- Importance of this age: 3-6 months
- Developmental Milestones Circle: 3 months to 6 months
- Points for concern: 3-6 months
- Intervention through play: 3-6 months
By the end of three months, the baby is able to stabilize head and trunk and therefore can use their eyes and hands more effectively. This increased control over the hands means that the baby can more successfully reach objects. As their fists start to open more under their control, they can grasp and bring objects closer, using their hands and mouth to explore. Active touch and manipulation gives babies a different way to understand what they are seeing. Vision in turn gives rich meaning to the sensations of touch. These experiences lay the foundations of the strategies for understanding and processing sensory information.
Babies make another important discovery with their hands – they see their hands, touch their hands and start to recognize the difference between touching their own body versus touching things that they see in the environment. Each month brings increased motor capacity and as their trunk increases strength, they can lift, hold, feel, and observe their legs as well. They experiment with gravity, pulling their legs up and dropping their body to one side or pushing up on their arms to raise their body. These discoveries are processed through repeated play and experimentation with their own body. All this activity strengthens their trunk further, allowing them to sit supported by six months.
With the increase in motor capacity, infants are able to direct their attention to things that interest them rather than being reflexively pulled to attend by strong stimuli as in the first three months. With this increase in control, we see an intense exploration of self, others and objects. Between three and six months, the visual and motor systems in particular, pull at each other to encourage refinement and development of sensory perception. Reaching out to something that captures their visual attention gives them two ways of comparing distance – how far it looks and how far it really is.
Babies grow dramatically in awareness of their social world over this period. They pay great attention to faces, attending to movements of the mouth & eyes and noticing changes in facial expressions. The desire to communicate increases, and over this period, infants start to demand human attention using their own voice (squealing, grunting) and facial expressions and enjoying it hugely when they get attention. Babies also begin to recognize human emotion in tone of voice. Babies love interactive body-based games and respond by wiggling and laughing, asking for it to be continued.
Babies now recognize the signs that they are going to be fed, responding by drooling, licking their lips, and body movements when they hear the sounds associated with feeding or see feeding utensils typically used. They move beyond their early suck-swallow pattern and use their tongue and lips actively to get and retain food and liquids.