Friday, June 29, 2012


The baby has developed in the space of one short year from only minimal control of his head and neck to using his head to initiate rolling over from his tummy to his back. He developed strength in his torso and arms and began to bring his body into a hands and knees position. He rolled, crawled, and creeped around the house and now as he moves about he comes to a parent or a sofa or a toy and pulls himself to standing.
What a wonderful new outlook on the world this must be! With sturdy objects for balance he takes his first steps--baby is cruising. Cruising is the term given to the mode of movement for baby when he using an object for balance, pulls himself to an upright position, and walks, using the object for balance.
Babies who are cruising are strengthening their core and their brains are learning how to control all the  many large and small muscles. As parents and caregivers we seem to know that we should place toys or other enticements just out of reach on that sofa baby is using to cruise and we find great joy in watching him achieve this milestone.
As baby becomes adept at cruising we notice he often forgets to hang on to the sofa as he studies a new toy with both hands. We watch closely. Will he take that first step away from his support today? When we walk with him we hold his two hands. He loves this mode of transportation and if one parent is doing this, their own muscles cry out to stand up straight. As parents, we sit across from each other, encouraging our little one to take those tentative first steps toward each other. Then, this entire time of preparation is over. Most likely it has taken a little over a year, though times vary greatly from one child to the next. Baby is walking, toddling about. He has graduated from being a baby to being a toddler.

Ricky Rectangle is my name
My four sides are not the same.
Two are short and two are long.
So I can dance the whole day long.

(Make a larger Ricky and give children turns to show the short and long sides)

Monday, June 18, 2012

Variations of the Crawl

The house has been baby proofed and the little guy is free to explore much of his surroundings as he begins to crawl, still under the watchful eyes of the parents. Baby is motivated by his drive to learn, and crawling gives the baby practice with opposing arm and leg motions. Practice is important; it strengthens the brain connections that will help the child in all sorts of future motor activities.
I have found great fun in being able to observe children in this stage of development, not only because of the pure joy on their faces as they assert their independence but also in the many varied versions of the crawl I see.
There is the army crawl. Babies doing the army crawl stay pretty much on their tummies as they pull them selves forward using their upper arms. This is work! The front side gets the workout while the backside wriggles in support and occasionally brings a knee up under the tummy.
There is the pull and hop method. Babies doing this are using a galloping type of movement where the back half is not mimicked by the front half. Instead it does sort of a hop as if to catch up to the front side and sometimes the front side uses a hop & pounce strategy to move forward.
The standard crawl (or creep) is by far the most efficient, with opposing motion in the arms and legs. The baby uses his hands and his knees to move. Babies who have mastered this version can move lightening fast across a room and love to play ‘catch me if you can’ with mom or dad.
This weekend I observed a variation of the standard crawl with hands and knees. As the backside performed its part, this baby used his foot on one side most of the time–a sort of knee-foot strategy. The variation will help lead this little one into walking and running. (although not necessarily in that order!)

Sammy Square is my name
My four sides are just the same.
1, 2, 3, 4

(Make a larger Sammy and give children turns to count the sides)

Monday, June 11, 2012

Motor development in the 6 month old

Last week’s column ended with a glimpse of a 4-6 month old positioned with some support in sitting position, practicing fine motor skills of reaching and grasping. Let’s look at what will be happening in the next few months.
Our little guy will continue all this great practice of eye/hand coordination and once in a while he will tumble over. If he has tumbled forward, he is probably stuck on his tummy with one arm trapped under him. Wriggling from side to side and at first with a little help from a parent will free that arm. You can almost hear him thinking, “Now what,” in the first moments of looking at the world from a new perspective.
His motor development gives him two options for further development. One option is to crane his head over to one side, using gravity and the weight of his head to help him roll to one side. Another option is to tuck his chin and try to push his bottom up in the air as he attempts to get his knees under his little body.
The interesting thing to notice at this point in development is how all the parts of his body are so very dependent upon each other. He cannot isolate a movement. He can initiate a movement in one part of his body that leads his entire body to respond.
This stage of motor development gives him time to strengthen his muscles. Soon he will initiate the movement to come out of sitting to being on his tummy rather than relying on chance. He will quickly gain control of both arms, and have the strength and coordination to push up to hands and knees.
What happens next? ––Parents baby proof the house and new fun begins.

I’m Suzy Circle
Watch me spin
Round and round and round again

(Make a larger Suzy Circle and give children turns to ‘spin’ Suzy.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Motor Development

It has been quite a spell since we talked about gross and fine motor development. A grandmother that I know posts photos of her little granddaughter on Facebook–the little one is not yet a year old, and looking at the photos as they have come into my computer over time, has given me a sequential glimpse at motor development.
In those moments after birth when the parents first cuddle the newborn, they instinctually support the baby’s head and limbs. The newborn is able to use his muscles a little for some turning of the head and movement of limbs, but there is no strength to his movements so mom and dad are careful to support his body as they lift and hold him.
In my early days of parenting, positioning the baby on his tummy or side for sleeping was considered good, so my little ones were often laid down on their tummies. Very early on they were able to lift their head enough to turn from one side to another. The combination of arching the back and lifting the head is a movement that begins the chain of motor events that lead the newborn to standing upright within a year.
As our little ones gain control over their head and neck muscles, the muscles around the spine also become stronger. This leads parents to being able to position the 4 to 6 month old in a sitting position, but with support. Being able to sit frees the baby to practice fine motor skills and practice they do!–reaching, bringing toys to the mouth, dropping, picking up again–are practiced over and over. The connections to the brain are strengthened as the baby strengthens his upper body. He has now the power to reach for a toy he wants and to use his senses and his brain to learn more about his world.

A rhythmic chant

The fingerband is coming to town,
Coming to town, coming to town.
The fingerband is coming to town
Coming to town today

Begin with hands behind your back, march them out to the front.

The fingerband is playing the drums
Playing the drums, playing the drums
The fingerband is playing the drums
Playing the drums today.

For subsequent verses pretend to play whatever instruments you and your child can think of.