The First Six Months: Big Changes – Month Four

The Fourth Month: Big Looks

Now the real fun begins. The social, motor, and language skills that started in the previous stage really blossom during the next three months, which we call the interactive stage.

The Master Skill — Binocular Vision

As you become a veteran baby watcher, you will notice that each stage has one important skill that, once mastered, has a snowball effect in helping baby better develop other skills. Binocular vision is the master skill of the fourth month. Baby can now use both eyes together, giving him better depth perception — the ability to judge accurately the distance between his eyes and the things he sees. Imagine what baby had to put up with in the previous month. After swiping at and missing targets for three months, baby can finally get a consistent fix on a toy and grab it accurately.

When you baby develops binocular vision, here’s what he can do with it. First, he tracks better. Watch him hold a visual fix on a toy or person moving from side to side, a full 180 degrees. And, while tracking his head begins to catch up with his eyes so that both begin to move together.

“My Baby’s Not Doing That”

There will be time when you feel, “My baby’s not doing that yet!” Don’t worry. Nearly all babies go through the milestones we discuss, but they may not always be “on time.” The month-to-month progression is more important than the timing. Enjoy the sequence of development and don’t focus on which month you are reading about.

Gazing begins.
Gazing is more than seeing. It includes the sense of sigh plus the ability to move the head and eyes to keep a visual fix on a moving target. To see if your baby has mastered this skill, try the mutual gazing game: When baby is in the quiet alert state capture his attention with a visual fix. Then slowly tilt your head. Watch him tilt his. Rotate his body and notice he turns his head to keep his favorite face in view. This is gazing — a powerful visual skill that captures all who lock into baby’s eyes.

Note: One of the most exciting things about our four-month-olds development is the way he reaches for me with his eyes. He expresses thanks with his eyes. He turns his face and eyes toward me. They are so expressive and adoring. He appears to be fully aware of me as his source of love, nourishment, and well being. He craves my presence and totally enjoys our togetherness. It’s a love affair, full-blown. I recognize the love his eyes as one more emotion that he’s capable of expressing.

Favorite colors.
Besides being able to see more clearly, babies widen their color preference. While black and white were the favorites — and may remain so for a while — your baby may begin to show an increasing interest in colors. Babies prefer natural colors, like the reds and yellows of flowers, and they still shun pastels. To encourage baby’s interest in color, continue to contrast light and dark colors — alternating red and yellow strips, for example.

Reach Out and Touch Someone — Accurately

The development of binocular vision is a prelude to an important hand-eye skill – visually directed reaching, meaning the eyes lead the hands to grab the desired object or person accurately. Watch your baby’s eyes follow his hands as he reaches for a toy. It seems as if hands and eyes are finally saying, “Let’s move together to improve our aim.”

Hand play.
One of the most intriguing developments of this stage is increased interest in hand play. Now that baby’s eyes have clear depth perception, he may constantly play with his favorite and ever-present toys – his hands. Sucking on fingers and fists now becomes a treasured pastime. To relieve gum soreness, the beginning teether gnaws on his hands as readily available teething objects.

Gathering in.
Most babies do no yet reach accurately with one hand. Dangle an interesting toy in front of your baby’s face within reaching distance. Rather than reach out with one hand and pinpoint accuracy, he will most likely embrace the toy with both hands as if gathering it in toward himself. Sometimes he’ll miss the toy entirely, and his embracing hands will meet and continue on to the mouth. Now move the toy while he is reaching for it, and he’ll probably miss it or turn away because you have violated his rules of reaching game. Hold the toy still, At this stage most babies cannot yet make in-flight corrections to grab moving toys accurately.

Safety Tip:
Beware of the reaching and grabbing tendencies of the for-month-old. Keep baby beyond the reach of harmful objects, such as hot beverages or sharp and fragile items. Never hold a hot beverage while holding a baby, not matter how careful you plan to be Babies have lightning-fast reaches.

Moves of the Month

Rolling over.
When your baby rolls over depends more on baby’s temperament than motor maturity. Very active babies, who enjoy stiffening and back arching, are apt to roll over sooner. When lying o his tummy, the active baby may practice push-ups and torque his head to one side, surprising himself when he flips over. Mellow babies are content to lie and gaze at visual delights. The flip around less and are likely not to roll over until five to six months Most babies at this stage roll from tummy to side or from side to side, and they usually first roll from tummy to back before rolling from back to tummy. car seats

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