How your baby develops

By ParentsCanada staff on September 18, 2012

Your baby’s physical development

There is a natural progression of physical skills babies acquire. Every child is different, but here is a general guide to when babies typically gain major motor skills:

 Lifts head when lying on tummy 2 months 
 Lifts head, steady 3 months
 Sits with support 2 – 3 months
 Rolls from tummy to back  3 – 4 months
 Rolls from back to tummy 6 – 7 months
 Sits alone without support 6 – 8 months
 Crawls  8 – 10 months
 Pulls up to standing, cruises around by holding on to furniture     9 – 10 months
 Walks with hands being held 9 – 10 months
 Stands alone 11 – 12 months
 Walks alone 12 – 14 months

* Remember, every child is different. A small percentage of healthy children, for example, walk without ever crawling. And some children may be able to move around on their feet easily when holding on to furniture but don’t actually let go and walk independently until 14 to 16 months. Use the list above as a guide and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.

Building brain pathways

When your baby is born, the brain is still developing and it will continue to quickly develop throughout the first six years.

At birth, your baby’s central nervous system (the brain and the spinal cord) has billions of nerve cells, called neurons. These neurons can make thousands of connections with each other, forming complex pathways in the brain. These brain pathways drive your child’s physical, emotional and intellectual development.

Your baby needs stimulation and exposure to different experiences so that these brain pathways can be built. The brain will eventually eliminate the pathways it doesn’t use. That’s why the experiences your baby has in the first six years – and especially in the first year – are so important.

Go safely

When your baby performs a new body action – such as discovering that she can hit an object when she flails her hands or that she can roll over – the brain pathways that spur physical development are built.

This is why parents need to make sure their babies are allowed to move freely, although always supervised in a safe environment. It’s okay to put your child in a high chair when eating, and you must put your baby in a car seat when in a moving vehicle. (Babies also
enjoy when you walk with them in their strollers.) But try to limit the times that your baby’s movement is restricted. Note: Never use a baby walker. They are dangerous and do not help with your baby’s physical development. They are against the law in Canada.

Moving around is how your baby figures out how to do things, and it’s how she gains new skills. Learning how to move her body and what her body can do helps organize the neurons in her central nervous system, which controls brain processes such as understanding, concentration and memory. When your child repeats physical actions she gets better at them and develops further.

The body is designed to move, so babies naturally want to move around to explore and investigate new things.

Gearing up to crawl

For the majority of children, crawling is a natural stage of physical development that comes before walking. Crawling is important for your child’s development. It establishes your baby’s hand-eye co-ordination. The repetitious, co-ordinated movement of the body from left to right stimulates and organizes neurons in the central nervous system. When a baby crawls, both sides of the brain work together, developing the corpus callosum, a kind of message highway that transmits messages from one side of the brain to the other. This is important in learning to coordinate the use of both eyes, both ears, both hands and both feet.

You can dress your child so that she is more comfortable for exploring when she crawls. Crawling with bare knees can be rough on your baby’s skin, for example. And some garments can bunch up around the feet or catch under your baby’s knees (such as dresses). Cotton pants or overalls work better. There are garments made especially for crawling, such as sleepers with non-slip material sewn right on to the natural wear-points of clothing for crawlers: the elbows, knees, toes and soles of the feet. The non-slip material gives your baby traction when crawling. Also, consider clothing with booties sewn in to protect your baby’s feet and keep them warm without constricting the feet. (Infants do not need to wear shoes before one year of age. Your baby’s feet are still developing, so they need freedom of movement. Plus, babies aren’t usually walking before 12 months, so there is no practical need for shoes.)

There she goes!

Once your baby starts crawling, it won’t be long until she is standing, walking and running! Then, there’s no stopping your child as she races to explore everything in her world.

Children just learning to crawl and walk don’t know what could be dangerous; they just want to touch everything and go wherever they can.

Make sure your home is safe for your child as she explores. Look around your rooms, think about what hazards can be in your child’s path, and remove them. When your baby gets to the crawling stage you might even want to get down on the floor and see what your baby sees. Remember, your child still needs to be supervised at all times.

Originally published in ParentsCanada: Best Wishes, Spring 2012.

By ParentsCanada staff| September 18, 2012

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