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Your Baby's First Six Month Early Child Development

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Updated June 17, 2014

Baby sitting on grass playing with soccer ball, rear view
PhotoAlto/Jerome Gorin/PhotoAlto Agency RF Collections/Getty Images

Baby's Physical Development:

A baby's development is cephalocaudal. Typically, the infant's brain and facial structures develop first, along with his ability to control his head and facial movements. A similar pattern of growth and development occurs from the central part of his body and continues outward. For example, his arms, hands, and then fingers. This is called proximodistal development. Your child's development may differ from these estimates and still be within normal ranges.

Early Child Development in Movement and Control:

Gross motor movement is the ability to move and control the larger body muscles such as arms, legs, and trunk muscles. During this period, a baby will turn his head from side to side and will begin loosely controlled kicking and thrusting. As his upper body develops, he will learn to raise himself onto his elbows while resting on his stomach. He will roll his body from one side to the other. The baby's gross muscle control will continue to develop into purposeful, directed movement. Soon he will reach for people and objects and will turn away when he is disinterested or tired of play.

Increasing Fine Motor Movement and Control:

Fine motor movements include the smaller muscles that allow him to perform tasks with his hands and feet. Soon he will grasp objects and mouth them. He will enjoy playing with his fingers and toes and will mouth them too! He will spread his toes out in a fan-like shape. This movement is called the Babinski reflex. He will use both hands to pick up and move objects and may begin to show a hand preference. It is important to allow the child to develop naturally. Attempting to switch handedness in your child is not recommended.

Responding to Sounds and Hearing:

Within the first few weeks after birth, your baby will begin to respond to sounds in his environment by tracking them with his eyes and turning his head toward them. He will show recognition of familiar voices and will show enjoyment when hearing favorite songs. He will show a startle reflex when hearing unexpected, loud noises.

Increased Purposeful Communication:

Crying is a baby's first communication. His crying signals his discomfort. As we respond to his crying, the baby learns that his crying brings him what he needs. At a very basic level, he is learning that communication is a two-way process. During this period, the baby will babble and begin making delightful sing-song sounds. He is learning to control his voice and form sounds with his facial muscle structures and tongue. Mouthing objects such as teething toys helps develop muscle coordination and precision that will be needed for later speech development.

Baby's Social and Emotional Development:

During this period, a baby is beginning to learn to communicate. As he expresses his needs by crying and gesturing. For example, he may turn his head and reach for people and objects. He may turn his head away from foods he does not like. He is learning to express himself in basic ways. He will develop clear signs of pleasure, as in happy babbling and smiles. He will show discomfort and frustration through crying. He will begin to show preferences for certain people and discomfort with others. Through these exchanges, the infant will learn to trust caregivers who meet his needs and mistrust others.

Your Baby's Development with Learning Activities:

Provide bright toys specifically designed and approved for infants. Toys that encourage development of hand-eye-coordination and have interesting sounds and textures are a great way to encourage curiosity and exploration. Play classic games with your baby and sing simple songs. Read colorful children's books to your baby. Babies love and learn from repetition, so don't worry about doing the same things over and over. Repetition, in fact, is the best way for your baby to learn.

Nurture Social and Emotional Development:

Always respond to your baby's communication. Speak softly, sing to him, and gently touch and pat him for comfort. To calm a baby, rock him gently, hold him, and speak calming words in soft tones. Respect your baby's need to sleep and turn away from stimulation.

Encourage Early Language Development:

Talk to the baby often. Point out familiar objects and tell him the names of the objects. Begin with single words, and later add descriptive words such as color, texture, positions, and possessive words. Read simple books with colorful pictures. Repetition of these words and books will help build the baby's receptive language skills. Receptive language skills are the basis for later speech and communication.

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