Complete Guide to Baby Milestones from 3-6 Months

Your little one is out of the newborn stage and is now starting to show bigger movements.  They are becoming more aware of their surroundings and wanting to interact with the world around them.  It is exciting to see the transformation that occurs in the next few months!

In this post I will give you information what cognitive, social, motor, self help, and language skills look like and how to encourage them in babies from 3 to 6 months.

All children develop differently so know that if your baby is not doing the exact same things as your best friend’s, that is ok.  However, if you are concerned about your little one’s development always seek out the Early Intervention program in your area for a free screening or evaluation.

Are you wondering what infant milestones look like in your baby from 3-6 months? Read all about what skills to expect and simple play ideas to encourage child development. No lesson plans needed. Teach your baby through activities within your daily routines.

3-6 MONTHS COGNITIVE SKILLS INCLUDE:

 

Discovering Fingers and Toes

 

Your little one has a new favorite toy…luckily it is something they have with them all of the time!  You may have noticed while changing your little one’s diaper they are starting to grab at their toes to play.  What a fun first for baby and you!  While they are laying in their crib or sitting in their car seat they bring their hands near their face and watch how their tiny fingers move.

Mouthing Toys and Hands

 

One of the ways that a baby takes in new information is by using their mouth.  Putting toys or hands in their mouth is just another way to learn more about an object.  Give your child safe and clean toys (like these) to explore while you are changing their diaper or enjoying some play time on the floor. It is important to make sure that your house is baby proofed (find baby proofing tips HERE) and all small items are picked up as they become a choking hazard.

Reaching for Toys

 

The world is so interesting that your baby wants to reach out and touch it!  You may notice them reaching out to bat or touch toys above them.  They may also work to reach toys that are out of their reach.  Help them practice this skill by leaving toys a little ways away and letting your baby figure out how to reach them on their own.

HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE COGNITIVE SKILLS?

 

Playing

 

Give your little one lots of opportunities to play.  Toys should be very simple at this age and can include things like soft blocks, unbreakable mirrors, books (this is one of my favorites), and rattles.  Show your baby how a rattle works by gently shaking it. Then hand it off to them to give it a try.

Mirrors are very motivating and interesting for babies and are great to use during tummy time.  Place the unbreakable mirror in front of them and see how they react.  At first they may just gaze at it but eventually they will be amused by the baby right in front of them.

Peek-a-boo is the perfect game to introduce during diaper changes or while getting your little one dressed.  Hide behind a small cloth or towel and peek out at your baby.  Watch their reactions. If you are seeing smiles then continue with the fun social game.  If your baby seems frightened by it then you may want to hold off on it for a couple of weeks.  Always watch your baby’s cues during playtime or when introducing something new.

Reading

 

Now is the perfect time to introduce those soft squishy books (like these)  to your baby if you haven’t already done so.  While they are playing on their tummy, lay down in front of them and show them the pictures.  Describe what is on the pages to your baby so that they can hear new words.  Gently guide their hands to feel the different textures of the book to help them explore. If you need more ideas on how to encourage early literacy skills check out this list.

Talking

 

While your baby is taking in the world visually narrate what they see as well.  Take them on a tour around your house and describe to them all the new things around them.  When you are outside for a walk point out the puppy and talk about how warm or cool the air feels.  While you are making dinner, tell them all about it!  Your baby needs to hear words over and over so that they can learn them.

3-6 MONTHS SOCIAL SKILLS INCLUDE:

 

Awareness of New Situations

 

You use to be able to take your little one anywhere with not much fuss about being in a new place.  Whether you were at the grocery store, restaurant, or your friend’s house your baby did not respond to the environment change.

You may notice now that your baby is not so oblivious to a scenery change these days.  Their eyes may widen to take in the new surroundings or they may cry or show signs of fear.

You don’t need to stop taking your little one with you, but do try to make them comfortable in new environments if they appear to be upset.  Bring a familiar toy or hold them to calm them down.  Tell them about where they are and explain to them that they are in a safe space with you by their side.

Loves Social Play

 

Your baby’s new favorite toy is….YOU!  Your baby is now showing a lot of interest in you and enjoys your company.  They love it when you are chatting with them or playing peek-a-boo during a diaper change.  They love to look at your face and eye contact is present for brief times when playing and interacting.

Notices Unfamiliar Faces

 

When your baby was first born they did not care who was holding them, as long as they had a warm body!  These days your little one may not be as comfortable with someone who isn’t mom or dad.  Your baby is starting to recognize strange faces and new people.  They may show some anxiety or cry if a new person is introduced.

HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE SOCIAL SKILLS?

 

Play

 

Your baby is starting to crave social play so it is time to have some fun!  Playing simple games like peek-a-boo is a great way to be social and have fun with your little one.  Try this out during diaper changes or tummy time with your baby.

Mirrors (like this one) are a great way for your baby to discover themselves.  If you are in the bathroom, let them see their reflection and talk about the beautiful baby in the mirror.  If they are having some floor time take a non-breakable mirror and put it in front of them.  They may only glance at the mirror at first, but soon they will be smiling at the new playmate in front of them.

Click here for ideas on toys that will help encourage development.

Singing

 

Singing simple songs is a great way to connect with your baby.  Singing provides a perfect transition to bedtime and is a great way to greet your baby when they wake up.  You can start with simple nursery rhymes or your favorite song from the radio, either way your little one will get the same benefit.  If you know songs in multiple languages it is a great time to introduce those as well.

Reading

 

Reading with your baby provides lots of social interaction (click here to read more about early literacy skills).  Explore soft squishy books (like these) together before bed or during play time.  Talk about the pictures and show your baby how to pat and point at what they see.

Label emotions that the characters are having in the story so your little one becomes more familiar with those words. Talk about your own emotions as you read as well to help develop their emotional awareness.  Let them know how happy it makes you to spend time with your favorite little human!

3-6 MONTHS SELF HELP SKILLS INCLUDE:

 

Sleeps Longer Stretches

 

You may notice that your baby is starting to sleep longer stretches at night.  They should be getting about 10-12 hours total but still waking up at times is normal.  According to Baby Sleep Central your baby’s awake time should be about 1.25 to 2 hours at a time from 4-6 months with naps during the day that total up to about 3.5 to 5 hours. Are you having trouble getting your little one to sleep?  Click here to learn all about sleep!

 

Bringing Hands to Mouth

 

Your baby is starting to use their hands to play and explore.  They are now able to bring their hands to their mouth while holding an object or toy.  This skill lets baby explore new objects with their mouths which is how they take in a lot of information.  Providing them with simple textured toys (like this one) that they can explore is a great way to encourage this skill.

Placing Hands on Bottle

 

Your baby is showing interest in helping feed themselves.  You may notice that they are bringing their hands up to the bottle while they are feeding.  Eventually they will gain the strength to hold the bottle on their own.  You can start working on this skill by gently bringing their hands up to the bottle during feeding times.  If they resist, follow their cues.  They may not be ready to concentrate on holding the bottle and may need to focus on coordinating their feeding.  Keep trying periodically to introduce this skill.

HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE SELF HELP SKILLS?

 

Play

 

Playing with your baby is a wonderful way to encourage the muscles and coordination they need to gain for skills like reaching for the bottle.  Encourage two-handed play with simple toys (like these)during diaper changes or floor time.

Let your baby explore different textures with their hands which will also encourage reaching and grabbing.  Let them feel the roughness of a washcloth or a soft silk scarf to bring awareness to those little hands.

Hold Your Baby

 

Hold your baby during feeding times and do not prop the bottle so that they eat alone.  Avoid leaving the bottle in a crib or pack and play as well.  Feeding time is a great time to connect and be social with your baby.  You can work on showing them how to hold their own bottle by gently placing their hands on it.  As they become stronger you give them less help and let them hold it on their own.

If you are breastfeeding, it is also a great time to connect with your little one.  I know how tempting it can be to watch TV or look at your cell phone during feeding times (Read about TV guidelines for babies here).  Try to take the time to watch your baby while they feed as they grow up so fast! Watch for their cues to let you know when to switch sides or change positions to make them more comfortable.

Establish Routines

 

In order to promote good sleep habits, establish a bedtime routine.  Reading (simple books like these work great) and singing and perfect activities to include into your routine.  Make sure to give your baby time to calm down and fall asleep. Always follow safe sleep practices (if you need more information on safe sleep guidelines click here.)

 

3-6 MONTHS LANGUAGE INCLUDE:

 

Squealing/Laughing

 

You are starting to hear some new and exciting sounds from your baby.  The smiles are starting to have sound behind them as you hear baby’s first giggles and laughs.  They also may be trying to get your attention by squealing!  Listen closely to hear all the things your baby is starting to express.

 

Babble

 

Your baby is starting to “talk” by exploring all the new sounds they can make.  You are starting to hear consonants like “baba”.  They are not just babbling to themselves either, you may notice they are looking at you and the other people around them trying to have a conversation.  If you sing or turn on music your baby may respond to it by cooing along!

