Using all his senses, your baby is investigating his world and is learning very quickly. Enjoy this time of discovery by providing a wide variety of things for him to play with. Looking intently, handling, and mouthing, banging and dropping or throwing everything within reach is your baby’s way of relating to his world. Encourage his explorations.
What Your Baby is Learning
Your six month old is learning better hand control. He will begin raking objects toward himself and then transferring objects from one hand to the other. When he has objects in both hands, he will begin banging them together. Until now, he dropped things because he couldn’t hold them longer. This month he will begin purposely dropping toys to see what will happen.
He is becoming much more active. He wants to move. He will be sitting with legs wide spread and hands propping him up. Then because he wants to get toys beyond his reach, he may “fall” from sitting to tummy, roll from tummy to back or reverse, “bounce” forward or backward. All of these motions are building muscles and skills for creeping and crawling.
His leg strength is improving too. Your baby is learning to support all his weight when held in a standing position. Bouncing with your support will be one of his favorite games.
At about six months your baby’s growth rate will slow from 1½-2 pounds per month to 1-1¼ pounds per month until his first birthday.
Six month olds search out the source of sounds with their ears and eyes. At six months babies are babbling and producing an enormous variety of sounds including squeals, hisses, bubbling, and throat clicks.
Until your baby is able to speak, you may enjoy teaching your baby sign language. He understands language and his motor skills are far ahead of his ability to speak. He already shows you he is sleepy by rubbing his eyes and he raising his arms when he wants you to pick him up. Try using the same hand signal every time you use common words. For food, touch your mouth; for quiet, cover your ears; for hot, put hand out and pull back quickly. This will not slow his speech development, it may actually speed it. And it may save a few tantrums from the frustration of being unable to communicate needs.
See our article about Baby Signing.
Six month olds are still enjoying strangers who smile and make faces. He may actually initiate attention from strangers. He is still needing, even craving, your tender loving care and attention. He holds up his arms to be lifted up. He knows whom he wants to hold him.
He wants your attention and is learning ways to get it. Some of his antics are so cute you can’t help but give him the attention he wants. Soon enough some of his behaviors won’t be ones you want to encourage. So begin now to give him lots of positive feedback when he is doing things you like. Since attention is what he wants, lots of attention for “good” things he does will encourage him to do them more. This is the beginning of teaching right from wrong.
He is expanding his understanding of cause and effect. Letting go of an object makes it fall. Clapping objects together causes a banging sound. His experiments with cause and effect will continue to expand.
He is gaining a sense of object permanence, knowing that an object exists even if he cannot see it. He will enjoy searching for an object that is partially hidden. Peek-a-boo is a favorite game at this age.
Ways You Can Help
He should be ready to sit up. When you pull him to a sitting position, he will hold his head up well. Provide some time each day for him to sit supporting himself with one or both hands. You will need to be nearby to offer support and surround him with pillows to cushion a possible fall. He is gaining muscle control necessary to sit by himself.
With all his movement, he will want to wear soft, loose, stretchy clothes. The baby blue jeans may be cute, but they will chafe his tender skin when he moves. Don’t make him wear anything that will get in the way of his sleeping, crawling, and playing.
Putting toys and other objects in his mouth allows him to discover the taste and texture of different objects. This is one way he learns about his world. Give him a wide variety of things to explore: different fabrics, textures, things that make noise, soft and hard, bright and colorful.
The other reason for mouthing things can also signal the first tooth may be ready to surface. Your baby will drool a lot and chew everything he can. Teething hurts. Rubbing his gums will help to soothe the pain.
He may use one hand more than the other for a little while and then switch to the other. There is no way to know if he is right or left handed this young. Don’t try to force him to become right or left handed as it can cause difficulty concentrating, hand-eye coordination problems, and poor handwriting later on.
Play games that involve taking turns making sounds. When he makes a sound, you mimic him, then you take a turn making a sound and pause for him to mimic you. Babies love to learn to make animal sounds.
