A child’s milestones all happen in a predetermined sequence, says baby development expert Gill Connell, with every journey unique and wonderful in its own way. Here she explains the early major milestones.
Rolling helps a young baby develop core strength and helps him find his own way to tummy play. It’s also an important movement that helps develop his vestibular or balance system. All children love to roll so make sure you give him space to do this as often as you can. Encourage him to roll both ways although you may find he prefers one side to the other at first.
Sausage Rolls After bathtime, lay him at one end of his towel and slowly roll him up, while maintaining eye contact, until you can just see his head. Gently unroll him. For an older child encourage him to ‘unroll’ himself.
Once baby has found his own way to his tummy, watch as he pulls his knees under his body and pushes with his feet. He has a very strong reflex on the bottom of his feet called the ‘Push Away’ reflex (which, by the way, he used to help push himself out into the world during labour!).
Go Fetch When baby has made it to his tummy, place a favourite toy just out of his reach, take off any socks and shoes and hold your hand on his bare feet to give him something to push against. Feel him push strongly. Celebrate when he reaches the prize!
A short but important developmental milestone happens when baby gets onto all fours and rocks. He is helping his body to eliminate the ‘Fencing’ early infant reflex that prevents him moving his head and arms independently. He needs this for crawling, so he rocks back and forwards for about three weeks before making his first real attempt at crawling.
Rock Around The Clock Once baby can get into a rocking position independently, put on some upbeat music, get down on all fours on the floor in the same position opposite your baby and wiggle around. Make funny faces and enjoy a session of dancing together.
Once baby is rocking he is developing postural reflexes. These important reflexes help him transition from the floor to sitting and becoming upright. When he is rocking he’ll probably push himself into a sitting position. Try to avoid propping him to sit because nature has it worked out and he’ll do it all on his own if you let him! If you do prop him to sit you may find he is slower to crawl or becomes a bottom shuffler.
Clapping & Waving
Your baby is wired to make movements where one side of his body mirrors the other. Once sitting independently, you may notice him bringing his hands together and swapping a toy between them, rubbing his hands together, eventually clapping and then waving. In the early years you’ll notice that when he tries to move one part of his body independently, another part (usually mirrored) will copy. This is a very normal response we call ‘bi-lateral movement’.
Beat the Drum Find saucepans, containers, toys or anything that will tolerate being hit and makes a great noise. Put on some music or sing a song and jam! Notice how your child will play using both hands together as opposed to one hand at a time.
An average baby crawls for around 400 hours before walking and when he’s busy crawling it’s great to know he’s helping his brain to grow and develop. Moving using opposition movement (cross patterning) helps grow pathways in the corpus callosum – a bundle of neural fibres in the brain’s cortex (the top layer of the brain) that act as a superhighway sending information between its left and right sides. The more cross patterning, the easier it is to process information. And that goes for all ages!
Tunnels and Mountains Make a tunnel with your legs and encourage baby to crawl through. Make more with your arms, legs and torso and encourage him to tunnel under you. Introduce the concept of over. Challenge him to climb over your legs, arms, tummy, or a pillow – whatever is safe and fun.
Pulling to Standing & Cruising
Within about three weeks of independent crawling your baby will begin to crawl to something (anything) and attempt to pull himself to standing. This does not mean he is ready to walk though. During this important stage he is finding his balance in an upright position, his feet are getting used to weight bearing and he’ll be figuring out how to get down now he is up there! It’s therefore important you let him practice this and refrain from ‘walking’ him around, even though he may enjoy it. He will walk… when HE is ready.
Drop and Plop Sing ‘Ring a Ring a Rosie’ while he stands against something. When you get to “All fall down” encourage him to fall to the floor. (It’s more fun if you do it too.) Ensure the space where baby is falling is clear of hazards and don’t forget to laugh and giggle as you do this. Remember, repetition builds strong connections in the brain.
Once your young toddler has mastered walking he will almost immediately begin climbing and figuring out how to leave the floor. You will notice him starting to bend his knees, bob and attempt to jump. He’s learning he has knees and that they bend. However, he hasn’t yet discovered how much push he needs to get off the ground yet!
Biscuits in the Tin Sit on the ground with your legs out in front of you. Have your toddler sit straddled over your thighs, one foot on either side, feet flat on the floor facing you. Support him around the waist. Chant… “Biscuits in the tin, biscuits in the tin. Shake them up, shake them up, biscuits in the tin” while you lift your legs up and down, giving him a ride. Encourage him to do the bouncing using his feet against the floor.
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