As a parent, watching our babies develop can be both fascinating and scary at the same time. In the first year many caregiver conversations seem to revolve around people sharing what their child is currently doing, leaving you wondering what is considered ‘normal.' Babies follow a typical development pattern, but timelines can vary significantly between children.
When it comes to motor skills, there is so much more than just rolling, crawling and walking. Look out for these 15 milestones and celebrate your child’s new skills as they get bigger and become closer to being independent little humans.
15 0-3 Months: Baby Can Hold His Head Up
By 2 months old many babies can hold their head up unsupported. The neck and core muscles are developing and your baby may keep his head up for anywhere from a few seconds to minutes. This basic motor skill is the foundation for many to come and will help your child interact with the world and work towards other skills such as rolling and crawling.
How you can help: You can encourage your child to hold their head by holding your baby close to your face and interacting with them regularly. By creating sounds and facial expressions to catch your child's attention, they will want to lift their head to see what you are doing! Remember, his eyesight isn’t great at this point so keep them close for the greatest benefit.
14 Baby Can Push Up On His Arms
As your child gains increased strength in their neck and upper body they will be able to push themselves up on their arms while lying on their stomach. Tummy time, lying your child on their tummy to play while supervised, is great to help build upper body and core strength needed for higher level skills.
How you can help: Encourage your child to push themselves up by playing with them on their tummy every day. Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 40 to 60 minutes broken up throughout a day. This will help build their strength and confidence so they can lift their head and interact with you and other objects around them. Try placing different color objects around the play area to catch their attention.
13 Baby Can Bring His Hands To His Mouth
Bringing hands to your mouth requires both gross and fine motor coordination. As children start to develop this coordination, they may bring their hands and objects to their mouth as a means of self-soothing or simply a way to explore their environment. Babies at this age will start to reach purposefully for items and interact with you and others around them.
How you can help: Try handing your child an easy to grip teething toy or encourage them to grab your fingers and bring them to their mouth. Teething toys such as chew beads, teething links, and textured balls are easy to hold on to and bring to the lips.
12 4-6 Months: Baby starts to roll over
As your child gains better control of his limbs and increases his core strength, he will soon be able to roll from his stomach to his back. It may be infrequent at first but with a little practice, he will begin to do this more often. It takes increased strength to roll from back to stomach, which means your baby will probably let you know when they want to be repositioned until they get the hang of it.
How you can help: Play with your child on the floor with lots of free space to move. Place engaging toys to one side to encourage them to reach and shift their weight. This will help your child learn the right amount of effort to takes to roll.
11 Baby Can Sit With Support
Around 4-6 months many babies are able to support themselves with their arms in a seated position. At first, they may not be able to sit up tall but can use their hands to keep from falling forward. As they gain more trunk control and balance, they will be able to sit up and use their hands freely.
How you can help: Avoid using baby gear that fully supports the child in sitting. Encourage them to sit with hands on assistance in front of you or in front of a toy to keep them engaged and entertained. Never force your child into sitting before they are showing signs of readiness.
10 Baby Can Find His Hands and Feet
At this point in their development many babies will discover that they have hands and feet! You may catch your child reaching for their own feet or lying on their back to bring their feet to their mouth. This is not only cute but demonstrates increased coordination and body awareness.
How you can help: Dr. Sears recommends trying foot and wrist rattles to encourage your child to wave their arms and legs around. Helping your child interact with the environment by providing ample stimulation will also encourage gross motor skill development. Clap and cheer your baby on to get them excited about their accomplishments!
9 Baby Can Transfer A Toy
Passing an object between hands is a natural and simple task for most people but can be extremely challenging for a new baby! This motion requires both gross and fine motor skills, the ability to open and close the hand around objects, hand-eye coordination and strength in the arms and upper body.
How you can help: Keep baby’s hands busy whenever you are able. Dangle a fun toy from the car seat or stroller and give them multiple options whenever possible. Hold two toys out in front of your child to encourage them to reach with both hands. Parents.com suggests playing games such as patty-cake or itsy bitsy spider to help baby to use their hands for entertainment.
8 Baby Can Bear Weight
Babies love to be upright and are now able to stand with help. Although they still may be a little wobbly, most children can stay in an upright position with a little help from mom or dad. Hold babies hands to assist them with balance and you will find they may even try bouncing or jumping! This is fun for baby and will most likely lead to giggles and laughs until they are tired.
How you can help: Sing baby songs or make funny faces to keep them engaged. Only stand baby up on your lap or the floor if they seem interested and never force them into a standing position if they are unable to find the support.
