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October 20, 2022

Natural Gross Motor Development and Forward Motion

One of the most fascinating parts about following a child's natural gross motor development path is seeing all the really incredible ways that babies can move when left alone. Before understanding this RIE inspired approach, I would have said that babies first roll, then sit, then crawl, then pull to stand, then walk. But now, wow, there is SO much more incredible movement that babies can make. 

At 8-months-old Penelope is on the move. She is creeping all over the place. That is she is moving in all sorts of ways on her belly. We might also call it army crawling. She isn't quite on her hands and knees but she is everywhere. She is taking her time and moving her body in so many unique ways. 

Penelope climbs on top of an old IKEA footstool. This one looks similar if you didn't attach the legs.

I've talked about transitional positions before, but this phase of early motion really also deserves some love. There is no rush to sit up, Penelope has on occasion pulled herself to a seated position, but instead a whole range of complex movements. 

There's stretching arms this way and that. Pulling, rocking, rolling, and reaching. Each and every movement is intentional. She has started creeping over and under objects - exploring her environment in new and challenging ways. Really pushing herself to figure it out - hint, hint it's baby maximum effort! 

Early Stages of Motion - Natural Gross Motor Development

So here are some reasons to avoid rushing to a sitting position or full blown crawling: 

  • Core strength and Coordination - all of this movement is building that core strength needed to sit up without falling over
  • Vestibular Input - rolling and gentle movements are all helping the vestibular system to mature which is very important in finding and keeping the balance necessary to sit, stand, and walk 
  • Gives time for the postural reflexes to develop - the more a baby moves their brain will start to integrate primitive reflexes (those they are born with) and start to activate postural reflexes (those that appear later to help a baby stay safe - like the falling reflex.) 
  • Crossing the Midline - the more babies move in ways that cross their body, the more connections are made between the two halves of their brains, we want babies moving, not sitting to develop these important connections
  • Safety - when every small motor motion is mastered, babies know what they are ready for. They can then stretch their abilities slowly and evenly and therefore are just less likely to get hurt 

This is such a super fun stage even without the nerdy baby movement reasons. Practically, I love that Penelope can explore but she isn't super fast yet. She is also endlessly entertained by her own body without needing my involvement to get her into a preferred position. 

"Sitting up independently takes both physical and vestibular maturity according to each baby's own timeline. Often, parents or caregivers prop baby up...thinking they are helping with that process. But, in fact, propping baby up is unnecessary and might even interfere with the process." Chapter 5,  A Moving Child is a Learning Child

I know that there are so many other great gross motor milestones on the horizon for Penelope right now. She is starting to pull up to her knees, and even feet on low surfaces. It won't be long before she gets to hands and knee crawling, sitting, and standing.

So, enjoy this phase! The exact amount of time each baby spends in this phase can vary, but avoid propping, moving your baby's body, or pushing them to move in certain ways. Relish this time and know that big and important work is being done, even if they aren't sitting. 

Natural gross motor development reasons for enjoying the early motion stage of baby movement and avoiding sitting up a baby too soon.

This post is week 36 of my Montessori Baby series featuring Penelope. 

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Anonymous said…
Yes! My natural gross motor babies develop exactly as I expect, crawling before sitting, climbing before walking. It’s advocating at every well check up that no we don’t need a PT consult, they’re doing exactly what they’re supposed to be doing 🙄