Standing: 7 to 9 months
Pulling up to a standing position is often easier for babies than learning how to get back down. In an effort to fight gravity, your little one may start out by tensing his leg muscles and stiffening his torso. Without enough midrange control, he'll likely lower himself by plopping down. In time, though, he'll practice squats as he hangs on to a crib railing or other furniture.
While standing, your baby may pump back and forth and shift his weight from side to side. This sideways weight shift gradually segues into sidestepping, or cruising. "This motor skill is important, particularly when the baby cruises by holding on to furniture rather than a parent's hands," says Dr. Case-Smith. "This allows him to be in better control and decide how big a step to take and the timing of that step." Cruising also helps develop balance reactions in the feet, as the toes grip the floor, and works the hip muscles -- the final fine-tuning before independent walking.
Skill builder: Give your baby access to sturdy furniture that's at a good height for him to pull up on. He should be upright, not bent over, while standing or cruising. Wheeled toys that your child can hold on to and push around will also encourage movement.