6 months old: Cognitive and linguistic development

6 months old: Cognitive and linguistic development

Your baby’s cognitive and linguistic development at 6 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 information, 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: 6 months old

Cognitive skills

At this age:

  • Your baby picks up objects with more accuracy, making it easier to observe and examine things. They can also turn them over to study them from another angle—by lifting a cup by its handle, for instance.
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 understand the relationship between cause and effect, which can make it easier to establish routines. For example, they know that being rocked while holding their blankie means it’s almost bedtime.
  • They look for family members or pets when their names are called.
  • They follow fast-moving objects with their eyes, as well as any objects they drop.

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

  • Enjoy playing peek-a-boo more and more as they begin to understand that people can still be present even if they can’t see them.
  • Realize that they can move objects, such as by sliding a toy or object across a surface.
  • Solve problems. For example, they might be holding a block and want to grab a second one, but then see a third one and try to find a way to grab it too.
  • Rotate objects to understand how they work.

Language skills

At this age:

  • Your baby produces syllables like ma, pa, ba, and da. They’re getting ready to babble.
  • They mimic some of your sounds and intonations.
  • They start to react to certain words based on your tone of voice, intonation, and facial expression.
  • They tend to be silent when an adult is speaking and make sounds when the adult is silent.

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

  • Begin to babble (e.g., they’ll produce several identical syllables in a row, such as da-da-da, ba-ba-ba, or ma-ma-ma).
  • More consistently recognize their first name and certain words they hear often.

How can you help your baby progress?

Each child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your baby’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 give your baby several containers to play with during bath time,
they have fun and relax in the water, all while exercising their motor skills and problem-solving abilities.
When you encourage your baby to repeat an action by laughing and clapping,
they feel valued and often repeat the action you’re encouraging.
When you call your baby by their name often,
they gradually learn to feel included.
When you show your baby their favourite toy and partially hide it under a small blanket,
they learn that objects can disappear and reappear.
When you fully hide an object under a box in front of your baby,
they start looking for hidden objects.
When you repeat certain words while playing with your baby (e.g., “Peek-a-boo!”),
they learn that these words are used in a particular context.
When you give your baby toys that create an effect, such as a noisemaker or something that changes shape when squeezed, shaken, or rolled,
they learn that they can make things happen.
When you give your baby balls to roll or blocks to stack up and then knock down,
they see and hear the results of their actions, learn how objects move in space, and realize that they can make things happen (e.g., make noise by knocking over a stack of blocks).
When your baby rolls a ball toward you and you roll it back,
they gradually learn how to take turns, which is an important aspect of communication.


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/stockvisual



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