15 Signs Baby Is Behind In Motor Skills

Watching baby grow and change, and the development that rapidly takes place seemingly daily is a fascinating thing for parents. But if mom sees friends and family members' babies doing things differently, it can cause some stress. Should baby be doing this by now, or is her son just a little precocious? When will Junior be able to sit up without tumbling over onto his face?

Should I worry yet that my baby girl still isn't pulling up on furniture to stand? Parents don't want to be competitive with other parents, pitting babies against one another like a pint-sized Survivor. However, if you see children in your child's peer group one by one passing your child by, it's disconcerting at the least. One thing to remember is that all children greatly vary in the timing of their milestones, and some take theirs in a more zigzagging rather than straightforward path, too.

However, there are some expert guidelines to help us know what we generally can expect. If baby isn't gaining skills as outlined, or a parent has concerns, it's really important to consult with the pediatrician. Early screenings, multiple ones, are key in keeping up with baby's development and following up on any red flags. Should baby have a delay, the earlier it's discovered, the more helpful early intervention services will be and likely baby will catch up.

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15 Yummy Fingers!

One of the more early fine motor milestones involves baby reaching the mouth with fingers. Usually their own, but, hey sometimes, they aren't so picky! Fine motor skills are those involving fingers and small movements, such as those with the wrists, hands as well as the feet, ankles and toes. You can expect baby to get those fingers up to his lips around a few months of age. If baby isn't managing this regularly by the age of 4 months, you should mention it to the child's doctor.

Babies are virtually unaware of their separate body parts, including their hands, until their second full month of life. If after 2 months baby seems totally oblivious to her hands, it's a sign that something may be holding up normal development and warrants a doctor's visit. Once baby discovers his hand, it will end up in his mouth quite often, although the aim and accuracy has a long way to go at the newborn phase.

14 Being Nosy

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Tummy time is an important daily activity every baby should participate in. Without it, it's difficult to develop muscle strength and coordination required for various motor milestones. While on tummy, parents should see baby lift up shoulders and head and look about. Call it being alert, or refer to is as being nosy, but it's a key component of child development.

Mom or Dad can entice baby to lift up and gaze about by using visual distractions such as bright, engaging toys or toys or objects that make sounds baby will be interested in. By 3 months, you can expect baby to lift up from on tummy-position and have head at 45 degree angle. By 4 months, baby should improve to a 90 degrees. Babies can be shown how to do this action by mother or father, and parents should aim for around 20 minutes of daily tummy time.

13 Where Are My Keys?

Another fine motor skill to emerge early in baby's first year is the ability to open and close his hands. When baby is first born, it seems her fists are forever tightly closed. This is called the grasping reflex. That's how we get those sweet newborn pics of baby's hand clenched around Dad or Mom's finger. So cute! But eventually you will see baby trying to work on his strength and coordination with this motion. Baby will ponder his hand and fingers and work to open the hand to swipe at things, or grasp things. He will often struggle to release an object again, as this skill takes much practice and time. You'll see baby working on this for months, but by age 6 months you should see baby being able to voluntarily grasp and release objects at will. To practice, have baby reach for toys from blanket before her, or from your hand during tummy and seated play time.

12 A Little Cardio

While you may be beginning to work out more to drop those baby pounds, baby will be ready to go right beside you, flexing new muscles and practicing these exciting new skills. This is an outgrowth of that all-important tummy time. Baby can't help but eventually start pushing off the floor just to glimpse around, or just to feel the muscle movement of pushing against the floor itself. Eventually, baby will develop the strength to do what amounts to a baby-sized power push up.

This skill is key to moving along to later milestones such as creeping and crawling. Baby can't learn to crawl without being able to hold herself up reliably from this prone position. As baby's strength increases, he will be able to lift his head fully as well, and later he'll have his full middle section off the floor too. To encourage this, get right beside baby on the floor and model this skill. Baby will love imitating you!

