Movin' On Up: A Step-by-Step Guide to Motor Development

Let's face it: A newborn doesn't do much. But a 1-year-old? That's an entirely different story! In just 12 months, a floppy infant morphs into a perpetual-motion machine. Along the way, she'll learn to sit, scoot, and stand. Stay one move ahead of the game with this step-by-step guide to motor development.

01 of 05

New Move: Pushing Up

baby pushing up
Alexandra Grablewski

When it happens: Your baby won't be able to push himself up until he's strong enough to lift his head, which is usually around 2 to 3 months. Soon after that, you'll see him try to use his arms to lift his torso too. His first attempts will bring him only partway: While on his tummy, he'll raise his head, prop himself up on his elbows, and look around. By 6 months, he should be able to push up onto his hands.

What it takes: Pushing up requires practice. Most babies hate being on their stomach, but tummy time is absolutely necessary for muscle strength and control. "I encourage parents to put kids on their tummy from Day 1," says M. Michael Eisenfeld, MD, a pediatrician at All Children's Hospital, in St. Petersburg, Florida. "If you start early, your child will get used to it."

How to help: Try laying your baby on your belly as you relax in a recliner. Seeing your face will give him an incentive to push up.

02 of 05

New Move: Rolling Over

baby rolling over
Alexandra Grablewski

When it happens: The first time your baby rolls over -- at around 4 to 6 months -- she'll probably be as surprised as you are. "She'll push up on her tummy, then push up on her hands and shift her weight," says Alice Anderson, a pediatric physical therapist at Children's Medical Center Dallas. When your baby shifts too much to one side, she'll roll over flat onto her back.

What it takes: Whether your baby rolls front-to-back or back-to-front first, expect a learning curve. She'll have to learn to get her arm out of the way, and she'll need to figure out how to replicate a motion she may have discovered by accident.

How to help: When you see your baby starting to roll, help her position her arm at her side or lift it over her head so she can make it all the way over, says Dr. Eisenfeld.

03 of 05

New Move: Sitting Up

baby sitting up
Alexandra Grablewski

When it happens: Babies start to sit at around 6 months. At first, he'll hunch over with his legs splayed, hands in front of him on the ground to prop himself up. Gradually, as he gains his balance, he'll be able to sit upright and begin to lift his hands. By the time they are about 7 months old, most babies can sit and hold a toy at the same time.

What it takes: Sitting doesn't come naturally -- you'll have to put your baby into position. "Sit him upright and give him just a bit of support," advises Dr. Eisenfeld. "Then slowly move your hands away, staying by to catch him if he falls."

How to help: Keep it interesting. "The hard part, for some kids, is staying focused on what's in front of them," explains Dr. Eisenfeld. "They want to move instead." Give your child something to hold onto, or make silly faces at eye level.

04 of 05

New Move: Crawling

baby crawling
Alexandra Grablewski

When it happens: While most babies crawl sometime between 7 and 10 months, plenty crawl later or never move on their hands and knees. Some experts believe that this is an unintended side effect of the "Back to Sleep" campaign. "When the American Academy of Pediatrics started recommending that babies sleep on their back to prevent sudden infant death syndrome, babies began to spend less time on their tummy," says Anderson. "That's made a difference in when children reach certain milestones, and one of those is crawling." Luckily, doctors don't think it's important for babies to crawl as long as they find a way to get around and eventually walk.

What it takes: Traditional crawling requires the coordination to shift a hand and a leg at the same time as well as the motivation to start moving. But some babies scoot on their butt, roll, or wriggle forward on their belly instead.

How to help: Lay your child on her stomach and spread a couple of favorite toys just out of reach. Sooner or later, she'll find a way to get them.

05 of 05

New Move: Walking

helping toddler walk

When it happens: Before your child can walk, he has to learn how to stand. Expect him to pull himself up at around 10 to 12 months. He'll cruise around the furniture, and when he's ready -- anywhere from 10 to 15 months -- he'll let go.

What it takes: Once he's able to pull up he'll work on refining his balance and developing his gait. Make sure he has soft-soled shoes for walking outside and a safe area to explore. Babies like to use their toes to grip the floor, so if you're inside let him go barefoot.

How to help: Allow plenty of time for free play. You can also move some toys to a higher level. If everything is on the floor, your child has no incentive to get up and stand -- except, of course, to reach all the tempting things you thought were out of reach!

Copyright © Used with permission from Parents magazine.

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