Rolling Over: 4 to 6 months
As your infant gets better at push-ups, she'll practice reaching in that position. And one time, with a hand up, she may lean just a bit too far to one side and suddenly find herself faceup -- startled but thrilled. Eventually, though, she'll learn to turn over intentionally.
This first awkward flip is called a log roll because the upper and lower halves of the body move as one block. At about 6 months, your baby will be able to rotate her torso; her pelvis will initiate the roll, and her shoulders will follow. Turning at the waist will allow her to look around when she masters sitting and to alternate her legs and arms as she learns to walk.
Once she's on her back, your baby will kick her legs, lift her bottom off the floor, and bring her toes to her mouth -- moves that strengthen her abdominal muscles. Soon she'll master the opposite roll: Lifting her legs in the air, she may fall to one side and scramble right onto her belly.
Skill builder: Give your baby plenty of floor space and time to roll and flip as she pleases. Toys, such as a baby gym, can also enhance development by encouraging kicking and reaching.
Sitting Up: 6 to 7 months
All the floor work your baby has done up to this point is helping develop his back and abdominal muscles. He can now control his posture and stay upright -- although it may be a while before he can sit without support. For stability, your baby relies on his vestibular system, the body's mechanism for maintaining balance and sensing movement through space. Operating in the inner ears, this system receives information about the body's position and sends it to the brain so your baby can make adjustments in his posture and alignment to steady himself.
As your baby nears 8 months, he may reach across his body to grab food or toys. Moving the right hand into the left space of the body, and vice versa, uses both hemispheres of the brain, an important step in improving coordination.
Skill builder: Sit your baby down among some tempting objects. Place a few items at his sides so he works his midsection while he turns. Have cushions around, in case he's still wobbly. Rock and swing your baby, bounce him on your knee, or dance together to give his vestibular system a variety of sensations.
Crawling: 7 to 9 months
When your baby first tries to crawl on her hands and knees, she'll probably be stuck in neutral. Curiosity, however, will lead her to experiment with different forms of forward motion. She may push her palms against the floor (and likely scoot backward), push her feet against the floor (and fold in the middle), pick up one hand (and fall on her face), or kick her feet (and land on her face again), explains Eugene Goldfield, Ph.D., a research associate at Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, in Boston. Crawling can actually take on many forms: "bear walking" on hands and feet with her bottom high, pulling with forearms and belly on the floor, scooting around bottom-down, and the classic creeping on hands and knees.
Don't try to push through this horizontal phase. "There's no advantage to putting an infant in play devices or jumpers that encourage early standing," says Jane Case-Smith, Ed.D., an associate professor of occupational therapy at Ohio State University, in Columbus. Research shows that using walkers may actually delay development, because their large trays block the child's view of her moving feet, depriving her of feedback that's critical to physical and mental growth.
Skill builder: Let your baby crawl on a variety of safe surfaces: Line cushions on the floor, take her outside on the grass, or give her a gentle incline to scale.
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