Anne Zachry, developmental specialist, recommends avoiding the use of hanging jumpers or similar toys. In her recent interview with USA Today, she states “All versions encourage standing on the tiptoes, which is not good for baby's feet, and excess jumping puts unnecessary stress on an infant's legs, hips and spines.”
7 7 to 9 Months: Baby Can Crawl or Creep
This is when things get a little more interesting; baby is officially mobile. Some babies start by creeping; this is when they pull themselves forward or backward along the floor using their arms and legs. Other babies go straight to crawling using alternate arm and leg to move themselves forward.
How you can help: Dr. Sears recommends playing fun games of fetch and hide and seek with your child's toys. Encourage your child to move around the room to retrieve their favorite toys or chase a ball or toy that is visually stimulating. Continuing to spend lots of time on the floor with your child will also help encourage crawling and help build their confidence to do more on their own.
6 Baby Begins Pulling Himself Up
Many babies at this age start pulling themselves up into kneeling or standing. This may be a table, a toy or even your pant leg! This significant milestone is the first step towards baby taking steps unsupported and will help them build their strength and balance in standing.
How you can help: Provide your child with toys that allow them to safety pull themselves up to play with them. Try a walker or sturdy box that sits on the floor. Placing fun items ontop of a box or table will entice your child to explore and perhaps pull themselves up into standing to retrieve the item. Continue to allow your child to roam free and explore their environment at their pace.
5 Baby Is Cruising Along Furniture
The next step after pulling themselves up onto furniture is when baby begins to shift weight from side to side to walk along furniture. As baby gets braver, they will soon try to move from one piece of furniture to the next by reaching across the gap. This can be an exciting and scary time for parent and baby and involve a few falls or bruises in the process.
How you can help: Baby proof your living area and create a safe environment for your child to explore. Avoid having sharp exposed edges and block off any stairs. Allow your baby to work on their new skills independently but always be close by to scoop them up when they fall. Cheer your child on as they build on their previous accomplishments!
4 10-12 Months: Baby Can Release Objects
As you may have already learned babies love to empty and fill various sized containers. This could be their box of blocks or the box of cereal in the kitchen. Grasp and release, the ability to pick up an object and drop it has gotten much better by this stage and your child should be able to pick up objects of all different sizes.
How you can help: Provide baby with different sized objects and containers to put them in. Beware of choking hazards and avoid objects small enough for them to put in their mouth. Find containers that make lots of noise such as pots and pans and wooden boxes. Allow your baby to experiment and test out their new skills often!
3 Baby Can Clap His Hands
This is a parent favorite out of all the milestones. Who doesn’t like to see a cute baby clapping? For your baby to clap his hands, he needs to have adequate gross motor coordination, eyesight, strength and sense of touch. Lining the hands up at midline can be challenging if any of these areas are lacking.
How you can help: Sing and dance with your baby, encourage them to clap their hands while seated in their highchair or while playing with their toys on the floor. Singing songs in the car is also an excellent way to encourage your child to make noises and interact with you. According to What to Expect, Babies love imitation so try sitting in front of them so they can copy your movement. This can help develop more complicated fine and gross motor skills such as blowing kisses and pointing at objects.
2 Baby Starts Walking
As your child approaches 1 year old, you may have many people ask you if he is walking yet. Walking is a complicated skill and according to babycenter.com children can begin to walk as early as 9 months or as late as 18 months. Don’t worry if your child isn’t walking by 1 year old, as it can be completely normal and all children develop differently.
How you can help: As your child takes their first few steps they will be very wobbly and fall often. Stand close by and help your child by encouraging them to keep trying and praising them when they accomplish a few steps. Many parents will entice their child with a toy or snack and encourage them to walk rather than crawl to the other side of the room. Make sure your home is safe and all stairs and hazards are blocked off.
1 Baby Starts To Point
This baby milestone is not only an important fine motor skill but also shows that baby is becoming more aware of everything around them. They may start to point to objects and call them by name or point to things to signal that they want it! According to Penny Glass, a developmental psychologist, pointing is a key building block for speech and is a way of communicating that everyone understands.
How you can help: Encourage your child by pointing to objects around the home or while you are out in the community. Call each object by name and praise your child when they do the same. Ask your child questions and give them options to encourage them to make decisions on what they want to eat or play with.
The takeaway: All children develop at different rates and milestones are nothing but guidelines. Don’t stress yourself out by always comparing your child to the other kids around you. If you are concerned about your child consistently missing milestones or falling behind always talk to your pediatrician and seek out a referral to early intervention therapy.