Keeping up with your 6-month-old baby means providing lots of activities and opportunities for exploration. In this guide, a pediatric occupational therapist shares some of the best exercises and games for encouraging optimal growth in your 6-month-old.
Your 6-month-old baby is learning all kinds of new tricks, from sitting on their own to preparing to crawl! As each day passes, they grow more independent. And their constant exploration of their environment—through reaching for, touching, and mouthing different objects—can make this an exciting yet challenging time!
Below are some ideas of ways to play and interact with your 6-month-old. Depending on where your baby is developmentally, you may also want to check out the previous month’s guide, Exercises and Activities for a 5-Month-Old.
Exercises and Activities for 6-Month-Old
At six months old, your child may be able to sit with or without support from you or external objects. Regardless of how much support your baby needs, be sure to watch for their inevitable loss of balance.
Below are some great ways to help them play and build their core strength while seated!
- Place toys on the floor around your baby for them to reach and grab. They will have to use the muscles along their back, neck, and abdominals to stay upright while reaching for the various toys.
- Now try dangling the toys just beyond your baby’s reach, on either side of them and then above them. Again, this will help strengthen their muscles and challenge their balance.
- To encourage your baby to stay seated for longer, prop up a mirror in front of them. They will love looking at themselves. Try making faces in the mirror and see if they will copy you!
- With the right equipment, you can easily take many of these games outdoors. A pop-up tent like this one offers an optional shade screen to keep your baby cool, as well as dangling toys to keep them engaged while in a seated position.
Reaching and Tracking
Your baby’s reaching and tracking skills should be improving by the day! You may find that their grasp is stronger and more accurate, and they may even grasp items with both hands. Here are some activities/exercises to help your baby continue to develop these skills:
- As mentioned in the sitting section above, you can challenge your baby’s accuracy and strength by holding out toys for them to reach for while seated.
- If your baby doesn’t love to sit, you can still help them hone their reaching skills while lying on their back. Try laying them down beneath hanging toys, or hold the toys above your baby to encourage reaching.
- To work on visual tracking skills, slowly move objects from left to right while they are sitting or lying down. You may notice them working on this skill during mealtime, watching the food on the spoon approach their mouth.
While tummy time is still important for overall development and strengthening, your baby will probably play in this position less often as they become more independent with sitting. That’s ok! It just means that your baby has developed strong enough muscles to independently sit or even crawl.
If you pushed lots of tummy time prior to hitting these milestones, good job! The hard work has paid off in giving your baby the strength they need to sit and crawl. You can try to encourage more tummy time by lying on your tummy across from your baby, putting a mirror in front of them, or placing a water mat in front of them. But they may just want to sit instead.
Sensory play is any activity that helps your baby explore the 5 main senses: auditory, tactile, visual, taste, and olfactory. Below are some ways to play that will help engage those senses:
- Water play: This is a great activity for any age! It activates the tactile sense and helps your baby get comfortable with different temperatures as well as the feeling of water splashing on their face. If your baby enjoys splashing in the tub and reaching for bath toys during bath time, they’ll likely enjoy even more opportunities for water play. Try sitting them in a shallow swimming pool or kiddie pool and letting them splash the water around them. *With all water play, be sure to supervise your baby at all times.*
- Noise-making toys: To introduce fun sounds and sensations, provide plenty of crinkle toys, rattles, and other noise-making objects. These toys will help your baby explore their auditory sense.
- Listening to music or singing to your baby: Interactive songs can make any activity a multi-sensory experience. Take patty cake, for example: it involves rhythm, movement, and visual coordination. Help your baby learn the song by guiding their hands to clap and follow the motions. You can face them as you do this or sit them in front of a mirror to watch themselves synchronize to the beat of the words.
- Multi-sensory toys: There are many toys designed to activate your child’s visual and tactile senses. One example is pulling scarves out of a box. Jack loves his scarf-and-box toy from Lovevery. You can find a similar option on Amazon as well!
At this point you have probably already begun introducing many new foods to your baby. Besides, they may even become jealous at mealtimes if they don’t get what you’re having! As long as your pediatrician has “okayed” solids, continue giving your baby new foods and textures to try.
Even if your baby doesn’t seem to like the taste at first, keep offering the food. After all, it takes up to 10 tries to decide if one likes or dislikes a particular food. (The same goes for adults; give those brussel sprouts another chance!)
Eating is a sensory experience as well as a motor skills task. So encourage your baby to work on their fine motor grasp by placing small bites of food on their tray to pick up and eat by themselves—foods like puffs or meltables. They may miss their mouth a lot at first, but practice makes perfect!
At their age, your baby may be starting to grow teeth, and that may be causing them pain. Try giving them something cold to numb the pain, such as a frozen breast milk popsicle, frozen fruit in a fresh food feeder, or a cold water teether.
Reading books will continue to play an important role in your baby’s development for the months and years to come. Books with thicker pages are a good choice if you don’t want to be replacing books left and right! Thicker pages are also easier for your baby to grip when it’s time to turn the page.
When reading with your baby, point to the pictures, feel the textures, lift the flaps, etc. Make it as interactive as possible! Each pause and inflection will help engage your baby for longer periods of time!
Standing and Dancing
Dancing with your baby is both interactive and fun! You can hold them in your arms while dancing to music and singing, or as mentioned in last month’s guide, hold them in a standing position on the floor to help them build up their little leg muscles.
As they stand and dance, they will still need ample support around their trunk. You can provide this support while facing them or from behind. Try standing in front of a mirror so they can watch themselves—and you!—sing and dance to the music!
Exercises and Activities for 6-Month-Old: Summary
Your 6-month-old baby is ready to taste, touch, and tackle the world! These fun exercises and activities will help feed their curiosity while encouraging continual development in their burgeoning motor and cognitive skills. To learn more about the developments you should be monitoring in your 6-month-old, check out the companion post Developmental Milestones for a 6-Month-Old.