Brain Builders: Stimulating Activities for Your 4-month-old Baby

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Congratulations, your baby is 4 months old. This month is such an exciting time because the amazement and wonder of the world around your baby begins to unfold.

Baby now begins to realize that he is more than a mere extension of his caregiver and that he is actually a separate person. This process will naturally lead him to begin noticing his world. Other people and objects become part of his focus as he begins to explore how they relate to each other as well as to him.

Baby now begins to realize that he is more than a mere extension of his caregiver and that he is actually a separate person.

You probably have noticed that he reaches for objects, and although he may miss his target, he continues to explore and try. He has now realized what his hands are for but hasn’t quite yet mastered how to get them to hit the target accurately every time. It may even appear that he believes his palm is the part that does the grasping as he stretches out his fingers and aims with his palm toward the object of his attention.

This is where finger play activities become important. By incorporating exercises that stimulate fine motor control, you can help him to master control over his fingers individually and help him understand the special connection between how long they are, how far he can reach with them and when to close them in order to grasp the object.

Your baby’s sense of sight is also developing into binocular vision as he becomes able to focus both eyes on one point in front of him, allowing him to see more of his world. His sense of object permanence increases as he begins to understand that when you are not in his direct vision, you still exist and have not permanently gone away. Spatial awareness also begins to play a significant role in his development because he can now command space by reaching, grasping and bringing objects into his vision and of course, his mouth. You can help him develop spatial awareness by showing him his clothes before you put them on him or by letting him see flowers before letting him smell them.

Now is a great time to incorporate free, unstructured movement and sensory play into your daily routine with Baby. Stacking games are wonderful for conveying how objects relate to each other as well as in space. Use graduated sizes and variations and build towers by placing the smaller cups or blocks onto the larger ones, and then knock them down. Collapsing them or knocking them down emphasizes permanence because they change position while remaining the same objects.

It is best to use stacking objects that are the same shapes, such as circular cups that graduate in various sizes. You can also nest the cups by placing them inside each other to demonstrate how the shapes relate to one another. Place Baby on a blanket on the floor, and give him three toys to play with. Make sure that two of the toys are familiar to him and one is new (such as an empty roll of toilet paper, fabric books or a measuring cup). Make sure that the toys are safe for his mouth and that he is always under your visual supervision.

Fourth-month Milestones

In the fourth month of your baby’s life, you’ll observe some of the following milestones:

  • He focuses both eyes on one point in front of him (binocular vision).
  • He is capable of seeing everything in his room.
  • He realizes that other objects as well as people around him are not part of him.
  • He is developing his bilateral balance and will continue to grow stronger and be able to sit up as he strengthens his core muscles.
  • His concept of permanence is established, and he begins to understand that no matter what the orientation of an object or person, it is still the same object. In other words, he understands that whether you are in front of him or in his peripheral vision, you are still the same wonderful Mommy.
  • He gains more vertical proficiency by moving himself through space using his legs and trunk. He can roll over and push off his crib with his feet, propelling himself forward. Oftentimes you may go into his room and find him at the far end of his crib.
  • He can play without your direct interaction, although still under your visual supervision, for periods of up to 20 minutes at a time. An infant should not ever be left alone with toys.
  • He will verbally imitate interaction with you through mumbling. He can also imitate you verbally, as well as get your attention and initiate interaction by making sounds with his mouth, such as clicking his tongue on the roof of his mouth.
  • He can lift himself up with his arms and may even be able to pull himself into a sitting position. Any object that is within his reach and that he can pull down will end up in his mouth.
  • He needs only one supporting arm to hold and balance himself as he reaches forward while lying on his stomach.
  • He may be able to roll from side to side or turn from his back to his side and onto his stomach.
  • His core muscles are becoming stronger, and you may notice that his arms and hands are more active. He can bend his arms and reach and voluntarily grasp objects within his reach.
  • He usually sleeps in six- to eight-hour intervals during the night.
  • He has developed into a social butterfly, gracing everyone with his laughs, broad smiles and joyful expressions. He closely observes strangers, adjusting his responses based upon his experiences with them.
  • He has established his favorite people by now and also has distinguished a favorite toy. He delightfully creates different ways to play with it.

Activities

The following exercises were designed to help your baby work on many of these skills. Keep in mind they will stimulate your baby’s entire body. Each time you perform the exercise, your baby is actually responding; her brain will be registering the action, and her muscles will be getting stronger.

Airplane

Up like a rocket,
Down like a plane,
Back and forth like a Choo-choo train.
I can fly here,
I can fly there,
I can fly anywhere.