11 Rock And Roll!

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One day you may put baby on a blanket on the floor beside you, look away for a moment and realize in horror baby has gotten across the room. Is this some form of wizardry? Nope, baby has just mastered some kind of movement. Often, it will be a mixture of scooting, inching and rolling. Baby will roll from tummy to back first because it's easier! It takes less effort to get that direction and you can expect baby to do it around 4 months of age. Rolling from back to tummy takes more time and practice and usually emerges at around 6 months of age. Baby needs her neck and core to be stronger, so those muscle-building tummy times will help do the trick. To help baby, you can place a blanket beneath him and gently pull it, allowing the motion to carry him over. Some babies become so adept at rolling, they skip crawling and move onto walking when ready.

10 Sitting Pretty

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Around 6 months of age a magical thing occurs in baby's skill set. He or she can sit independently. No cushions, pillows or special chairs needed. Finally, baby has the strength and balance to sit and feel like a big person. With that one skill, baby can enjoy watching the world from an upright position, and read books, nibble at finger food and sit in a cart. It's a huge transition to all the wonderful things that will come next for her! It isn't a skill that develops overnight, while you all sleep. The baby has been honing skills, building muscle and developing balance in order for this to happen. Some babies learn this quicker, maybe as early as 4 months, while others take their sweet time, and maybe do it around 7 months. To help baby, begin by supporting him or her with pillows or using a baby seat. Engage baby in play while seated.

9 On My Own Two Feet

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It's an adorable time when baby really loves to feel her weight on her feet, and if it's on your lap, all the better! Babies actually have a walking reflex at birth that disappears around 2 months that if held upright and feet touch a surface baby will lift one foot and then the other, mimicking a walking action. So then again around several months, could be four could be seven, baby will enjoy you holding him up and he will gleefully bounce up and down on his feet. Just watch out for the family jewel's during the process, if you'd like baby to be a big sib someday!

But seriously, this is a good exercise for pulling to stand, standing independently and then the big kahuna of walking! Some babies are more gung-ho on this one than others, as some kids seem a little unsure of the whole standing upright deal at first. But given time and ample practice, this will come along.

8 Creep Show

Many people confuse creeping and crawling, and they are justified in their confusion. Crawling is when baby gets up on all fours and has tummy off the floor. Cross crawling is when opposite leg and arm move in tandem. Some babies creep, by pushing themselves ahead while on the tummy, or they may scoot with one leg in crawling position and the other on the floor. Many babies use a succession of moves, or vary moves, and some have moves that are hybrids of certain types of locomotion. This is probably the most individualized motor skill of all, as babies seem to come up with their own unique ways of getting from point A to point B.

What's important to look for is that baby is beginning to move in similar ways around 7 to 9 months, and alternating limb movement can be seen. If baby always seems to drag one or both legs, or is stiff-limbed in all movements, this can be a troublesome sign that should be checked out in a developmental screening.

7 If You're Happy And You Know It...

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Right around baby's first birthday you can expect baby to do something that will excite them as much as you; clapping their hands. Being able to bring the hands together smoothly and in coordination at the midpoint of the body is a milestone. Actually, many babies begin clapping a few months earlier, but it's OK for a baby to wait until 12 months. To encourage baby in this skill, teach baby how to do different songs with hand actions, such as "If You're Happy and You Know It, Clap Your Hands," or play patty-cake. If you can't remember such fingerplays and kids songs with actions, grab a book or DVD from the library or check some out online. Don't worry if you don't have the voice of Celine Dion; you kid loves your voice. Give it a try and maybe you'll get a round of applause from baby!

6 Taking A Stand

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When baby learns to pull him or herself up, using you, the couch or a table, it is a big day indeed. Now baby is clearly on the way to the road to independent walking. Mobility is a big series of skills baby masters, although the path and timing varies greatly among infants. However, in general look for baby to pull himself up in the crib properly first, in order to better communicate with you or to better check out the environment of his room. Most babies will have this milestone reached around the age of 10 to 12 months. Once baby gets the idea, she will be practicing everywhere. This is another good time to do another round of baby proofing, looking for any unsteady but heavy pieces of furniture baby may pull over in attempts to stand. Also, if you have rugs on wood or smooth flooring, it's a good idea to put skid proofing on the underside, or you'll likely have some bumped head injuries.

