When you look at your little one, how do you imagine them at two years old? What do you envision them doing at five? Do you have hopes for them at 13? If you are like most parents, you have lots of dreams for your little one. All of us want most of the same things for our kiddos.
Most of us want our kids to be active and strong. That doesn’t mean they have to be the captain of the dance team or a track star (necessarily) but it does mean we all want our children to have physical bodies that will serve them well throughout life.
But, as they say, before you can run, you must walk.
When it comes to a baby’s development, you need to focus on their head before you worry about their lower half.
If you want to help your baby to become a strong and fit, energetic kid, start with their neck. That is where they will gain their first skills in controlling their body. While every child will develop and grow at his or her own pace, they will all start with neck control.
What follows is a timeline of some general baby’s developmental milestones and when you may see them. Please do not think of them as strict rules and do not become consumed with making sure your baby hits each milestone “on time.” But, do be aware of these basics:
Baby’s Development Timeline
- 1 month old – The majority of babies will be attempting to lift their heads by the end of their first month of life.
- 2 months old – Your little one will likely be holding his/her head up for extremely short periods of time. They will also follow objects with the eyes and will notice his or her own hands for the first time.
- 3 months old – Baby will probably be able to hold that little head up for short periods without their neck going all wobbly on them.
- 4 months old – Your little one will likely begin to be able to put weight on his legs for short periods of time (as in, with you holding him or her, or in a walker).
- 5 months old – Little one is probably fascinated with their hands and feet.
- 6 months old – Rolling over is typically mastered.
- 7 months old – He or she may be sitting up unassisted. He or she is working on crawling.
- 8 months old – He or she may be working on learning to stand. Crawling is usually mastered around now.
- 9 months old – Often, by this time, your baby can stand up with support.
- 10 months old – Your little crawler can probably get away from you quickly now as he or she speeds up.
- 11 months old – Your child is probably working hard to learn how to walk and may hold on to furniture to “cruise.”
- 12 months old – A first supported step is common around this time.
Rolling with it
Tummy time and floor play are the best ways to encourage physical development in tiny infants. You can (and should) start tummy time from birth. It’s not complicated; it simply means placing your baby on the floor on their tummy. This will encourage the baby to lift his or her neck and strengthen the muscles that will contribute to your baby’s development.
- Make sure the baby is awake and content and calm. A sleeping baby will not benefit and a screaming baby will just be miserable.
- Check for any small objects on the floor before laying baby down.
- Watch out for sharp edges
- Lay toys, lights, etc. just far enough from baby to make them lift their head and turn and look.
- Very, very small babies can do tummy time on mom or dad’s chest.
Over time, the baby will begin to experiment with moving his or her arms or legs, attempting to reach for things, etc. and this will gradually lead to a rolling baby. They typically master front to back first and then roll back to front. But, that is not always the case. REMEMBER: Every kid is different! Some babies will even use rolling as a way to get from place to place so once they start rolling, mom and dad have to be on their toes!
Quick tip: Little ones born in the summer and fall tend to crawl later than those born in the winter because summer and fall babies reach crawling age in winter. This is the time of year when they are dressed in more clothing and their movement is more restricted. If your baby is attempting to learn to crawl during the cold months, allow them time inside of the warmth of the home, to move freely in fewer layers.
The skill of crawling is usually mastered between the ages 7 and 10 months. Your little one will discover that by holding to the ground with their knees and pushing off, they can move forward. However, some babies never crawl and go straight to walking so repeat this to yourself once again: NO TWO KIDS ARE THE SAME!
In fact, kids also have a wide array of crawling styles:
- The Army Crawl: This is what it sounds like. Baby slides around on his or her belly with the hindquarters in the air.
- The Scooter: This is when baby sits on their bottom and pushes forward with arms and legs.
- The Bear Walk: The little one skips the bending of the limps and keeps the arms and legs straight as he or she moves along.
- The Crab: This is accomplished by tucking one knee in and extending the other. The little one moves sideways and backward like the sea creature.
Setting a toy just out of reach for the baby to crawl for, playing games on the floor with him or her and allowing the baby to spend time in only his or her diaper (for less restriction of motion) will all aid in developing this skill.
Walking on the wild side
Quick Tip: No shoes allowed when baby is learning to walk. Bare feet are much better. They can gain balance and grip the floor when they are footloose and fancy free. If they must wear shoes, make them light and flexible.
Your little one can probably take assisted steps by about 8 months or so and, as baby’s equilibrium improves, they will try and let go of you, or the couch, to take steps alone. Many babies begin to walk between 8 and 18 months. That is an enormous window and they will get it in their own time.
Encouraging walking is easy. Don’t constantly pick your child up, encourage your child to practice taking steps with your support and supervision and – as with all things when it comes to parenting – praise, reward and praise some more.
Massage & Swimming
The more aware of and comfortable with their body that an infant becomes, the more likely they are to be confident to try new skills. Activities like massage and swimming are two ways to help foster body awareness and confidence.
Massage creates links in the brain which are essential to the progress of body consciousness. They will become more attuned to their own bodies through your touch. Here are some quick tips for massaging your little one:
- As with tummy time, your baby may not respond well to massage if he is overly tired, cranky or upset. Try and massage your baby when he or she is calm and content.
- Be cautious when massaging the stomach area because this may cause stomach upset if you put too much pressure.
- In general, use only very gentle pressure.
- Warm your hands preceding the massage. Also remove rings or jewelry and be sure to trim nails.
- Choose a warm, relaxing and quiet environment.
Swimming is fantastic for an infant’s physical development and children can swim since birth. 30 minutes in the pool is a full-body workout for your little one and will likely help them sleep better that evening. They can work way more muscles in the pool. Also, they can often swim short distances by themselves from a very early age. Swim sessions will help build arm, leg and neck muscles.
Fun fact: Babies who are habitual swimmers have been shown to crawl and walk before their peers.
Is it time to see a doctor?
With all of this said, it cannot be emphasized enough how important it is that you rely on the advice of a professional when it comes to your child’s development. If you have concerns, see a doctor. Here are some signs that you may need to be concerned:
- By 3 months old, a baby who cannot support their own head and will not turn head when you speak to them should be brought to a professional. Also, see a doctor if they seem to have trouble moving their eyes in all directions.
- By 7 months old, you should be concerned if your baby’s muscles seem tight or limp; or if the baby cannot sit without assistance and/or cannot roll over.
- By a year old, a child who makes no effort to get around or who cannot stand (even when supported) should be seen by a medical doctor.
Low muscle tone or other issues may be the cause of delays and your doctor will talk to you about what you can do to help your child master skills.
We all want our children to be as happy, fit and well as they possibly can be. This is a universal of parenting, right? While we may not know everything, most parents do know best for their kids and – with very few exceptions – we all want what is best for our little ones. So, trust your instincts and see a professional if you are worried that something does not seem right about your baby’s development.