Motor Development: The First Five Years
Navigating One's Way in the World
In the first years of life wonderful and dramatic things happen. Babies usually triple their birth weight; they move from being totally dependent to crawling or walking. They are soon able to communicate and to move around to explore the world from different spatial perspectives.
Milestones are flexible; they are approximate times when certain abilities are observable. There is no strict timetable for acquiring abilities or confronting different challenges, and there's a wide range for what's considered normal. Every child grows and adjusts to the world at his or her own pace. This article outlines the motor milestones that enable the child to become physically active in exploring the environment.
First Year Milestones
The newborn has little control of her movements; usually by one year she has learned how to get to where she wants by crawling, cruising or walking. Reflexive movements give way to purposeful movements. This new found mobility enables her to experience the world in new ways.
Between birth and 4 months the child
develops control from head down; holds her head up for l0 or more seconds while held on parent's shoulder or lap
reaches or swipes and grabs for toy
sits steadily when held or seated supported by pillows or in a baby seat
pushes up on arms while lying on her stomach, straightens her arms and lifts up her head and chest completely
begins to hold a hand away from her body, which is a major neurological achievement in the process of building what's referred to as a proprioceptive map, or a sense of the body in space. (Proprioception is one of the senses that, like hearing, sight or smell, enables a child to explore physical relationships in the world. A proprioceptive sense underlies the ability to extend an arm to catch a ball or climb stairs without looking at the steps below)
Between 5-8 months the child
moves purposefully to things she wants; she may be a roller, tummy crawler, scooter or have another unique way of getting around
begins to use her hands by passing things from one hand to the other without dropping them
pulls self to standing by holding on to an adult's fingers, furniture or other object
picks up small toys or food with fingertips
uses the pads of her fingers and thumb, rather than her whole hand or palms
makes walking motion when held; walks forward, bearing weight on alternating feel when held by the hand or under the arms
By 9-12 months the child
creeps or crawls up two or more steps
walks, holding on to furniture or cruising along furniture holding on for support and balance
picks up and puts down small toys intentionally
stands alone; intentionally lets go of support and stands for a few seconds unsupported
sits down from standing position
Reprinted with the permission of the NYU Child Study Center. © NYU Child Study Center.
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