What is Motor Development and Why Should You Care
Wondering why your pediatrician asks about your infant motor development at every check up? Motor development is a broad term used to describe your baby’s movement patterns and how they are progressing with them. The baby motor development milestones refer to the big ones that all humans progress through and should be met in sequential order. Let’s go into the details of each of the major milestones in motor development.
The importance of motor skills extends beyond being able to move well. Internal and external movement enhances the sensory (nervous) system too. With the huge rise in kids with sensory delays these days, it may be wise to catch any motor delays as early as they present themselves in babies.
How to Encourage Milestones Without Pushing
Keep in mind that, while being diligent about motor skills is smart, becoming obsessive is not. Allow your child to work on their time frame, and definitely, don’t compare them to other kids. More important that your child reaching their milestones by a certain age is them reaching them in order. Each major motor skill is important for sensory integration. Help your child by encouraging them to master each bullet point below without skipping. If they are having trouble with one it is your job to help them or seek help, rather than pushing them into the next. Check out the extra tips under each age group for little things that you can do to help and read these baby gymnastics activities you can start from birth to get some ideas of what your role can be in their physical development!
Motor Development Milestones by Age
0 – 3 Months
These are the newborn milestones.
- Holds head up
- Tries to mimic your expressions
- Arm and leg movements becoming more controlled tries to kick and can reach and grab
- Grip becomes more deliberate
- Can “stand” with support (pushes feet into the ground when held with feet touching)
How you can help
Hold newborns as much as possible! Hold them upright on your chest to encourage neck and back strength. Newborns can’t take much stimulation, so remember to give them quiet breaks, snuggled close to you too. Choose a baby wrap or carrier that keeps your infant on you instead of leaving them in an infant seat or laying on their back constantly.
4 – 6 Months
These are the infant motor development milestones.
- Begins to sit up
- Rolls over
- Supports more body weight in standing position
- Pushes head and chest off ground while on tummy
- May begin to scoot around on elbows or hands and knees with or without belly on ground
- Loses the grip reflex they’re born with but will consciously try grabbing objects with their hand (“raking”)
- Can transfer object from one hand to the other
How You Can Help
Keep carrying your baby, especially in the upright position. By now they’ll keep their head up for you. Give them more time on their belly to continue growing their back and neck strength. If they don’t like it or it’s difficult, prop them on a folded blanket and interact with them! Or try putting them on your chest, looking at you. Do not force, upright holding time can substitute for all time on their stomach.
7 – 9 Months
Here we continue with older infant motor development milestones.
- May pull up to standing with help of furniture and may walk holding on to it
- Sits unsupported
- Walks with the help of furniture
- Begins using their fingers to grasp instead of the whole hand
- Crawls on hands and knees, or at least gets onto all fours and rocks
How You Can Help
Encourage their crawling position. You can put a rolled up towel under their bellies to help. Once they are crawling, crawl with them, chase them, and roll balls for them to follow. Keep moving them in different directions by rocking, bouncing, swaying, and rolling.
10 – 12 Months
We will round out the first year milestones with these.
- Crawls and changes positions
- Stands unsupported for short periods
- Can clap
- May take steps independently
How You Can Help
Clap for them and make hand motions with songs. Stand and hold hands to help your baby gain confidence in being upright. Walk with them, encourage natural exploration. Do not put shoes on your child unless necessary and make sure they are soft and flexible to allow maximum foot motility.
Rebecca Carr believes we are all born to move! After over 15 years teaching and researching gymnastics and natural movement and raising three “natural movers” of her own, she has a lot to say! Rebecca created InnateMoves.com in hopes to teach and inspire you to find freedom in your body to move the way nature intended!
In conclusion, parents should not be alarmed if their child is not meeting all the milestones for infant motor skills development at the exact same time as other children. Every child develops differently and as long as they are showing progress, there is no need for concern. If you are worried about your child’s development, talk to your pediatrician. They will be able to tell you if there is cause for concern and give you some tips on things you can do at home to help your child along.
Join the Working Mom List
Join the Working Mom collective and get support and tools to help you thrive! Subscribers get access to my library of resources and printables.
We have to track my preemie’s milestones closely to make sure he is progressing and catching up. This is a great recap to reference! Thanks!
It’s helpful to have a guideline for developments. I didn’t know when babies did things with my first, so I had a lot of questions. I like how you note not to push them. Kids all develop in their own time.
I didn’t know either, and I didn’t keep a good log so I couldn’t even tell you what specific week or month a certain milestone was reached lol