Your baby’s motor skills develop in sequence – that is, usually, from head to foot. Hence, your baby’s ability to co-ordinate her head and arms will usually come before she can co-ordinate her feet and legs. What is often unknown is that the development also occurs from the middle of the body first – so your baby will be able to co-ordinate her torso before her arms and so on.
How Your Baby’s Motor Skills Develop
Motor skills are a key development stage for babies as it enables them to become more independent. As soon as a baby is born he will begin the process of developing the motor skills that are vital for her to manipulate and interact with his environment. The ways in which different babies develop their motor skills can have a big effect on their outlook towards the environment that they are a part of. In fact the development of your baby’s motor skills and her experiences and ability to take on new skills are very closely linked. As her motor skills grow, so will your baby’s ability to interact in a deeper way with her environment.
The development process can be broken up in to three-month intervals and divided into two categories: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills are the term used to describe your baby’s ability to control different parts of her own body. Fine motor skills refer to your baby’s level of coordination of different body parts, such as picking up an object with her thumb and forefinger.
As we touched on above your baby’s development will begin at the head and work its way down. You can expect your baby to first develop control over the neck muscles before progressing to the torso, and then the leg muscles. You might notice now that your baby will be able to turn over and sit up independently and perhaps even crawl a about a little. You can now sit her on your knee and bounce her up and down gently – it’s a good way to promote her balance skills. At the age of eight months old you will find that she can probably now stand up using her own resources (although she may need to use chairs/upright objects to help her do this).
When it comes to actually walking, babies can usually expect to start this between the ages of nine to fifteen months of age. Most will start at about thirteen months. If you find that your baby is unable to walk but can do other things such as crawling, standing, or sitting upright, then do not worry as this is really quite normal. In fact some babies even miss the crawling stage completely and go on to walking (this may be very late – as much as seventeen months for example).
Holding Up Head
One of the first things that you will be taught as a new parent is how to support your baby’s head – as most babies are unable to do this themselves until the age of 3. Usually by about 7 months of age your baby is likely to be able to hold his head steadily using his own control, for longer periods of time. To help your baby develop head control here is what you can do:
- Gently place your baby stomach facing down on the floor. Try and do this a few times a day.
- Try and get your baby to lift her head – perhaps by sitting down next to her so your face is close to hers.
There are several ways to help your baby begin the process of walking. Some parents think that expensive toys and walking aids are required to facilitate early development but this is not actually the case. The most important factor, which should be done as much as possible, is interaction with your child. This helps to stimulate brain development which is obviously a key factor.
There are different ways of doing this – for instance babies love to hear stories and this is a great method of facilitating brain development. Instead of telling your baby a story and making it up as you go along, try reading it aloud to her from a book. Among other things, story telling also aids the development of her vocabulary. You should also play with her, talk and sing to her as much as possible.
Did you know that younger siblings in a family often develop at a faster rate than their older brothers and sisters? Can you think why this is? If you guessed it is because the younger sibling has some one to constantly interact with then you are correct.
As far as toys and walking aids, walkers are definitely NOT recommended, because babies tend to rely on them too much. Using walkers may well stunt the development of your baby’s upper leg muscles and as a result delay the progression of her motor skills. And if you need another reason why walkers are not a great idea, were you aware that every year there are approximately 200,000 walker-related injuries? The scary thing is that 30,000 of these are quite serious and can include fractures, broken bones, and dislocations. In fact Canada has banned the use of walkers altogether.
Rolling over is another action that is something of a landmark for your baby’s development. Typically, after about 4 or 5 months your baby may be able to roll over in one direction (e.g. stomach to back or vice versa). After 6 or 7 months she may be able to roll over both ways. Helping your baby to Roll can be helped by several of the points raised above (such as using her favourite toys as an incentive). Make sure your baby has plenty of space for rolling (a good clean and non slip floor is a good place for this).
