Infancy Physical Development: Gross Motor Skills Milestones

Gross motor milestones: What are they and how can you help your baby reach them? One of the most common things I hear from parents as a pediatric physical therapist, is they wish they had more education, information and training on what activities or positions they should be doing with their new baby as they grow and develop during the first year of their life. For this reason, Carolina Pediatric Therapy will be holding a parent ed night on June 11th from 5:30-7:45 pm providing education on things to look out for that may be of concern, activities to include into your daily routine as your child grows as well as answering any questions parents may have. There will also be a free screening held at all of Carolina Pediatric Therapy clinics on March 15th from 3:00-5:00, which will provide you with an opportunity to have your child assessed to determine if there are any concerns or need for further assessment or referrals.

Milestones: Although the following examples give ages that you should see your child demonstrating certain skills please keep in mind that every child develops differently and within a different timeline, but regardless these will provide you with activities to help facilitate your child attaining these skills.

Things to avoid:

  • Although there are many options out there for positioning your baby (which we sometimes call containers), such as swings, carriers, bouncers, walkers and so many more it is important that you don’t position your baby in these for extended periods of time.
  • Things to keep in mind:
    • Placing your child in a container for short periods while you are showering or cooking dinner to ensure your babies safety is completely fine
    • Try to limit the time your child is in a container for no longer than 15-30 minutes at a time
    • When your child is in a walker or bouncer ensure that they are able to get their feet flat and aren’t on their toes (which can cause ankle tightness)

Tummy Time

By the time your child is 4 months old they should be able to rest on their elbows when in tummy time and hold their head up for 5-10 seconds. So start early with practicing this skill. You can start this within their first month of life as long as it’s in a safe environment and as long as your child does not have any complications from birth/pregnancy. Why is tummy time important:

  • Helps with visual development
  • Gets your child ready for developing other skills such as rolling over, crawling, and sitting
  • Helps with relieving gas discomfort
  • Allows your baby to have time off of their back which can lead to plagiocephaly (flat head) if they stay on their back too often

How to incorporate tummy time:

  • Lay your child on their belly in a safe environment (hard floor with a blanket on top works well) and get down on the ground with them to play, hold toys in front of them to try to get them to lift their heads
  • While you are laying down, lay your baby on top of your chest (on their belly) and talk and interact with them
  • Lay your child on their belly over your lap and interact with them through talking or toys

**Lay them on their tummy for as long as they will tolerate it, when they become upset let them have a break from tummy time. Initially babies usually do not like tummy time and will become upset, this is totally normal! They will get used to the position and become stronger and be able to tolerate it more and more.

Sitting Up

By the time your baby is 6 months old he/she should be able to sit by themselves for 60 seconds. You can begin practicing this skill anywhere from 4-5 months as long as your baby has good head control during tummy time. How to incorporate:

  • Position your child in a seated position and place your hands around their hips or trunk if needed. Position toys in front and to the side of them so they can practice reaching in different directions
    • You may notice that your child places their hands on the ground in front of them while in a seated position (tripod position), this is a good thing and what you would expect to see
  • Sit your baby on your lap
  • You can also sit on the floor with your legs around your baby when they are first learning
  • Place your boppy pillow (breast feeding pillow) around them to keep them safe if you are unable to stay with them while they are practicing

Crawling on Hands and Knees

By the time your child is 9 months he/she should be able to crawl forward on their hands and knees or demonstrate some other form of crawling, such as scooting on their bottom. How to incorporate:

  • Place your child over your knee when you are sitting on the floor with your legs straight. Your leg will give them some assistance with a hands and knees position
  • You can place your hand under your baby’s belly and lift up to help them lift their belly off the ground while they are in tummy time

There are many more milestones that we would love to discuss at one of our upcoming events. Please join us at our upcoming parent ed night or free screening where you will have the opportunity to ask questions and get additional information.

Infancy Physical Development: Gross Motor Skills Milestones
Kristin McCrosky PT, DPT

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