The Second Six Months: Moving Up – Part Four

During the first six months parents and trusted subs are the center of baby’s universe. While this remains true during all states of development,Guest Posting from six to twelve months baby develops the skills to extend his world of interest. He becomes less an arms and lap baby and more an exploring floor baby. During his stage, growth accelerates. Baby’s weight increases by a third, first words appear, and true thumb-and-forefinger pickups emerge, as well as first crawls and steps. These skills also bring about parents’ development as safety patrol officers. Baby’s motor development allows him to get more and more of his body off the ground. By six months he’s on his own two feet, and the baby chase begins

Nine To Twelve Months: Big Moves

Progressing up the developmental ladder from crawling to scaling to cruising and finally walking is one of the most exciting motor sequences in infant development. Get your video camera ready. This budding choreographer will show you a parade of interesting moves as he climbs the ladder of developmental success.

Locomotors Development

By nine months most babies have mastered the style of crawling that is most efficient, comfortable, and speedy. For most babies this mean cross-crawling, which allows better balance by keeping one limb on each side of the body on the floor at all times. Cross-crawling teaches baby to coordinate the use of one side of his body with the other and prepares baby or other physical skills.

Once baby masters a developmental skill such as crawling, she wants to experiment with variations on that skill. Baby may get a bit cocky in her crawling style, wiggling her bottom, wobbling her head, and getting her whole body into the crawling act.

Crawling opens up a new social avenue for baby. Now she can come to you and doesn’t have to wait for you to come to her. Like a puppy eager to greet her owner, baby crawls right up your pant leg, pulling herself to a standing position and giving you “Let’s play” overtures.

Bypassing the Crawling Stage

Some infant development specialists feel that a baby who misses the crawling stage is at risk for coordination problems later on because crawling is a prelude to learning balance. While this may be true for some babies, there are many perfectly normal, well-coordinated children who quickly bypass the crawling state to move to other forms of locomotion. One baby “walked” on her knees instead of crawling. Another scooted on his bottom with one leg straight out and the other leg bent under. Some babies scoot crawling. And perhaps the enjoyment of these cute styles of locomotion by baby’s cheerleaders reinforces them.

From Crawling to Scaling to Climbing

Watch baby crawl over to the bed or sofa. He grabs the bedspread or upholstery and pulls himself up as far as he can go, a skill called scaling. Climbing and scaling are simply crawling upward rather than forward, an example of how baby expands one skill into another. Because neurologically baby develops from head to toe, his arms are stronger and more coordinated than his legs and feet. Baby first pulls up with both hands while his weaker legs bow and his feet curl inward. Finally, baby learns to push up with his legs while pulling with his hands. After baby scales the side of the sofa or high chair, he looks around in amazement that he got there all by himself and enjoys his new view. Then, for a moment, he appears stuck in the standing position. Eventually his legs give out and he crumples quickly to the floor.

Now the fun begins. After baby has mastered crawling and scaling, here comes the climber. Baby will enjoy climbing over a pile of cushions and especially the climbing-over-pop game while dad lies on the floor. Then baby discovers the ultimate climbing activity. You’ll catch him looking up at his staircase to the “sky.” Your baby may be able to climb a whole flight of stairs by the end of the first year, especially when encouraged by a cheering squad of proud parents and siblings. But notice your baby’s confused body language when he is stuck at the top of the stairs. Babies don’t know intuitively that the safest way to get down stairs is backward. They are likely to turn around and propel themselves recklessly forward. While babies do not need any help climbing up, they are likely to need help getting down. Teach your baby to back down steps by turning his body around. Show him how to dangle one foot over the edge of the step to touch the step below, Baby will then use his feet as feelers to test the distance for climbing down steps (or off the sofa). You know that you baby can comfortably handle stairs when he swings his body around at the top of the staircase and approaches the second step feet first.

What About Safety Gates?

Putting a gate at the top of stairs is like waving a red flag in front of a baby bull. The impulsive explorer scales right up the gate and rattles it back and forth until sometimes baby and gate come sliding down the stairs. Whether to rely on a gate or teach your baby how to crawl safely down stairs is a matter of baby’s temperament and crawling abilities. Watch your baby crawl toward the top step. Around ten to eleven months most babies develop some caution about heights. Some crawl toward the edge, stop, look, and feel over the edge with their hands. These are the babies who can be trained to back down the stairs safely. Impulsive babies, however, do not take time to slow down and feel for the edge; they are likely to hurl themselves down the steps. These babies and those who show quickly progressing motor and climbing skills (early walkers) are ones who need watchful monitoring and a secure safety gate.

Standing Supported

Once baby has learned to scale a piece of furniture, he likes his newly found skill and the view from up there and decides to stay there awhile, developing the skill of standing supported. But the first efforts are off balance as he tries to unfold his wobbly feet and get off his tiptoes. Once baby learns to stand like a little ballerina, feet flat and turned out, he can balance better.

Let the beginning climber scale your pant leg, and you can feel the progress that baby makes in learning to stand. Initially you feel a lot of weight as baby grips your pants for both balance and support. Gradually you feel less and less of baby’s weight as he holds on only for balance.

