Activities for a 6-month-old: Fostering baby’s development
Use bath time to learn new things.
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Your curious kiddo is getting the hang of lots of new things this month: eating (and playing with) solid foods, sitting unassisted, sleeping on a schedule (with two naps!) and making new sounds. Also: get ready for lots (and lots) of peekaboo now that your baby understands cause and effect.
Tovah Klein, PhD, director of the Barnard College Center for Toddler Development and author of “How Toddlers Thrive,” shares fun ways you can play with your baby to encourage exploration and get lots of giggles in the process.
Here’s what else you can expect this month.
Related: 6-month-old baby milestones
Sensory activities for 6-month-olds
1. Plenty of peekaboo
Try putting your hands over your face and ask, “Where’s Mama?” then remove them. This game, played over and over, helps your baby learn that you go bye-bye, but then you come back. This helps them learn about separation from you, and helps them practice saying goodbye, knowing that you will be back. Plus, it’s just so fun!
Related: Separation anxiety is real—but it’s also fleeting
2. Use bath time to learn new things
Give your baby clean, empty plastic containers. Fill them with water, then let your baby pour it out and see what happens as the water falls, or when they pour it into an empty cup. This is how they learn about how things work and it helps their brain develop.
When they splash and you laugh, they learn about connecting and playing with you. This will help them learn about playing with other people, and friends, as they get older. Bath time may also be the one quiet time you get alone with them. When you gently bathe them, and snuggle them in a towel afterward, it carries the big benefit of helping them feel good about themselves and shows them how much they are loved.
Related: 14 bath safety tips for babies and kids of all ages
3. Let them play with their food
Aside from eating new things, experiencing how it feels is another way of learning. Babies can explore colors, textures and smells all through the foods they eat. Playing with food is an important part of their sensory development.
Related: 10 key foods to fuel baby’s brain development
Developmental activities for 6-month-olds
1. Stacking blocks
Build. Topple. Repeat. Baby will love watching you create a tower of blocks and then helping to knock it down. Look for a set of soft blocks that are perfect for little hands to grab.
2. Play back-and-forth games
Give your baby a toy, then put your hand out and say, “Now, give it to Mama.” Eventually they’ll hand it back (it’s OK if they don’t; they may just want to hold it, too). Then you can say, “You gave it back. Now I give it to you.” Babies love this game and can do it over and over. They also like to copy you. If you bang on a toy, they will try it too.
Related: How much sleep does a 6-month-old baby need?
3. Splash zone
Ready to turn tummy time into a real splash? With baby lying down on their belly, place a baking sheet in front of them and add a little water along with a rubber ducky or other floating bath toy. Demonstrate for your baby how to grab the toy as it floats on the tray, and let them splash around to their heart’s content.
Things to do with a 6-month-old
From starting solid foods to introducing sign language, child development psychologist Dr. Holly Ruhl has week-by-week tips for month six.
Week 1: Starting solids
The AAP recommends introducing solid foods around 6 months to ensure adequate nutrition. This week, whether it’s baby oatmeal mixed with a bit of breast milk or formula or a nutrient-dense veggie like avocado, give baby a taste of that momentous first food. This experience will be unpredictable, so relax and place expectations aside. Try one new food every three to five days to note any allergies. Your pediatrician will have more advice on starting solids to offer.
Week 2: Sign language
If baby’s thoughts are outpacing verbal skills, sign language can ease baby’s frustration and even facilitate verbal development. Start with essentials like, “more,” “thank you” or “milk.” It may take a couple of months for baby to catch on, so don’t give up. Offer baby praise for even imperfect gestures and remember that the ultimate goal is effective communication.
Week 3: Making moves
Although crawling is no longer considered a developmental milestone (not every baby will crawl, and that’s fine!), a broader sense of movement should be a goal worthy of your focus, whether that’s scooting, crawling or sEncourage strong legs by letting baby’s feet push off your hands for propulsion. Alternatively, try placing a coveted object just out of reach and scoot it away as baby moves towards it. After a little hard work, reward baby with the temping toy.
Related: Yes, it’s normal if your baby doesn’t crawl
Week 4: Baths in the big tub
If baby can sit independently, this week may be the perfect time to start bath time in the big tub! Bath time as an evening routine (with soap every other night) is a fun opportunity for you or your partner to bond with your growing tot. A bath before bedtime can improve sleep and offers an environment to narrate, sing bath songs and teach concepts like “sink or float” and “wet or dry.”
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Look ahead: Activities for an 7-month-old: Fostering baby’s development
A version of this story was originally published on Sept. 28, 2021. It has been updated.