This is the time to begin reading aloud to your child daily. He will enjoy looking at books with you now. Cardboard books give him a chance to learn to turn the pages. He will enjoy the bright pictures and the new sounds you make as you read. The melody and rhythm of language will interest him before he is able to understand the words. Besides developing a love of language and learning, reading provides an opportunity for cuddling and socializing too.
Sleeping and Naps:
At six months your baby is settling into a good routine for naps. He will average 14 hours of sleep per day with 7-8 hours at night. Most six months olds take at least two naps during the day.
Your baby would rather play and interact with you than nap. So if he is only taking 20 minute “catnaps” during the day, it may be time to start putting him in his crib for naps where he won’t be so easily roused after a short sleep. Keeping naptimes consistent will help him fall asleep more easily and stay asleep longer.
This is a good age to help your baby learn to fall asleep on his own. Have a set bedtime routine and put him to bed before he is asleep. If he cries, stay away a few minutes to see if he settles himself. If not, return and soothe him without picking him up. You may have to repeat this routine several times. He will soon figure out that his crying is not getting him what he wants. If he wakes during the night, repeat this same procedure. If you cuddle, feed, or talk to him, he may make a habit of waking in the night for your attention.
This process is not easy because it is hard to hear your baby cry. However, you must remember he is safe and that some crying now will mean you all will sleep better after he learns to put himself to sleep. It may take a few nights before it is automatic.
What to Expect Next
- Sitting unsupported and pivoting to reach objects.
- Getting his knees and elbows or hands under him when lying prone.
- Jabbering, putting syllables together
This is typically the first efficient way for babies to get around. Balancing on hands and knees, he begins to move forward by pushing himself with his knees.
When do babies start crawling?
Most babies begin to crawl between 6 and 10 months. Since being instructed to put baby to sleep on his back instead of his tummy, many babies are slower learning to crawl and some skip the stage completely. Some babies scoot around on their bottom, others slither on their tummy, others roll across the floor. As long as your baby is actively moving his arms and legs and strengthening those muscles, he is still preparing to walk.
Why should your baby crawl?
Crawling is not only good exercise for babies but is important for the development of their sensory/motor systems and general motor skills. Babies follow a developmental pattern from learning head control to balance while sitting to creeping to walking. Although some babies can learn to walk without ever crawling, it is best not to rush past this stage of development. Each stage of the pattern is important.
How does crawling develop?
When your baby can sit well without support, he will be able to hold his head up and look around. The muscles in his arms, legs, and back become strong enough to keep him from falling when he gets up on his hands and knees.
From sitting by himself, he will learn how to get onto all fours. It will take a little while for him to be able to do this whenever he wants. At first, while on his hands and knees, he will rock backwards and forwards.
At around 9-10 months, most babies learn to push off with their knees and begin moving forward. Some babies move backward before they learn to move forward. At first he may move an arm and a leg from the same side giving him a rolling, unstable crawl. Soon enough he will begin moving one arm with the opposite leg and become much more stable and faster moving.
It takes lots of practice in all of these activities to strengthen his muscles, improve his balance, and prepare him for walking.
Should my baby use a walker, jumper, or exersaucer?
Walkers, jumpers, and exersaucers do not help a baby learn to walk earlier. They may actually delay walking a little. In walkers, babies cannot see how their legs and feet move, and they learn to use unusual muscle patterns to move around, so their progress in walking may be slower. Exersaucers don’t move forward, so the baby is getting a false sense about walking. However, jumpers and exersaucers encourage leg muscle development and back and neck strength. As long as they are not used as a substitute for playing on the floor, they shouldn’t delay learning to walk.
Heavenly Father, I see how my baby trusts me to meet his needs. He never worries about his safety or his provision. Help me to always be trustworthy toward my child. Also help me learn to trust you like my baby trusts me. In Jesus’ name. Amen