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How do I nurture my child’s physical skills?

little boy running and practicing his physical skills

Key points:
1. The development of physical skills is essential in your child’s growth journey, from grasping your finger to playing on the playground.
2. Every effort and achievement in their physical development, from crawling to running, will strengthen their independence and confidence.
3. Every baby develops uniquely, reaching milestones at their own pace, so it’s important to talk to your doctor if you have specific concerns.
4. From the first step to running, your loving support and encouragement will help your child achieve significant physical and emotional milestones.

From the moment they’re born, you and your child will embark on a journey that will go from them grabbing your finger to climbing on the playground. Your child will astound you with their everyday achievements and, as you move through the stops on this journey, you’ll see not only their physical skills thrive but also their growing independence and confidence. Keep reading to learn about every stop and landmark you’ll encounter on this trip!

Physical skills development

Although independent steps might happen close to your baby’s first birthday, your little one has been on the developmental pathway for the acquisition of walking since they were born. Every effort, body adjustment, and struggle will help them waltz through every one of their developmental milestones and steer them to walk and later on run, climb, and jump.

Here’s a map of their physical development and specific recommendations for each stage. As you begin this journey with your baby you need to remember that, even though it might seem intuitive for us adults, running, walking, standing, and even rolling requires a whole set of physical skills. Every effort calls on their motor planning, balance, coordination, and attention abilities.

Keep in mind that every baby develops in their own unique way, so while some babies might encounter these milestones on the clock, others might skip one altogether or accomplish some simultaneously. If you have any specific concerns it is always best to talk to your doctor.

First stop: Coordinating my first moves (1-6 months)

During this stage, every day your newborn is discovering new things about how the world works, and their hands are an endless source of entertainment. Holding lightweight toys like a rattle will keep them entertained for hours. They’ll want to grip your fingers, as well as get some movement on their legs while you change their diaper.

Tummy time is a must for them right now since it strengthens their back muscles and helps them gain head control. Bright and noisy toys will make tummy time more enjoyable, and you’ll see your baby start connecting their actions to the movement of the toys.

Second stop: They see me rolling and sitting (4-9 months)

At this stage, your little one is beginning to gain the muscle strength and balance that allows them to sit up. This time is crucial to keep helping them strengthen their muscles. Floortime and bright toys are the best way to encourage them to roll or lean forward while seated. Of course, they are more effective when they come with your kind words and encouragement.

You can try supporting their back with a pillow and they’ll love banging objects with you; keep encouraging them to explore. Wobbling is common as they try to find their balance and make the necessary body adjustments to sit by themselves; be ready to catch them!


Third stop: Oh, the places we’ll crawl (5-15 months)

During this time, your little one wants to conquer the crawling position and get moving. The coordination and strength of their arms and legs will propel them back and forth. During tummy time, roll a blanket underneath their chest to get their arms and legs moving. For an all-fours position, a soft flat surface will be more comfortable for their knees. The absence of socks and pants will get them a better grip, and chasing after you will be the best encouragement!

Fourth stop: Physical skills and a view from the top (9-14 months)

As they stand up, your child will experience a whole new point of view. Squats will help strengthen their legs, core, and trunk. They will work on their balance to be able to stand on one foot later on! Sturdy furniture can provide a stable surface to grab on, and they’ll be wanting to come up to enjoy the view and coast along. Once they’re up, you’ll need to show them how to bend their knees to go back down. Your reassurance that they are safe will encourage them to keep trying!

Once they get a steady grip, they’ll start cruising around with whatever they can hold onto, so avoid rooms with lightweight objects and sharp edges during play time. During their first steps they will rely on what they feel, so make sure they spend time barefoot and on soft surfaces every day!

Fifth stop: Au revoir! (10-15 months)

Time to walk! During their 10 and 15 months of age, your child will discover a whole new world by taking their first steps. Those tiny moves forward are a huge milestone for your little one’s sense of achievement, independence, and of course motor development. Since their hips and legs are strong enough to carry their weight, they’ll start making attempts to reach objects further away.

During playtime, try aligning sturdy furniture in a pathway and making the spaces in between bigger each time. A loving supportive environment is always their favorite, so try sitting in front of your partner and cheer your child to walk back and forth between you guys. Hugs and kisses at each end will keep them motivated!

From time to time, organize play dates with babies who are already walking or on their way as well. When walking around, hold their hands and let go of one at a time. Alternating sides will help them gain coordination and balance for future skills, like throwing and catching or kicking a ball. Walk everywhere you can, including up the stairs.

Sixth Stop: Catch me if you can! (15+ months)

Your little one’s running skills are acquired gradually, and depend greatly upon the opportunities you provide for them to be physically active. During this process, your little one will acquire plenty of coordination and motor planning. At first, they will toddle around the house and begin picking up speed. You can practice going around the room chasing each other and giving them the space to explore, climb, and balance. Encourage them to jump and dance together.

When they’re ready, coach your little one through the appropriate movements when running, like bending the elbows and moving the arms to the opposite leg. Little by little your child’s own sense of accomplishment will have them running around everywhere!

Your loving support and encouragement will get your little one physically and emotionally ready to become quite the sports player. Once they start with those tiny moves forward, it will be hard to catch up with them!

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