All new parents are nervous about their infant’s motor skill development. They ask themselves, “Is it okay that my child isn’t turning over yet?” or “Why did my neighbor’s child already start crawling, and my son did not?” During the first six months especially, it is important to understand the various stages of motor development, as the stages are not as visible as they will become toward the end of the first year. Although the motor skill developments may be more difficult to see, there are several activities that you can do with your infant to encourage them, and it is important to know what to expect each step of the way.
One to Two Months
In the first month, the infant can lift her head, but only momentarily. When she is lying on her back, she can turn her head from side to side. She will exhibit a strong grasp reflex, and her hands will often be tightly clenched.
In the second month, your infant’s grasp reflex is probably lessening. She can now lift her head at a 45 degree angle when she is lying on her stomach. You should be able to hold her in a sitting position, although her head may bob forward.
During these months, you may be at a loss about how to encourage your infant’s motor skills development. She doesn’t seem to be moving much intentionally at all! That’s why, at this stage, you can do the moving for her. Infant exercise is ideal at this stage – if your infant likes it. Cross her arms over her chest, and then open them again. Fold her knees into her stomach, and then stretch out her legs. Many infants enjoy being “exercised,” and you’ll be encouraging their motor development at the same time.
Three to Four Months
At three months, your infant has probably lost his grasp reflex completely. He can now hold objects if given to him, although he cannot yet reach for them on his own. When on his stomach, he can bear his own weight on his forearms, and can lift his head between 45 and 90 degrees off the ground. If you hold him in a standing position, you will feel him begin to put some effort into bearing his own weight with his legs.
At four months, your infant has finally developed stronger head control. You can start propping him in a sitting position, and he should be able to stay in the position for a period of time. At this point, he should be able to raise his head and chest about 90 degrees off the ground when on his stomach. Although he tries to reach for objects, his aim is not perfected yet. Once he grasps an object, he will explore it with his hands. He may roll from his back to his side at this point, but will probably not be able to turn all the way onto his stomach.
Tummy time is important during these months (although you should begin it as early as possible). Put your infant on his stomach – but don’t just leave him there alone! Put a toy in front of him or to his side, and get down on your stomach too so you can play with him. If your child refuses tummy time, try putting him stomach-down on your stomach, and see if he likes that better.
Five to Six Months
By the fifth month, your infant will probably be able to hold her head up well when in a sitting position. She will probably be able to roll from her stomach to her back, but not yet from her back to her stomach.
When your infant is lying down, try to pull her hands to help her sit up. In the sixth month, you may see her lifting her own head in anticipation for sitting. When she is on her stomach, she will also be able to bear her entire weight on her hands and use them to lift up her upper body. At this point, she may even learn to flip from her back onto her stomach.
At this stage, you can help your infant learn to sit up by propping her with pillows. To make sitting more fun. help her sit on your knees while you bounce her up and down and sing a fun song. Hold on to her hands while you do this, and make sure that she is sitting securely!
At this point, your infant is no longer a newborn! He’s a little person whose motor skill development can help him interact with his surroundings. Go onto the next article in the series for information about your infant’s motor skills in the second half of the first year.
This post is part of the series: Infant Development – The First Year
- Social Development: Your Infant’s Social Skills
- Infant Development: Eyesight
- Infant Motor Skills Development – Newborn to Six Months
- Infant Motor Skills Development – Six Months to One Year
- Your Baby's Brain Growth and Development