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Ages & Stages

Cognitive Development in Infants: 4 to 7 Months

During your baby's first four months, did you have doubts that they really understood much that was happening around them? This reaction is not surprising. After all, although you knew when they were comfortable or not, they probably showed few signs of actually thinking.

At what age do babies have thoughts?

But studies show that from the minute your baby is born, they're learning about the world around them. Now, as their memory and attention span increase, you'll start to see that they're not only absorbing informationbut also applying it to their day-to-day activities.

Cause and effect relationships

At around 4 months old, babies start refining their concept of cause and effect. Perhaps while kicking their mattress, they'll notice the crib shaking. Or maybe they'll realize that their rattle makes a noise when they hit or wave it. Once they understand that they can cause these interesting reactions, they'll continue to experiment.

Your baby will quickly discover that some things, such as bells and keys, make interesting sounds when moved or shaken. When they bang certain things on the table or drop them on the floor, they'll start a chain of responses from their audience: funny faces, groans and other reactions that may lead to the reappearance—or disappearance—of the object.

Before long, your baby will begin dropping things on purpose to see you pick them up. As annoying as this may be at times, it's one important way for them to learn about cause and effect and their personal ability to influence their environment.

It's important that you give your child the objects they need for these experiments. Encourage them to test their "theories." But make sure that everything you give them to play with is unbreakable, lightweight and large enough that they can't possibly swallow it.

If your baby loses interest in their usual playthings, plastic or wooden spoons, unbreakable cups and jar or bowl lids and boxes are endlessly entertaining and inexpensive.

Object permanence

Another major discovery that your baby will make toward the end of this period is that objects continue to exist when they're out of her sight. This is a principle called object permanence.

During their first few months, they probably thought the world consisted only of things that they could see. When you hid a toy under a cloth or a box, they thought it was gone for good. They wouldn't bother looking for it.

But sometime after four months, they'll begin to realize that the world is more permanent. You're the same person who greets them every morning. The block that you hid under the can did not actually vanish after all.

Playing hiding games like peekaboo and observing the people and things around them, your baby will continue to learn about object permanence for many months to come.

More information

Last Updated
Adapted from Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age Five 7th edition (Copyright © 2019 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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