Baby development: 4 - 8 months

Baby development: 4 – 8 months

Paediatric occupational therapist Amy Faulkner guides us through a baby’s physical and mental milestones in the 4 to 8 months of their life.

A baby’s first year is a time of rapid development. It is an important opportunity to lay down good foundations of development for your baby and refine their skills in all areas. Milestone charts are helpful as a guide, however they should not be used as a definitive tool to assess your baby’s development. All babies are individual and develop skills at different rates. The important thing is that you can see your baby progressing and that they are showing signs of developing new skills month by month.

Gross motor skills

It is important to offer your baby plenty of opportunity to lie and move down on the floor or on a flat surface. Your baby should be encouraged to move and stretch while lying on a play mat, in their moses basket, or pram. When supervised, your baby can lie on their back, tummy and in a side lying position.

Sit: approximately six months

By now, baby has developed coordination of their back and tummy muscles to work in harmony to keep them upright and to manage their head control. Initially babies will not have ‘saving reactions,’ which is their hand going out to save themselves from falling over. So always keep plenty of pillows and play mats about when working on independent sitting skills.

Hand skills

6 months:

Your baby’s hand skills are becoming more coordinated and stronger, although they are still not refined. They can transfer toys from hand to hand, hold an object in each hand, hold and bang a spoon. They tend to grasp with their whole hand and sometimes with fingers in a scissors like grip.

Play suggestions include play bricks to bang together, stacking rings and cups, and wooden blocks. Your baby may be weaning onto some solid foods around now and food can be a very motivating way for your baby to refine their hand skills; exploring and sticking their fingers in purées or chewing on a piece of baby biscuit.

Remember – these milestones are just a guide. Each baby develops at his or her own rate, so don’t worry if not everything is ticked off by the book!


Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.



Q My son is 18 months old and has just started saying his first words. It is an extremely exciting time in our house and my husband and I are eager to encourage his speaking as much possible. What advice would you give us on how we can foster this without bombarding and confusing him?

AThere is nothing better than hearing your baby begin to talk. All the hard work you have put in over the last two years is coming back tenfold.
Toddlers will vary significantly with ability and speed of which they talk however a guide would be about 50 words by 2 years of age. The most important thing to watch for is that your baby/toddler is cooing and babbling and begins to string sounds together like “Mama/Dada” They should have a wide range of speech sounds and like to imitate you and things they hear.
There are many ways that you can promote Speech and Language development at home:
1. Slowing down your own speech and taking time over conversations with your little one. Every day is a new experience when you are 18 months, nappy changes, bath time, baking a cake brings endless opportunity for you to interact and offer new words for them to hear and repeat. Make eye contact, smile and use exaggerated tones to keep things interesting and fun for your tot.
2. Review the toys that you have on offer to your tot and ensure that they give plenty of open ended play opportunities. Role play is a wonderful way to allow children to take the lead. Kitchens with lots of plates, cups and pots. Fill the pots with dry pasta and allow your child to cook and serve you. Playdoh, painting, gardening and sandpits are also great for allowing your child to take the lead and babble about what they are doing. Read plenty of books together and point and allow them time to answer any questions that you ask.
3. Limit screen time. Overuse of televisions and iPads do not give your child opportunity to interact in a two way manner.
4. Ask your child lots of open ended questions “What’s that?” “Where are we?” Point at things they know the answer to for boosting confidence (Car/ Car, etc.) When they don’t know the answer, explain it to them. Limit baby talk and speak clearly with good pronunciation, remember you are the teacher and they will copy you.
If you are concerned about your child’s speech and language development, be sure to speak with your GP or developmental Health Nurse. They are very skilled at understanding the difference between speech delays and spotting something that may require professional attention.
Enjoy watching their little brains absorb the world around them and listen to what they have to say. It won’t be too long before they won’t stop talking to you, asking “Why Mummy/ Daddy?” every 5 minutes….