Helping Your Baby Develop Motor Skills
There are some things you can do to help your baby in developing her motor skills. These may well help her start to walk earlier:
- While indoors your baby should be allowed to walk bare-foot because it is far easier for a baby to learn how to walk this way (as opposed to wearing shoes). Just remember to make sure that the floor is not slippery.
- Hold your baby by her torso when helping her learn to walk – do not hold her by her arms and legs.
- You can try and “entice” your baby to develop her motor skills for walking. For example, bribe her by holding her rattle/toy just beyond her reach so that she has to crawl and get it.Motor skills are somewhat different to hand and eye coordination although there are some similarities. Hand-eye coordination is usually seen to parallel/compliment gross and fine motor skills development. Here are some activities you can introduce your baby to, for the stimulation of her motor skills and hand eye coordination.
- Try Installing A Crib Gym: This will allow him to “swat” at the objects above him – however it may be safest to remove this once your baby is able to sit up by himself.
- Different Types Of Interaction: When your baby is below you, dangle some objects in front of him so that he has the chance to bat at them.
- Using Fun Objects: When your baby is at least 4 months old let her grasp safe objects that have a fun feel to them – for example a rattle – this may want her coming back for more as well as keep her wanting to hold on.
- Jigsaw Puzzles: Get hold of a few baby-puzzles (usually consisting of just a few jigsaw pieces). Then progress her onto slightly more difficult puzzles (make sure they are not too difficult as this can end up just irritating her).
- Baby Lego: These simple toys require your baby to assemble and fit the different shapes and sizes and are a good way to develop her motor skills.
- Plastic building blocks: These types of blocks allow babies to stack and build things that require balance and use a different set of hand/eye coordination skills and motor skills.
- Peg and hole toys: These are toys that are made of plastic and have holes fitted to plastic pegs for the baby to differentiate different shapes and also to develop motor skills and hand/eye coordination.
- Plastic “Doughnuts”: Another popular toy for encouraging the development of motor skills is the graduated soft plastic Doughnuts that fit on a plastic centre pole. Your baby can stack these and will soon learn more about shapes, sizes and colours, and how they relate to one another.
The Crawling and Walking Process
So what does the crawling and walking process look like? Well, between 8 and 13 months most babies follow this kind of development:
- First your baby will be able to get herself on her hands and knees.
- Then she will jolt back and forth, in an attempt to try and take her first movements forward.
- She will learn several new methods of moving around, such as swivelling and squirming on her stomach.
- Once this starts, within a month she will be able to crawl forwards. In some babies the crawling begins backwards before they learn how to crawl forwards.
- Different babies have different crawling styles – everything from bouncing along on their bottoms to crawling with arms and legs extended may be seen.These locomotion skills that your baby is trying to learn can be developed by doing a few simple things. For example, games such as “crawl tag” can be great fun for your baby and provide her with valuable locomotion training. Crawl after your baby slowly saying, “I’m going to get Baby!” (or anything you wish) and then turn and crawl away to try and let her crawl towards you. You could also create a crawling track – a kind of obstacle course on the floor where several of her favourite playthings are used as the “obstacles”. Again, good fun for your baby and very useful for her development.
Looking at the chart below you’ll find a very generic timeline for milestones that your baby may cross in the first year and half:
Baby’s hand is curled into a fist that instinctively holds onto objects that are put into her palm. At two months the grasp is less reflexive and more controlled. At three months, the palm is weakly open but with little strength to grip objects.
Baby begins reaching for objects such as toys.
Baby might briefly grasp and hold toys.
Baby will enjoy sucking her own hands.
Baby is beginning to follow objects with her eyes.
Baby is sucking her feet and grasping objects between both hands.
Develops ability to transfer objects from one hand to the other. Can simultaneously grip objects in both hands.
Able to keep hands open and relaxed most of the time.
Able to pick up small foods, like Cheerios.
Able to release an object voluntarily .
Gives toy to caregiver when asked.
I hope this has given you a good overview of your baby’s motor development in the first year!
Hugs and kisses,