Looking When Name is Heard

 

Is your baby responding to their own name?  They may respond by looking towards it when they hear it or even vocalize back!  This exciting skill usually happens closer to 6 or 7 months, but it is never to early to start practicing.

HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE LANGUAGE SKILLS?

 

Narrate

 

While you are going about your day, talk about what you are doing.  Your baby needs to hear words over and over again to understand them and begin using them to express themselves.  For example, if you are cooking dinner let your little one know about all of the ingredients.  Show them to them and talk about how they taste.

Face Time

 

No…not the kind you use with the Iphone…actual face time with your baby is a great way to model language.  It is very helpful for your baby to see you while you are talking or making sounds.  This way they can imitate your mouth instead of just trying to do it by ear.  A perfect time To focus on this is during diaper changes when your baby is in a great position to see you clearly.

Make Faces

 

Make silly faces at your little one to see if you can get them to imitate you.  Stick out your tongue or blow a raspberry to see if your baby tries to imitate.  Language development requires lots of watching and imitating in order to learn the sounds in words.

Making silly faces is a great way to get your baby to practice looking at you and trying to imitate.  Give your baby an unbreakable mirror (like this one) to let them practice this skill in a different way.

Sing

 

Singing works wonderfully to teach babies language because of the natural repetition.  By singing to your baby it allows them to hear words over and over again which makes them easier to learn.  Singing is the perfect tool to help establish a smooth transition to bedtime or distract your baby during a diaper change.

3-6 MONTHS MOTOR SKILLS INCLUDE:

 

Holding Head Up

 

Your baby’s neck muscles are getting stronger everyday!  You may notice that your baby is starting to lift their head while doing tummy time for short spurts of time.  The increase in neck strength will also allow your baby to hold up their head in a supported sitting position.

Rolling

 

I still remembered the day my son rolled over…such an exciting milestone!  Your little one will most likely roll from tummy to back first and it could happen anytime now.  Back to tummy rolling usually comes a bit later, however all babies are different.

Hands Open

 

Remember when your baby was first born and always kept those little hands balled up into fists?  Now your baby’s hands are starting to be more in an open position…ready to grab!  You may notice too that your baby is able to grasp small toys (or your hair!)

HOW CAN I ENCOURAGE MOTOR SKILLS?

 

Play

Playing is the best way to motivate and encourage your baby to get moving!  Rattles (these are my favorite) are a great simple toy to use at this age to encourage fine motor skills.  They fit snug into your baby’s hand and are motivating to move because they make an interesting sounds.

Baby gyms  at this age are great because they give your baby something to reach and bat at. This is the one we had and we loved it because all of the toys were removable which allowed my son to play with it even longer.  He loved to look and feel the toys during a diaper change or just while playing on the floor.  Baby gyms are great for visual skills because the brightly colored objects are fun to look at and follow with their eyes.

Always make sure the floor is picked up and cleared of small objects as babies will pick up things and put them in their mouths.  Check out this post on baby proofing if you need some help with that! Baby’s learn a lot from mouthing objects so giving them some safe ones (like these) are a great way for them to learn and sooth sore gums as their teeth start to come in.

If you need more ideas on what toys work well for babies check out this post about 7 essential toys that help encourage development. 

Tummy Time

Tummy time is still VERY important at this age.  Doing tummy time on the floor or play mat (this one would work well) allows your baby to strengthen the muscles needed for rolling, crawling, and WALKING!  Always supervise your baby while they are on their tummy for play time.

Watch your baby’s cues during tummy time.  If they do not like it then try to do it in shorter amounts of time more frequently throughout the day.  Get down on the floor with them and play to help distract and encourage them.  Using a simple unbreakable mirror (like this one) also works well to entertain your little one during tummy time.

Reading

Reading is not only great at encouraging cognitive and language skills at this age, but also motor.  When looking at books with your baby show them how to pat and point out pictures.  This is a great way to encourage early literacy skills.

Soft and squishy books (like these) work best for this age as your baby will enjoy feeling and exploring the different textures.  Your baby will more than likely explore the books using their mouths so being able to through them in the laundry makes it a toy that is easy to clean as well.

If you are looking for a different early literacy experience for your baby, magazines (like these) may be a fun and exciting option for you.

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One Minute Milestones:  How to Encourage Development in Daily Routines

 

About Kayla ONeill

This is me and my beautiful bouncing baby boy! Before my little guy arrived I earned a Bachelor's degree in Special Education Birth to 21 as well as my Masters in Education. For six years I worked as an Early Interventionist serving children and families from birth to age three before becoming a stay at home mom to be with my son.

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