4 months old: Cognitive and linguistic development

4 months old: Cognitive and linguistic development

Your baby’s cognitive and linguistic development at 4 months old. Follow your baby’s milestones step-by-step.

Cognitive development refers to the acquisition of skills such as memory, attention, reasoning, and planning. These skills allow children to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviours, in addition to helping them store knowledge, solve problems, exercise judgment, and understand the world around them. Cognitive development also includes language development, which is a child’s ability to communicate, make sounds, understand language, and begin to talk.

Cognitive and language development: 4 months old

Cognitive skills

At this age:

  • Your baby’s hand-eye coordination becomes more developed, which enables them to explore more of their environment. For example, they start to discover objects by bringing them to their mouth.
  • As they learn to grab objects, they realize they have power over their environment.
Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
  • Your baby understands that an object can’t be in their hands and on the table at the same time.
  • When they hear a noise, out of curiosity, they turn their head to see where the sound is coming from.
  • They can form a mental image of the human face and are able to recognize their parents or regular caregivers. They may get upset when they encounter a stranger.
  • They become aware of the sensations they get to experience with different body parts. For example, when they touch things, they can distinguish between soft and rough textures.

Over the next few weeks, your baby will begin to do the following:

  • Pass a toy from one hand to the other.
  • Find a partially hidden object, such as a doll under a blanket.
  • Know how to respond to the actions of others. For instance, they may smile when someone they know speaks to them.

Language skills

At this age:

  • Your baby can make more vowel sounds like a, e, and i.
  • They play with the sound of their voice by changing how quickly or loudly they talk.
  • They show pain, fear, or loneliness by crying, and show joy or interest by cooing.
  • They make sounds when they look at people or their toys.
  • They play with their mouth and tongue (e.g., by making bubbles, fart noises).
  • They laugh when they think someone’s funny.

Over the next few weeks, your baby will begin to do the following:

  • Play with their voice more and more.
  • Sound out consonants followed by vowels (e.g., ga or da).
  • Identify where a voice or the sound of a toy is coming from.

How can you help your baby progress?

Each child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your little one’s development by adopting the Comfort, Play, and Teach parenting approach, which can easily be integrated into your daily routine. The table below outlines small, age-specific actions you can take that will benefit your baby’s cognitive and language development depending on their age.

When you name everyday actions as you do them,
your baby learns the sequence of routines.
When you put into words what your baby seems to want to express,
they feel that you are interested in them.
When you look your baby in the eye and talk to them about what they’re doing,
they understand that you want to communicate with them.
When you shake small, noisy objects (e.g., little bottles or yogurt cups with a toy placed inside) in front of your baby’s face or next to their head,
they react to the noise by moving their eyes and turning their head.
When you hand your baby different objects for them to touch,
they get to discover various textures (rough, soft, bumpy) and gradually learn to tell them apart.
When you tickle your baby,
they laugh and have fun.
When you sing a nursery rhyme to your baby while miming the words with your hands or fingers (e.g., The Itsy Bitsy Spider),
they watch your hand movements and listen to the words.
When you make a small family photo album and look at it with your baby,
they learn to recognize the faces of their family members.
When you pronounce different vowels around your baby,
they get a chance to try to make the same sounds too.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Marie-Ève Bergeron-Gaudin, speech-language pathologist, and Noémie Montminy, doctoral student in psychopedagogy at Université Laval.
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: August 2021


Photo: GettyImages/ilona titova



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