Cruising Along

Once baby can stand leaning against a sofa or low table, don’t expect him to stay put. When first cruising, baby is likely to get his sidestepping feet entangled. He soon learns that cruising sideways is uncomfortable. Watch how baby compensates. He turns his legs, then his feet, so they can walk frontward instead of sideways, and then turns the upper half of his body to align with the lower half. Now he learns to get one foot in front of the other, and around the table he goes, holding on first with both hands, then one hand.

Now that baby can stand and cruise, he wants to stand and play. Put toys on a low table and watch him entertain himself for five or ten minutes.

Safety Tip:
Cruising gives baby a motor skill not only to enjoy but also to use to get into trouble. Now that baby as a fascination with tabletop play, he will want to grab and bang anything within reaching distance on his cruise pad. Remove sharp breakable and mouth able objects from your coffee table or any low-lying table that the cruiser is likely to explore. Babies love cruising along desks and reaching for dangling phone cords or any object they can grab. Falling against the sharp corners of coffee tables or climbing on them and falling off are common accidents for beginning cruisers. Either store the coffee table for a year or place protective covers on the edges.

From Cruising to Freestanding to First Steps

As the cruiser sidesteps along furniture, he periodically lets go. Amazed at his courage, baby looks up for a cheering audience. His legs quickly give way and he goes boom. Here’s an exercise to put him on cruise control. Arrange furniture (sectional sofas work best) in a circle and watch baby cruise around the inner circle, holding on with one hand for support. Then put increasingly wider gaps between the section. This setup motivates baby to close the gap by toddling across the open spaces. This show may lead to baby’s first freestanding and first steps.

Standing free.
During one of baby’s around-the-living-room cruises, watch him let go and free stand. Baby is surprised and puzzled. Now that he’s left standing along, he’s faced with two decisions: how to get back down and how to move forward. He will plop down on his well-padded bottom, crawl over to the sofa, and pull back up to a standing position and try again, this time standing longer.

First steps.
Once baby begins cruising, she is ready to walk in front of you being supported y your hands. Stand baby between your legs, hold both hands, and take steps together. Then, as baby learn to free stand longer, she’s ready to take her first solo steps. Watch the balancing act as she figures out that moving forward from a standing position is just a matter of learning to balance on one foot while the other foot shuffles ahead. (Notice how your baby’s ankles roll inward, exaggerating her knock-knees and flatfeet. The rubber like ligaments supporting the ankles do not strengthen for several years, so enjoy those flatfeet for a few more birthdays.)

To start out, baby widens her stand, opens her arms sideways, and keeps her head pointed forward — all positions that achieve better balance. Her first steps are quick, staccato, and stiff legged — like a wooden soldier’s. Her face has a mixed expression of wonder and caution, but after a few days of stepping better, she consistently has an “I can do it” look.

Helping the beginning walker.
To reinforce baby’s walking skills, take her hands and walk with her between your legs or alongside you, gradually letting go with one hand, then the other. And as baby practices her first solo steps, stand a few feet away, holding our your encouraging arms and giving baby a “Come on.”

From Crawl to Squat to Stand

Even though baby may be taking a few steps, when he zeros in on a desired toy across the room, the rookie walker usually plops down from standing and clicks into a faster mode of ground transportation — often cross-crawling or scooting. The next decision for the beginning walker is how to get back to the walking position. Initially baby needs a crutch, and he crawls over to the wall or a piece of furniture, sales it to a standing position, let’s go, and takes a few steps, falls, and begins the same cycle all over.

“If only I could short-circuit the couch and go directly to standing,” baby might imagine. And in the next stage that’s just what he does.

Early Walkers — Late Walkers

Around 50 percent of babies walk by one year, but there is a wide normal range for walking, from ten to fifteen months. Walking is a matter of coordinating three factors: muscle strength, balance, and temperament, and the latter seems to influence the age of walking the most. Babies with easier temperaments often approach major developmental milestones more cautiously. ?Since early on, crawling is speedier than walking anyway, the confirmed crawlers are content to zip around the floor like miniature race cars and show no interest in joining the tall and busy world up there. Lake walkers are more likely to be content to entertain themselves with seeing and fingering fun than with motor accomplishments. A late walker goes through the crawl-cruise-stand-walk sequence slowly and cautiously calculating each step and progressing at his own comfortable rate. When he does finally walk, he walks well.

The early walker, on the contrary, may be impulsive, motor-driven baby who has raced through each motor milestone before parents could get their camera ready. While there is no definite profile of early walkers, they tend to be high-need babies who early on left the lap stage and squirmed out of infant seats. Body type may also affect the age of walking. Lean babies tend to walk earlier. Early and impulsive walkers are often more accident-prone than their more cautious walking mates.

Parents who carry their babies a lot often ask, “Will I delay her walking by carrying her around so much?” The answer is no. In fact in experience and in the studies of others, babies who are the product of the attachment style of parenting (for example, worn in a baby sling for many hours a day) often show more advanced motor skills. No matter which baby in the neighborhood walks first or winds the speed race, he age of walking has nothing to do with eventual intelligence or motor skills. Baby walking, both the timing and the style, is as unique as personality.

There will be more articles on infants, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

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