5 Little Hurler

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As baby nears the first birthday, the number of activities and games parent and child can enjoy together grows rapidly. When baby has mastered that grasping action and can reliably open and close her hand, and she has gotten enough balance to either sit independently or stand with balance she may be ready for throwing. First some fine motor skills have to be attained for the hand action with the fingers in grasping and letting go, but then the gross or large motors skills come into play allowing baby the muscle action to toss the object, while using the emerging hand-eye coordination.

It's some complex stuff, so don't expect much before baby's birthday, or even until 18 months. Catching the ball takes even more coordination and skill, so that will come later in toddlerhood or even preschool ages. As you can guess, this is a skill that takes a bit more time and practice, so play away with baby knowing all the fun is for a great skill to be practiced.

4 Lint Picker

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Usually after baby has learned to sit by himself, another strategic skill will be picked up. They are often utilized together in the high chair, with baby sitting solidly while eating bits of cereal. It's the pincer grasp, technically, when baby can use her thumb and finger together on one hand to grasp a small object. Once this skill shows up, usually around 7 to 9 months of age, you can count on baby using it all the time. To eat finger food. To play with smaller toys like picking up beads and dropping them into a bowl. Or to show you what a bad housekeeper you are, especially if you have company, by picking up bits of lint and garbage from the living room and then proudly displaying it to all.

This is the time when you will need eagle eyes to keep everything babyproofed, because all those tiny things he knows how to pick up now will invariably end up being put in the mouth.

3 Hello And Goodbye

This one is always a hit, especially with the grandparents. It's a great combo of emerging motor skills, social skills and communication. Baby knows it means something, like "Hey, here comes Pop-pop!" or "There goes Nana!" and they want to acknowledge it. It also helps that whenever they practice this skill, they can get everyone to do it back to them, from Mom and Dad, to strangers at the grocery store. It's a power move, really. The Mayo Clinic website cites 10 to 12 months is when to expect this all-important milestone to be reached.

They note to let doctor know if baby isn't waving or meeting other milestones at this point, as early intervention may be needed. It's a good idea to practice with baby, also encouraging him or her to use language along with the non-verbal communication of waving. "Say bye-bye to Gramma!"  or "Tell Joey hi!" It's also interesting to watch the evolving style of waving a baby will produce, from overly-labored opening and closing palms to a frantic side-to-side wave.

2 Pointed Skills

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Another milestone that encompasses a few skills is that of pointing. First of all, pointing is a fine motor skill. As babies start out, they move all fingers together at once as a group movement. Later, they will learn to move fingers independently in isolation. Pointing is a skill you can have baby practice while you read books together, "Where's the doggy?" You can have baby point to what she wants for a snack, which takes it from just a movement to more of a communication tool. "Where's Daddy?" you ask, and baby identifies dad in a crowd and points him out, usually with pride and excitement. Other ways to encourage baby to develop this skill is to use finger plays such as "Where is Thumbkin?" and the ever-popular "Itsy Bitsy Spider."

Show baby how to do a thumbs up and provide context so she knows what it means. Many people believe teaching sign language to children who are pre-verbal will help their language skills develop easier and allows youngsters a way to communicate without frustration, leading to fewer tantrums.

1 When To Worry

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While all babies have their own timetable for milestones, there is a range of normal and if baby is lagging consistently, it's imperative to ask for a screening at the pediatrician's office. But more troubling than skills being slow to emerge is when baby had skills and they begin slipping away. If baby was sitting solidly for a few weeks, and then suddenly topples over every time she tries to sit alone, that's not normal. If baby was using both hands to play with toys, and now refuses to use one hand, it's concerning.

Losing motor skills, or communication skills can indicate a health issue or a developmental one. Sometimes baby will put one skill aside to focus on another for awhile. This is often seen with baby when he becomes obsessed with say, walking, and stops chattering as much for awhile. Whenever a baby seems to be stalled in development, or worse, seems to be losing ground, it is a reason to become concerned. Contact the pedicatrician's office and insist upon a developmental screening. These aren't one shot deals, either; they should be done regularly to see how baby is progressing and to make certain the progress is reliably moving forward.

Sources: BabyCenter.com. WebMD.com, Parents.com, ChildDevelopment.com.au, WhatToExpect.com

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