5 months old: Cognitive and linguistic development

5 months old: Cognitive and linguistic development

Your baby’s cognitive and linguistic development at 5 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: 5 months old

Cognitive skills

At this age:

  • Your baby starts to understand cause and effect and begins carrying out actions to see the reactions. For example, they may pull a blanket to bring objects towards them.
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.
  • They explore the world around them with more ease now that their senses are more developed. For example, your baby deliberately turns their head when they hear a noise or bends over to look at a fallen object.
  • They start to sit up (with support), which leads them to move “toward” objects. For instance, they want to touch, hold, turn, shake, and taste things.
  • Your baby remembers actions they’ve just performed.

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

  • Switch their attention from one point of focus to another more quickly (e.g., objects, faces, sounds).
  • Try to grab something they want, even if it’s out of reach.

Language skills

At this age:

  • Your baby observes your mouth, listens to the sound of your voice, and experiments by making their own sounds.
  • They’re better able to control the sounds they make. They have fun experimenting with making high-pitched sounds, grunting, screaming, and whispering.
  • They sound out consonants followed by vowels (e.g., ga or da).
  • They’re able to locate a voice or the sound of a toy.

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

  • Sound out consonants followed by a vowel, such as ba and da (if they weren’t doing so already).
  • Recognize certain words, like their first name, without associating a meaning to them.

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 say your baby’s name in a song (e.g., “Where’s Emma, where’s Emma, where did she go? Oh, there she is!”),
they begin to respond to their own name more and more.
When you react to different emotions your baby expresses by making faces and gestures to get your attention,
they feel reassured that you’re meeting their needs.
When you imitate the sounds your baby makes,
they realize you’re interested in them.
When you let your baby touch different textures, taste different foods, and smell different things,
they learn to recognize what they like and what they don’t like.
When you leave your baby’s field of vision to encourage them to find you in different areas,
they learn, slowly but surely, that you’re always there, even when they can’t see you.
When you act out nursery rhymes for your baby, making specific hand motions like “pecking,”
they become interested in your actions and try to imitate them.
When you give your baby toys that require particular actions (e.g., a little noisemaker),
they learn that their actions can cause things to happen and start to understand the principle of cause and effect.
When you sing the same songs over and over to your baby, using the same hand and finger movements,
they become familiar with the words you use.


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: iStock.com/magda_rzymanek



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