The First Six Months: Big Changes - Month Five

May 27


Sally Michener

Sally Michener

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This article covers the following topics: The Fifth Month: Big Reaches, Reach Out and touch Someone--With One Hand, Maintain Voice Contact, Favorite Five-Month Activities, Playing airplane, Pushing off, Pushing up, Playing with the feet, Pulling to sit and stand, First Sitting, Rolling over, Standing better, Playing with a Five-month-old, Grab and pull, Block play, Toy Tips for the Five-Month-Old, Table fun, Cushion play, There will be one more part to this article, be sure to keep an eye out for it.


The Fifth Month: Big Reaches

Reaching one-handed is an exciting developmental accomplishment at this stage. To appreciate the serial development of baby's ability to reach,The First Six Months: Big Changes - Month Five Articles let's review the sequence of reaching from birth to five months. Even in the first couple of months a finger may momentarily flit or dart out in the direction of the object of interest. This subtle, almost imperceptible gesture is the beginning of reaching.

Around three months of age baby discovers that her hands are easily reachable objects, and, even more amazing, they are a part of herself. Baby begins pointing, swiping, an batting at close objects. Her misses usually outnumber the direct hits. There is very little directionality in the early swiping movements. From three to four months the beginning of midline play (using the hands in front of the body) is another important milestone in the development of reaching. Once hand serves as a target for the other. The development of binocular vision enables baby to begin gathering-in motions in the fourth month, and baby develops some direction to his reaching.

Reach Out and Touch Someone -- With One Hand

Around the fifth month, the two-handed embracing type of reaching progresses into an accurate one-handed reach. In baby's first touch-grasp motions, she uses her whole hand in a mitten like grasp to trap the object between all of her fingers and the palm of her hand. Also around the fifth month, baby reaches out with one hand for objects that are nearly an arm's length away. Watch your baby grasp the intended toy precisely in her hand, examine it, and then transfer it to the other hand or to her mouth.

Maintain Voice Contact

Baby's developing ability to associate the voice with the person adds a new dimension to keeping in touch with your baby. Use this ability of voice recognition and localization to calm your baby. When your baby is fussing in the other room, call out, "Mama's coming." Baby will often quiet down and will be waving his arms and kicking his legs in anticipation when you enter the room.

Not until around a year of age can you expect baby to keep an image of you in his mind when he can't see you. Voice contact ("Mama's here") will help lessen baby's worry, but expect baby to fuss during your disappearing acts for many months.

Favorite Five-Month Activities

Playing airplane.
Place your five-month-old on his tummy and notice how he flaps his arms, pedals his legs, rocks on his tummy, arches his neck for the takeoff, and plays airplane.

Pushing off.
Here's how you help him "take off." Push your hand against the soles of his feet while he is on his runway and watch him propel himself forward by pushing off on your hand. Digging in and pushing off is why you may discover that your baby has squirmed all the way across the crib.

Pushing up.
Last month baby was content to lift his head and chest up and rest on his elbows. Now he can do a complete push-up, lifting his chest off the floor with his arms extended as props.

Playing with the feet.
Reclining in your lap, baby may now be able to crane his neck forward to grab and play with his flying feet.

Pulling too sit and stand.
Now pull you baby up by the hands to a sitting position and notice how he assists you by lifting his head forward and flexing his elbows, making it easy to pull him to sitting and standing positions.

First sitting.
A favorite five-month poses is baby sitting without support, leaning forward propped up on both outstretched arms. In the previous stage he might have immediately toppled over, but now he can spend a few minutes enjoying these first sits and may even let go with one arm and start playing with his toes or reaching for a toy while maintaining his balance with the other arm. The ability to sit up with support gets baby his first high chair, and the five-month-old may be ready to join the family table.

