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Motor Development Milestones in Babies

Every new moment with a baby is an amazing new experience, and most parents find themselves wondering when their baby will develop the next new skill. Motor development encompasses skills like holding up one’s own head, sitting up, crawling, and walking, and these developments in your baby can be incredibly exciting. Here’s when you can expect your baby to develop each of these skills:

Head Control
A cardinal rule of child motor development is that kids develop motor skills in a cephalocaudal order, which means skills near the head come first and skills near the feet come last. Consequently, holding up her own head is one of the first skills your baby will develop, but it won’t happen all at once. Rather, your baby will gain progressively more head control in the first three or four months of life. She may start by moving her head toward interesting objects and then be able to hold her own head still for several seconds. By the third month she will likely have good head control, but will still need some head support. Babies typically gain complete head control somewhere between 3-5 months.

Sitting Up
When a baby begins to develop control of her head she may also begin trying to sit up, and this development typically begins to occur shortly after she has gained head control. Babies will begin by being able to sit up with some support from something behind them. Next, babies typically sit up by “perching”, with their fists on the floor in front of them to stabilize themselves. Typically, babies can sit up well somewhere between the 5th and 7th months, though it’s not unusual for babies to take up to nine to ten months to gain complete balance when sitting up.

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Many parents are surprised to find that their babies never crawl. Crawling is largely dependent upon environmental factors and being given the opportunity to crawl. Children who are given lots of time on their stomachs are likely to crawl earlier than other children, while some children may head straight to cruising and walking and skip crawling altogether. Shortly after a child begins sitting up, she will begin trying to crawl, and may start by scooting a foot or two on her stomach. Babies then begin to “scoot” for longer distances with their stomachs on the ground. This often happens in the seventh or eighth month.

Cruising is the in between stage between crawling and walking, when babies will use objects to balance and may walk a few steps balancing themselves with surrounding pieces of furniture, other people, etc. This milestone requires the most coordination of the milestones listed so far, because babies not only have to be able to support their own weight on their feet but also have to be able to grip and balance on objects. There’s often a significant lag between crawling and cruising, but many babies start trying to stand up and move around in the ninth or tenth month. There’s a huge continuum of ages at which children start cruising, and this development can occur anywhere between eight and fourteen months.

When children start cruising, walking is often only a few weeks away. Walking often first starts happening “by accident”, when children forget to balance themselves and take a few steps. Children may only take one or two steps before falling for a few weeks and then ultimately begin walking slowly and awkwardly. The first steps often happen in the 9th-12th month, with more coordinated walking occurring between eleven and fourteen months. Children often take up to two to three years to begin walking in a comfortable, adult-like fashion and your child will need support and supervision several months after he first starts walking.

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