Begin by lying on your back and placing Baby on your tummy with her head toward your face and her feet toward your feet.

While saying the first line, with your hands firmly around her chest, raise her in the air and raise her toward your face. For the second line, bring her back down to your chest. For the third line, raise her up in the air, moving her in a forward and backward motion. Then raise her up like an airplane, and move her around in a circular motion for the last lines of the rhyme.

Brain building skills: Develops strength and balance
Muscles exercised: Head and neck, shoulders, upper and lower back
Exercises performed: Head and neck lifts

Pillow Crawl

The Bear Went Over the Mountain
The Bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
The bear went over the mountain,
To see what he could see,
To see what he could see,
To see what he could see,
The Bear went over the mountain to see what he could see.

Place a firm pillow on the floor. Lay your baby on his stomach on top of the pillow. His hands should be resting on the floor in front of the pillow. Kneel down in front of Baby’s face with one hand on his back to secure and keep him from rolling off.

Entice your Baby forward, helping him as he inches over the pillow. Keep your other hand close to his shoulders to prevent him from falling face down on the floor. Talk to him as he works toward you over the pillow. Let him place his hands on the floor, and encourage him to walk his hands forward, pulling his body over and across the pillow top.

“The Bear Went Over the Mountain” is a great song to sing as Baby develops strength and confidence.

Brain building skills: Enhances upper body strength and coordination, promotes an interest and the ability to accept and master challenges

My Bonnie*

My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
My Bonnie lies over the sea,
My Bonnie lies over the ocean,
Oh, bring back my Bonnie to me, to me.
Bring back, bring back,
Bring back my Bonnie to me.

*The actual word is Bonnet, but I prefer to use Bonnie.

This exercise requires two people. Lay Baby on his back and in the center of his baby blanket. One person holds the outer edges of one side of the blanket, and the other person holds the other side. Slightly lift the edges up and one person lifts their side high while the other person lowers their side. This creates a seesaw type of effect, and after Baby is used to the slow rocking motion, you actually lift one side, rolling Baby onto his stomach. Repeat the exercise, and roll him onto his back. Make sure to do this slowly and gently.

Brain building skills: Builds head and neck control, strengthens core muscles, enhances coordination and encourages Baby to roll over from front to back and back to front.
Muscles exercised: Neck, upper body, upper and lower back, and core muscles.

Baby Push (Sung to the tune of London Bridge Is Falling Down)

Take your feet and push, push, push,
Push, push, push,
Push, push, push.
Take your feet and push, push, push,
Push your little baby.
Repeat several times.

Lay Baby on his stomach. Kneel down behind him and put your hands on the soles of his feet. As soon as he feels your hands, he will try to bring himself forward by pushing his feet against your hands. Sometimes he may need a gentle push from you. While lightly pushing his feet, sing “Push the Baby.”

Brain building skills: Builds both small and large motor skills at the same time, head and neck control, and upper and lower back. This is a preparation exercise for crawling.
Muscles exercised: Neck, upper body, upper and lower back, arms and legs, and core muscles.

Whoop Johnnie

Whoop Johnnie, whoop Johnnie, whoop Johnnie, whoop.
Repeat on other hand.

Say the rhyme as you slide your index finger down the inside of Baby’s thumb and up his index finger, down the index finger and up his middle finger, and so on until you reach his pinky finger. Tap the tip of his pinky finger with your index finger on the last “whoop.”

Brain building skills: Language development, tactile stimulation, anticipation and excitement.
Muscles exercised: Neck, upper body, upper and lower back, arms and legs, and core muscles.

Dance Your Blanket (Sung to the tune of The Farmer in the Dell)

Dance your blanket up
(Hold the blanket high up in the air between you and Baby.)
And dance your blanket down.
(Bring the blanket down.)
Dance your blanket from side to side,
(Move the blanket from side to side in front of Baby.)
And dance it all around.
(Make a circular motion in the air with the blanket.)
Now dance it on your head,
(Gently touch Baby’s head with the blanket.)
And dance it on your shoulders,
(Gently touch Baby’s shoulders with the blanket.)
Dance on your tummy,
(Tickle Baby’s tummy with your hand inside the blanket.)
And put the Baby to bed.
Peek-a-boo!
(Cover Baby’s face with the blanket and then remove.)

This exercise can be done with Baby sitting in front of you so that he faces you or lying on his back.

Brain building skills: Body awareness, tactile stimulation, anticipation, excitement and object permanence.

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