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March 10, 2023

Natural Gross Motor Development - Pulling to Stand

Over the last several years, I've become deeply passionate about natural gross motor development. I'm fascinated by watching babies learn to move without external support - from baby equipment or parental intervention (like propping to sit.) Over the last few months, Penelope has been perfecting her gross motor skills in many ways including pulling to stand. Pulling to stand is just another gross motor skill that most babies are fully capable of learning without any help. 

One thing that I find deeply interesting about pulling to stand is how interlinked it is with the natural gross motor approach to sitting. Pulling to their feet really is often just one part of how they learn to free their hands to learn to sit. The first step in learning to pull to their feet, is pulling to their knees - a form of sitting. As such, Pikler, actually has many standing positions as transitional positions on the way to other independent motion. 

Montessori baby pulls to stand using a pull up bar and small chair.

So standing is a transition from creeping/crawling and sitting to climbing and walking freely - more than it is a phase seen completely on it's own. Standing isn't the goal, climbing or walking is. 

Phases of Learning to Stand with Babies

As with all natural gross motor development there are so many individual paths that each baby could take when it comes to learning to stand. Penelope is only one baby, on one path - her own. She provides an interesting example, but everyone's baby's path should be respected and allowed to unfold. 

For Penelope a lot of the early pulling was happening at the same time as she was learning to sit. Then, the pulling up became a vehicle for climbing. At 13-months, she is not walking so she hasn't made that leap yet, but will in her own time. 

A collage of an older baby over several months in different natural gross motor development positions learning to stand.

Here are some of the pulling to stand positions I've noticed over the last couple of months: 
  1. Pulling to Knees - often as a way to sit and free hands.
  2. One knee down, extend one leg to standing - often eventually lead to standing on two feet
  3. Standing on two feet supported chest/hands - notice wide foot base, and slanted stance
  4. Standing two feet with supported hands - notice narrow foot base and upright stance
  5. Squat stand - no knees needed, eventually standing like in number 4
  6. Standing minimal support - notice narrow foot base, upright stance, and one free hand. Will sometimes let go and stay standing without even noticing 
  7. Pulling to stand from seated - eventually standing like number 6
  8. Spontaneous standing - usually from pushing up from ground or low object 

I'm sure there have been other movements that I haven't been able to highlight here. Each phase lasted varying lengths of time. I know she will move on to other adventures when she is ready. In the words of Magda Gerber, "if infants are ready to do something, they will do it. In fact, when they are ready, they have to do it." (Dear Parent: Caring for Infants with Respect)

Natural gross motor development phases are so much fun to break down, and pulling to stand has been fascinating to watch. 

Natural gross motor development thoughts and a possible progression for babies learning to stand. Standing is a wonderful stage between sitting, crawling, climbing and walking. By following a baby's lead we can see a whole host of movement without adult intervention.

Have you noticed any of these phases in your own baby?

This post is week 48 of my Montessori baby series featuring Penelope.


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