By Urvi Sheth
We often come across parents, especially first-time mothers, who keep track of their baby’s movement milestones such as their first roll over, first time they sit independently or even their first step. Mothers are naturally concerned if these milestones are delayed.
Here are ways you can help your child develop certain motor skills:
If your baby is not crawling by the time he or she is four to six months old, chances are that you are worried. This may be the average range but instead of panicking, you can help your baby by doing the following: By five months, your baby should be lying on his or her stomach and looking up at you. The grasp, although not always a strong one, will be tight enough to hold on to a small toy. You can start putting the toy at an arm’s distance from the baby. Let him or her get in the practice of trying to grab the toy and bring it closer to themselves (Don’t forget to cheer them when they do it!). As the baby gets used to doing this, start increasing the distance of the toy from him or her. This will lead to the baby stretching him/herself to hold the toy. Once this becomes an achievable task, increase the distance where the little one has to push him/herself to get the toy. Remember: The choice of toy for this ‘game’ depends on the interest of the baby. Now, this is not something that will happen overnight. This may take a week or two, or even longer. But make sure you are patient.
Babies are often able to sit independently by the age of eight months. The first thing that you can do to help your baby sit independently is stop making him/her lie down on his/her back every single time. Let them lie down only if it’s absolutely necessary (like when they are sleeping?) as this delays the time needed for the back and hip muscles to balance themselves in an upright position. Start sitting with the baby on your lap in a way that his/her back is supported by you, giving it the required support. If not the lap, you can ensure that she or he has a lot of pillows or cushioning around him/her as support. Make sure there are enough pillows so the baby does not land up sitting in less than a 45-degrees angle.
Do this regularly and often, so as to give the baby’s muscles enough time to strengthen and balance the body independently and without any injury. Over time, the leg muscles also strengthen and hold the weight of the baby down to ensure better balance. Soon, you will see the baby trying to sit up straight while avoiding the support of the cushions around.
Massaging the back and hip muscles and stretching them helps quicken the process.
Usually, babies start standing with some support by the age of six to 10 months. But what if the baby hasn’t attempted standing up till eight months? It is often noted that the scaffolding provided by the environment leads to skill development and largely determines the rate at which the baby will grow. Here’s how you can help your infant:
Massaging the legs helps strengthen the muscles and speed up the motor skill development of standing. Additionally, stretching the legs in flex and point position of the toes really helps in working up the muscles and increasing blood circulation in the feet.
One exercise you can do with the infant to stand is hold him/her upright in a standing position where the feet just manages to touch the surface of the ground. As the baby’s ‘crawling reflex’ comes in action, she or he will try moving his/her legs up and down alternatively while learning to balance him/herself on his/her feet. Make sure you do not leave the baby.
As you do this exercise often, the muscles in the legs will strengthen and the baby will be able to balance him/herself on both legs. However, the baby will need support to stand for a longer duration of time. Over time, the little one will be able to stand without support.
(The author is educator and founder, Beyond Books.)