Helping your 5-month-old thrive: Tips + activities

Month 5: Joy & Pleasure

It doesn’t take much to make your baby happy these days. (And a flash of that toothless grin makes you feel like just maybe you’ve got this whole parenting thing down.) At five months, your little one is continuing to discover her world. She may be rolling, putting everything in her mouth, and playing that “game” of throwing toys onto the floor for you pick up at least 35 times (consider it an impromptu workout).

Dr. Tovah Klein, head of the Toddler Center at Barnard College and author of How Toddlers Thrive, has simple tips for helping your baby learn, laugh, and grow:

When your baby babbles, talk to her as if she really knows what you’re saying. The more you talk to your baby, the more language she hears, and the better she learns. (She also loves to hear your voice more than anything else!)

Tell her what you’re doing, “I have a ball and you are looking at it. Do you see the ball?” Sing songs or nursery rhymes. You’ll be amazed at what you remember from your own childhood.

Continue tummy time. Put your baby on her tummy with toys nearby to look at and reach for. This gets her muscles ready for sitting and crawling. Be sure to sit with her (you’re still the best play partner and audience). Soon, she may be able to get up on her hands and knees and rock back and forth, and begin to move objects from one hand to the other.

Hold your baby up to a mirror. Babies love to see themselves! She’ll smile and even laugh as you point out the baby in the mirror (she doesn’t yet know it is her reflection). Tell her, “See the baby? Hi sweet baby.” Point to her nose, mouth, ears, and name each body part.

Give her safe objects to play with that aren’t toys. Give your baby a rubber teething ring, or a plastic lid that she can’t choke on (from cottage cheese or yogurt) to hold, mouth, and look at. Remember, you can’t spoil your baby. Holding and comforting a baby when they cry makes them feel loved, not spoiled. Your baby counts on you soothe her, feed her (only if she is truly hungry), and figure out what she needs.

From the activity mat to activities outside of your house, child development psychologist Dr. Holly Ruhl has week-by-week tips for making the most of month five:

Month 5: Week 1 Baby now has a keen eye for colors. Check your art museum for family activities that will open baby’s eyes to a new world of colors! Many museums offer weekly events for children to observe galleries or get messy with hands-on activities. Discuss the scenes, colors, and emotions felt in the art pieces and baby will be a discerning patron of the fine arts in no time!

Month 5: Week 2 The old “out of sight, out of mind” trick may lose its effectiveness as your tot develops object permanence. Embrace baby’s new skill with games like Guess Which Hand, Hide-and-Seek with toys, and Peek-a-Boo! These challenging games will help baby develop expectations about hidden objects and soon find them!

Month 5: Week 3 You are an essential role model in baby’s life. Show your tot how important (and fun!) it is to be physically active and philanthropic by signing up for a charitable walk/run. Bring the stroller and baby carrier so your little one can have multiple vantage points for observing the excitement!

Month 5: Week 4 Exercise baby’s developing depth perception with a trip to the aquarium! Pique curiosity by gazing at the sea life, listening to tour guides, and touching interactive exhibits. Pro tip: A baby carrier offers a better view of the underwater magic and may foster secure attachment by helping you respond more easily to baby’s oohs and ahhs.

What to buy: Sassy Floor Mirror This soft mirror props up on easily on the floor, which will keep your baby busy with her own adorable reflection during tummy time.

Week-by-week activities

From starting solid foods to introducing sign language, child development psychologist Dr. Holly Ruhl has week-by-week tips for month six.

Week 1

The AAP recommends introducing solid foods around 6 months to ensure adequate nutrition. This week, whether it’s organic, gluten-free rice cereal or a nutrient-dense veggie like pureed carrots, 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.

Week 2

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

Although not an inevitable milestone, crawling is an important skill that is related to later cognitive development in infancy. Encourage crawling 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!

Week 4

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 (and dad) 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.”

A treat for baby: Bath Time!

Entertain your tot while he gets squeaky clean with this soft, squeaky, waterproof book.

Staff articles written by our team of experts, reporters + mamas. 

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