Big Moves: Gross Motor Skills
Babies tend to master these in a predictable order, from rolling to walking. As they progress, they also make major cognitive advances, filing away information about themselves and their surroundings. Learn when Peewee will take major leaps, and what they could look like.
On A Roll
At around 4 months, your baby probably began discovering what his body can do; you can see his experiments at work when he waves his arms and kicks his legs while in his play yard. When you smile at his feats of strength, your babe is inspired to try them again, says Meghan Treitz, M.D., a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Colorado, in Aurora. He may hold his head up when he's in your arms or prop himself up on his forearms while on his belly. Your munchkin's movin' and groovin' is part mental development, part core strength. Many babies roll from front to back at around 5 months, and after that, from back to front. (It's physically easier to roll from front to back. Try it yourself!) Be forewarned: "Rolling always starts suddenly," Dr. Treitz explains. "So it's very important to supervise your baby closely at all times."
Most 6-month-olds are able to sit up without toppling in a high chair, but if you put them on the floor without back support, they'll lean forward, using their hands for balance. By 7 months, most will sit unassisted. Meanwhile, some babies have gone mobile. Your cutie may do the combat crawl: With her pelvis and legs on the floor, she'll use her forearms to pull her body forward, like a marine slogging through a swamp. Or she might slither, like a snake, over the floor. Give Baby props, with words and hugs, no matter which position she chooses. "Your encouragement will provide her with the confidence to move to the next milestone," says Lori Walsh, M.D., a pediatrician at Children's Memorial Hospital, in Chicago. Everyone needs a little cheerleading!
Most 9-month-olds are masters at moving on their hands and knees. Get down on the floor and crawl next to your tot, hurrying up and slowing down to make it a game. But don't panic if he doesn't crawl at all: "It's not a prerequisite for walking," says Dr. Treitz. "The important thing is that your baby is able to strengthen his body as he prepares to walk." One way to do this is by pulling to a stand. Next, Baby may use furniture for support or walk while holding your hand, but it might be a month or more before he steps out on his own. Once he's found his footing, offer him a pull toy to drag; this will help promote a steady gait.
Walk This Way
Many babies are walking unassisted by 13 months, and some even run, says Claire Lerner, L.C.S.W., director of parenting resources at Zero to Three, in Washington, D.C. Turn up the tunes and dance, build a pillow obstacle course for Baby to navigate, or show her how to jump like a frog when you're at the zoo. As Lerner says, "You want her to experience movements that will boost balance and coordination in a fun way."
Little Moves: Fine Motor Skills
As adults, we take for granted the ability to hold a spoon or pick up a toy, but finger-centric skills are something babies have to learn. What to expect from your handy little one:
Get A Grip
Your baby's hand-eye coordination is getting better every day; when he swipes at your dangling necklace, he can actually hit or grab on to it. He can also pick things up, though awkwardly. "At this age, kids put four fingers together like a mitten and scoop," says Rachel Rudman, a pediatric occupational therapist who practices in Cedarhurst, New York. Once an object is in his grasp, he'll pass it from hand to hand. Put an assortment of toys within your baby's reach, suggests David Pollack, M.D., a pediatrician at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. "Exposure to a variety of shapes and textures encourages exploration and improves hand-eye coordination."
Around 7 months, development of the finer skills takes off. This is, in part, related to Baby's increased mobility. "The arches of the hand begin to develop around the same time that babies begin to crawl," Rudman says. By now, tots can cup their hands and clasp them together. They also start using the pincer grasp (bringing the thumb and index finger together to pick up small objects). Cheerios spilled on the floor? Your sweetie can help you gather them up! Clapping and hand games such as pat-a-cake are ways to practice her emerging skills.
A Drop In The Bucket
If a baby lets go of a toy or teether before this phase, she's doing it involuntarily. By 12 months, though, she'll purposely release an object. Simple puzzles and toys with finger holes will help her develop pointing and grasping expertise.
Your little guy has moved on to creating and maneuvering in his playtime. You've got to hand it to him: Now he can build a two-block tower, scribble, toss a ball, and turn the pages of a board book too. Read more about your lovebug's remarkable new developments at americanbaby.com/thefirstyear.