarding. Beyond that, listening to soothing musical sounds stimulates auditory pathway
Activities for 4 month old babies don't need to be complicated. Set a goal to intentionally introduce a new sensory experience every couple of days, even if it's just new household items like a spatula or ladel. Offer a variety of materials, colors, and shapes for them to explore promotes cognitive growth and fine-tunes sensory processing.
Some of the best activities for 4 month olds include letting them bat their arms and legs to different textures. You can do this by lying tin foil under their feet and just let them kick it, or hanging a montessori ball above their head and let them bat at it.
Encouraging touch, hearing, and sight through play lays the groundwork for later skills, including language acquisition and spatial awareness. Introducing these sensory-rich experiences, you ensure an invaluable contribution to your baby's early development.
The Magic of Tummy Time
Tummy time is an engaging activity for your 4-month-old baby where they spend time on their stomach while awake and supervised, fostering essential physical development. This practice nurtures strengthens core muscles, the neck, and back muscles. All of which lays the groundwork for sitting up, rolling over, and eventually crawling.
To elongate tummy time, it's a good idea to set your your baby's favorite toy and encourage them to reach for it. Additionally you can get on the floor and do it with your baby for deeper social development.
We love this play mat as a safe place to rest baby. It has loads of built in age-appropriate toys, simple activities, and bright colors for baby's hands and eyes to explore during tummy time. I also love the unbreakable mirrored section and would often sit with my baby's as they started getting frustrated or tired to extend this practice even 30 extra seconds each session.
These activities not only boost muscle development but also prompt visual tracking and social engagement. Remember, consistency is key, so incorporating brief sessions of tummy time throughout the day can significantly bolster your infant's motor skill progression.
Dance and Movement
Gentle dance and movement activities do wonders for a baby’s physical and auditory development. As you sway and bounce to the rhythm, your little one experiences a delightful mixture of vestibular stimulation and auditory delights.
This combination supports the development of gross motor skills while introducing a varied spectrum of sounds that aid auditory development and even language skills.
You can engage your four-month-old in movement activities by holding them securely in your arms and dancing slowly around the room. Sing nursery rhymes softly or play calm music in the background to enrich the experience.
For a touch of tactile stimulation, let their tiny fingers graze different fabrics or textures as you move. This is particularly easy during the holidays I find as garlands and ornaments are strewn around, but you can also hang some play silks around the room.
Additionally, you can bring baby along with you in your everyday movements using a baby carrier – I even breastfed in mine! This is great do get household chores done and beginning the introduction of Montessori's “practical life” activities.
These activities aren't just beneficial for their growth; they deepen your bond, as shared rhythms and melodies create a joyful, intimate parent-baby interaction.
Bonding Through Reading
Reading to your 4-month-old serves as a cornerstone in language development and creates a nurturing bond between you and your infant. High-contrast picture books captivate your baby's gaze, helping to strengthen visual tracking and recognition.
Montessori found that babies also love seeing REAL people and objects – not cartoons.
While the understanding of words is still to come, the rhythmic nature of your voice provides auditory stimulation and can soothe your baby, so keep saying new words each day to boost their brain development and connection!
Choose sturdy board books with simple, bold images that can withstand your baby's eager hands and occasional nibbles. Swipe for a few of our favorite montessori books for babies:
As you read, change your tone and pitch; this variation helps your baby tune into the natural sounds of language, setting the stage for future communication skills. Remember, reading is more than just a bedtime ritual; it's an opportunity for educational play that brings you and your baby closer throughout the day. I even read my regular books to baby when they're this little!
Interactive Playtime Ideas
Peek-a-boo is a timeless game that delights babies and fosters social skills. Plus one of babies favorite things to do at this age is looking at familiar faces!
Simply covering your face with your hands, then quickly revealing yourself, teaches your infant about object permanence and supports cognitive growth.
To enhance interaction, maintain eye contact and smile, as this reinforces your bond. In time you can add a silly factor and reveal different facial expressions with each “BOO!”
Safe Play Environments
Establishing a secure play environment is paramount as your infant embarks on the journey of exploration and learning.
Safety is non-negotiable; hence, I recommend beginning with a clean and uncluttered area, free of small items that could pose a choking hazard.
Opt for a soft surface that's firm – as overly plush environments pose a choking hazard. We love this play gym as it checks off all these boxes, and has baby safe objects to explore.
As your baby begins trying to roll over or sit up, remember they are much lighter and closer to the ground, so even a simple rug is enough to cushion their tumbles.
Montessori believed in freedom of movement
Which means the child should have as much freedom to explore their surrounding area as is safe. If you need to use a baby safety gate to create this environment, it's generally considered ok, as long as it does not impede their ability to explore their bodies limits.
Keep in mind, all toys and play equipment should pass stringent safety checks, boasting no sharp edges or loose parts. Be diligent about regular toy inspection and cleaning to ward off any unwanted germs. Ensure the area is well-ventilated, comfortably lit, and maintained at a soothing temperature to keep your baby cheerful and eager for playtime. It's a delicate balance between offering freedom to wriggle and ensuring the space remains hazard-free. By crafting a sanctuary of play, you're providing a foundation not only for joy but also for the vital growth and wellbeing of your baby.
Toys Are Tools for Play
Choosing toys for a 4-month-old should focus on safety and stimulation.
Teething toys made from soft, nontoxic, chewable materials alleviate gum soreness (this ball was my son's favorite). Swipe through for some of our favorites:
Look for safe toys that are large enough to prevent choking hazards yet light enough for little hands to grasp. High-contrast patterned balls and soft blocks entice a baby's developing eyesight and encourage reaching and grasping, honing fine motor skills.
Montessori mobiles with slowly moving parts captivate attention and foster visual tracking. We like to place these over diaper changing areas and not the crib to minimize stimulation during sleep time.
Toys that make gentle, pleasant sounds when shaken are perfect for auditory exploration and can support neural pathways associated with hearing. The right toys not only keep infants engaged but also contribute significantly to their neurological growth and physical dexterity.
Our favorite baby-safe toys for this stage come in these done-for-you play kits. While the initial price seems high, they are non-toxic, organic, and the only toys we needed for our kids first year. I share which are the best and worst play kits to start with here.
Charting The Growth Through Play
Observing your infant's development during playtime offers a window into their rapidly expanding world. This was a cornerstone of the Montessori philosophy in tailoring baby activities to match the child.
The benefits are twofold: first, you'll adapt your playtime strategies to better suit their evolving needs; second, you'll find immense joy in witnessing each new achievement.
Recalling their first smile during a game of peek-a-boo or their attempt to grasp a colorful rattle can be as heartwarming as it is indicative of developmental strides. Embrace these moments; they're not only milestones but also treasured memories in the making.
Also remember that a wide range of normal development exists. If you're worried, cross check with your child's health care practitioner, occupational therapist, or the American Academy of Pediatrics milestone or growth charts.
Embracing the Joy of Learning
As we foster our little ones’ growth through invigorating play, we open doors to a world where learning is as natural as breathing.
Discovering new ways to engage that tiny explorer in your life not only builds neural pathways but also forges an unbreakable bond between you and your child. Witnessing their eagerness and witnessing every giggle, grab, and gaze fuels our own passion for their unlimited potential.
Rememeber, at this age a new activity for a 4 month old can be as simple as introducing a new texture or baby-safe object like a ladle or spatula. Daily montessori activities for you and baby during this time ideally include you walking baby through your daily life and responsibilities – not setting up anything intricate that causes a ton of stress! Enjoy!
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