How To Play With Your 4-Month-Old Baby To Teach Motor Skills And More

"What's in the box!?"

Originally Published: 
how to teach your baby fine motor skills
flickr / Ryan and Sarah Deeds

At 4 months your kid is starting to get a handle on things, like the fact they have hands. Also, those hands let them do stuff like endanger their cute little faces by grabbing onto the cat. Additionally, they begin to realize stuff like if they nom hard enough on that rubber giraffe it makes a sound like it’s having some wild giraffe times (which would be satisfying for anyone to discover).

RELATED: How To Promote Gross & Fine Motor Skills In Your Infant

So while up to now you’ve been playing Tarantino for Baby and Human Mobile, it’s time to change the activities to support this new range of development. Of course, being the amazing dad you are (totally not pandering), you’re not going to do something like play patty-cake or read Harry The Dirty Dog for the gazillionth time. No, you’re going to be entertaining while doing some insane skill building.

What’s In The Box?

Remember that movie Se7en? Where Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt track down a chillingly murderous Kevin Spacey? And at the end there’s that box in the desert and Brad is crying and angry and keeps shouting “What’s in the box!?” because, you know, it’s Gwyneth Paltrow’s head? Well, Brad was demonstrating the magic of curiosity and how it can stimulate the wonder of cause and effect. (BTW the statute of limitations on spoiler alerts is 2 decades, so suck it up.)

Just like Brad, your baby has a curiosity about boxes. That’s because they’re figuring out object permanence: the idea that when a thing goes away, it doesn’t just poof out of the universe. This game banks on object permanence, while also stimulating their sense of touch with texture and their increasing ability to grab stuff.

How To Play With Your Baby

  1. Find a variety of small, graspable objects (of varying textures). They should be light enough for your kid to grab and hold but too big for them to swallow. Consider: sponge, crumpled paper, feathers
  2. Find an empty square tissue box (or the equivalent). Don’t have one empty? Blow your baby’s mind by letting them take all the tissues out
  3. Get on the floor with your baby. Let them play with one of the objects before popping it in the box
  4. Let your kid fumble with the box (if the object inside makes noise, so much the better)
  5. In your best Brad Pitt, exclaim “What’s in the baaahhhhxxx!?”
  6. Lay the box down with opening facing your baby. Help them fish out the object again
  7. Repeat

Not only is your kid continuing to develop their sense of object permanence, they’re also learning a bit of cause and effect while understanding a sense of texture. And you get to entertain yourself by replaying the one of the most shocking twist endings in film history over and over again.

Magazines: They’re Picture Books For Grown-Ups

Hopefully, you’ve already been reading to your kid. Not just because it’s crazy important, but also because it can be fun … up to a point. After reading the same damn book over and over again, things can get a little stale. Also, the language benefits are coming from listening to language (and only recently from looking at the pictures). It’s time to make things a bit more interesting.

How To Play With Your Baby

Start grabbing back issues of Vanity Fair (or any other magazine you don’t getting shredded). Next time you have free reading time with your baby, open up a copy and sit them front and center.

Of course, this is going to be a kid-friendly story based on what you’re seeing in the images: “Once upon a time, Tony Stark was sitting in a field wearing a grey Ralph Lauren sports jacket. He was thinking about how much he would like princess Kate Upton to buy him a shiny new Shinola watch with a brown leather strap for Christmas.”

The content of the story really isn’t that important, but it helps to describe shapes and colors, and speak in an animated way. If your kid wants to go ahead and grab pages. Let them do their thing. It’s an old magazine, so what do you care. This ensures your kid is getting the language goodness, some fine time with you, and even some destructive grasping practice. And Graydon Carter would want it this way.

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