How your baby develops

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.

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