Four-Month Baby Milestone: Playing With Toys

Back when I was pregnant with Lillian, I signed up for BabyCenter’s “My Baby This Week” email newsletter, which sends you weekly updates on how your baby’s growing. It’s based on their birthdate, or how far along in the pregnancy you are if they haven’t been born yet, and even though I originally signed up to stay current on developmental milestones at various stages in pregnancy (like I wrote about here), I’ve happily continued to receive the newsletter in the months since Lily was born.

So when I recently got my routine BabyCenter email for babies approaching four months old, and it said the following:

“Your baby loves to reach out and touch anyone and anything she can get her hands on. With increasing coordination, she can reach for and pick up things that pique her interest.”

I couldn’t help feeling a little uneasy, because Lillian wasn’t doing these things yet. Sure, you could shake a colorful toy at her and she’d look at it, and track it with her eyes as it moved, but she never really seemed to reach out for it. And being overreactive hypochondriac new parents and all, Joe and I started to worry that there was some kind of problem — developmental delays, or vision problems, or something.

Then one evening a few days later, I was jingling my keys at Lillian, and she almost immediately reached out to try and grab them. She closed her little fist around the big purple keyring, tried to stuff the whole thing in her mouth, and generally just seemed fascinated by it.

It was kind of a revelation. Vision or coordination wasn’t a problem — by all accounts, she just wasn’t that interested in the toys we’d been waving at her so far. The next day, my mom ran out to the store specifically looking for toys that were more key-like, and Lillian has seemed rather pleased with the results so far:

Grabbing at a long, keychain-like string of colorful plastic loops.

It didn’t seem that obvious at the time, but in retrospect it kind of makes sense. Most of the toys we’d been using up to that point were rattlers, teethers, or stuffed toys that jingle or crinkle when they move. Noisy and colorful and especially designed for babies, but admittedly pretty simple. Compared to my keyring, with all its shiny shapes and intricate moving parts, I guess they must have looked pretty boring.

So in conclusion, Lily’s toy-playing development appears to be right on track, and all is well! (At this point, I should probably take a moment to emphasize that babies mature and develop at different rates, and I do realize that it’s silly to get worried just because something doesn’t happen exactly when the BabyCenter email says. There’s a more detailed baby milestone chart here for anyone wondering.)

Although there’s one slightly alarming footnote to this story: apparently some house and car keys have been found to contain unsafe levels of lead? I was surprised to read this, and I seem to be having trouble finding many detailed articles on the subject, but I guess it’s just as well that Lily’s playing with my keys was a one-time thing. We’ve upgraded to the rainbow plastic version anyway:

Toy keys vs. real keys. Looks about the same, right?

It kind of makes you wonder what other seemingly harmless things we hypochondriac new parents are supposed to by worrying about, though. Have you guys heard anything about this whole lead-in-keys business? What do you think?


  1. That’s a new one, and considering they knew about lead for years, plus lead is easily bent (and thus seems like a poor metal for keys), I’d not worry about it. Far more likely that a baby chewing on keys would choke on one before ingesting any significant amount of metal! As for the toys not being “interesting enough”, or worrying about slowness, let me relate some “first baby” stories. I worried because Joe wasn’t crawling “on time”. Then I read somewhere that babies who don’t have other babies around, need to sometimes be TAUGHT to crawl or play. So there I was on hands and knees, showing him how to crawl, and sure enough, he picked it up within a day or 2 – and promptly decided it was not for him, he wanted to do what the parents did. He was walking within 3 weeks after that! Lillian was more interested in your keys because YOU “play with them”. I predict she will love miniature versions of whatever you and Joe are into!

    • That’s a cute story, and interesting theory about the toys! I’m not sure the keys are something Lillian would have seen me interacting with a lot (they generally just live in my coat pocket) but I can see how “grown up things” might seem more interesting than “baby things” just as a matter of principle. Thanks for the comment!

  2. I don’t think it’s how much you interact with an object, but the importance of the object. Lily is a smart little cookie, she may have noticed that the keys make things happen, like doors opening or motors starting. Our cat used to stretch up toward the door knob when she wanted out, because she’d figured out the doors didn’t open until something grabbed hold of the knob. And then, too, babies have always seemed to be fascinated by keys!

  3. Hey, the first time I saw your baby i just can’t help but adore her. She is so amazing. So i never doubted she’d do what most babies of her age do and I’m glad you have figured it out. Indeed, the keys unlocked her interest. :)


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