Rolling over.
The push-up position allows baby to roll easily from tummy to back. Watch your baby's rolling-over sequence: As baby pushes himself up, he pushes higher with one arm and then leans his head and shoulders backward and torques like a flywheel, increasing his twisting momentum. Besides torquing himself all the way over the complete push-up position, baby discovers the following shortcut to rolling over: Place a favorite toy alongside baby. He'll notice the toy and try to roll toward it. He tucks one elbow underneath him and pushes himself over with the other arm, letting the elbow on the tucked-in arm act as a sort of roll bar. Most babies roll from tummy to back before rolling from back to tummy because they can muster up more leverage with their arms and roll better on their rounded abdomen.

Standing better.
Previously, baby could stand only if you supported his trunk under his arms. Now he can bear almost all of his weight himself, his outstretched hands holding on to you only for balance.

Playing with a Five-month-old

Here are some good ways for you and baby to enjoy his expanding skills.

Grab and pull.
Any part of your body is fair game for reaching. As babies would grab a fistful of a man's chest hair, he would yell "Ouch," and the baby would squeal with delight at their achievement. Baby can now reach for and hold on to the bottle or the breast during feeding.

Block play.
There is no better toy than the simple block. Try these starter blocks:

* small enough (one-and-a-half-inch/four centimeter sides) to be easily picked up with one hand.
* contrasting colors: red, yellow, blue
* wooden blocks

Set your baby in a high chair, propping him up with pillows until he's old enough to sit steadily in the chair unsupported. Place the starter blocks on the tray or table in front of baby and observe the amazing play skills of the five-month-old. Watch your baby grab a block in a mitten like grasp, fondle it, study it, transfer it from hand to hand or from hand to lips. Soon he will learn to bank the blocks, drop them, and stack them. Watch your baby turn the block over and over from hand to hand.

Start with one block and let your baby get used to it. Then place a second block before him and notice how he holds one block with one hand and grabs the second block with the other. Now he looks at both hands full of blocks and wonders what to do. Probably he'll start banging them together. Within a month or two he will learn to put one block down to grab another. Manipulating blocks is a valuable play and learning exercise for baby. He has complete control of this toy, and it helps encourage thumb-and-forefinger grasping that will develop over the next few months.

Toy Tips For The Five-Month-Old

* squeeze toys and squeak toys
* toys of different shapes and textures that baby can really sink his hands into, such as several short pieces of yarn tied together at the center.
* blocks -- a favorite at any age
* grab-and-transfer toys such as rings

Safety Tip: Toys such as blocks and balls should have a diameter of at least one and one-half inches (four centimeters) so that baby can't swallow them.

Table fun.
Sit baby on your lap at the dinner table and allow him to play with paper or cloth napkins and spoons.

Safety tip:
At the table be careful to keep dangerous utensils, such as knives and forks, and hot food and beverages far away from baby. If baby does accidentally grab a sharp utensil, avoid trying to grab it from his hand, which may cause baby to hold on more tightly and result in a cut. Instead, squeeze the back of his hand and his wrist. This prevents baby from clutching the knife tightly and waving it around. With the other hand slowly pry the fingers off the knife until it falls a out of his clenched fist.

Cushion play.
Beginning around five months you can have the most fun playing with homemade cylindrical and wedge-shaped cushions. You can buy leftover pieces of foam at an upholstery shop. If you are really hip on being an infant stimulator, cover the foam with patterned material, such as black-and-white stripes.

Cylindrical shapes (called bolsters), seven to ten inches (eighteen to twenty-five centimeters) in diameter and approximately two feet (sixty centimeters) long, make practical rolling cushions for baby to practice trunk, head, and reaching exercises. For example, you can hold baby by the feet and play wheelbarrow or drape your baby over the cylindrical cushion and notice how he enjoys the mobility that these floor cushions allow. He may push himself forward by digging his toes into the carpet and learning to rock himself band and forth on the cushion using his own foot power.

Wedge-shaped cushions can support baby's chest, allowing him to dangle his head over the edge of the wedge and play with toys within his grasp. Use a wedge three to four inches (eight to ten centimeters) high for this age.
There will be more articles on infants, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

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