DEVELOPMENT

Infants

are inclined toward motion very early in life. By 2 to 3 months, their hips are less flexed, and most babies get their heads and chests up while supporting their weight on forearms and elbows. By 4 months, most babies push up on extended arms. And a month or so after, many babies are rolling over, although some roly-poly babies take a while longer.

Between 6 and 8 months, most infants become more and more able to maintain a sit-up position without listing forward. Space now is visible in front of the baby, and a new world of visual exploration is possible, compared with space visible while on the back.

By 7 months, babies often raise their tummies entirely from a firm surface and begin to rock back and forth. This is the perfect time to place your babies on a firm, safe floor so they can practice pushing up and strengthening their muscles. Soon they will try to navigate. Some infants propel themselves at first by inching their tummies forward with the help of their arms. Place an alluring toy a small distance in front of this child and he may propel his body backward in an excited effort to reach that toy!

Soon, babies are able to direct their motions in space. However, young children vary in the kinds of motions they use. Some roll forward over and over. Some use a "bear walk" on hands and feet; others creep by using their arms and shoulders to pull themselves along because hip muscles are not yet under good control. Some babies discover crawling early; they use opposite hand and foot to pad forward, tummy raised up from the floor, to explore the whole nursery room!

Whatever the timetable or locomotion effort, you can help out by:

  • providing lots of floor practice time
  • offering cloth tunnels to crawl through
  • carefully supervising as children navigate steps
  • creating a safe exploration environment for your infants and toddlers

Toddlers

Anywhere from about 8-11 months to 15-18 months, infants struggle to become vertical in space. In dizzy triumph, a baby will hold onto crib bars and lift herself. No baby needs you to "teach" her to walk! Nature propels the normally developing baby to try wobbly verticality. Help out by providing sturdy safe furniture for babies to grab onto and pull themselves up.

Newly cruising toddlers fall, often flat on their tummies. Be calm. Toddlers take their cues from your admiring and reassuring glances and words; they will try and try again to walk. Place a favorite teething toy or bit of cracker at the end of a couch to lure (and encourage) young ones to hold onto the piece of furniture firmly as they cruise along to reach the coveted toy or food.

As you've probably observed, toddlers use a broadbased gait with flat feet placed farther apart than those of preschoolers. By about 24 months, they begin to walk from heel to toe and swing their arms. As children gain control of their hip muscles, they enjoy jumping and running. Adult walking patterns, with trunk flexibility that includes rotation of shoulders in the opposite direction from pelvic movement, doesn't appear until school age.

Older toddlers often dart, dash about, and practice turning corners without bumping into the wall. An interesting toy, such as a ball bouncing on the floor, may catch a toddler's eye and soon that child is bending in space to scoop up the toy-practicing keeping his balance while walking.

There's no doubt about it: High-energy toddlers need space to run! Clear pathways so they can perfect new exuberant skills. Soon enough, individual growth urges will propel them to negotiate space on tricycles, on slides, and on climbing bars. Rejoice in their newfound skill and grace.