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May 23, 2023

Natural Gross Motor Development - Climbing

One of my greatest pleasures in being a parent lately has been watching motor skills naturally unfold. There is so much concentrated hard work happening that it really is incredible. I mean, seriously, these tiny babies just watch us move, absorb it, and work with their own reflexes/instincts to make it happen. They fail over and over again, but don't give up until they've got it. I will say, however, that watching the natural gross motor development of climbing unfold has been inconvenient than some of the other stages. 

Penelope has spent the last several months climbing anything and everything in sight. From her Pikler Ramp to the kitchen counters and everything in between, this girl has been driven to climb. While I wrote about her journey to stand first, there was quite a bit of overlap in learning to stand and learning to climb. She also could climb everything far before she could walk. 

Climbing seems to have been a need outside of walking. I observed that it seemed to a way for Penelope to gain a lot of strength as she also developed the balance and confidence she needed to start taking steps on her own. 

Phases of Climbing in Babies

A reminder that Penelope is only one baby on her own unique natural gross motor development path. Some of my kids have been much more into climbing than others. Penelope has been extremely interested and motivated to climb, where others have walked faster and climbed less. 

Every climbing feat has also been supported by me. That is I spot her (to prevent serious falls) but do not move her body to help her figure it out. Like all natural gross motor development, the gains are her own and she is safest when figuring out her body. The stages show have occurred over several months. 

  1. "Creep up onto an object" (Pikler's phrase, using knees to push up) - more of a drag up something
  2. Sliding up and down an incline - supported by our ramp, dragging body both up and down
  3. "Walk up onto an object" (Pikler's phrase, using feet to push up) - feet and legs getting more involved, lots of this to get up stairs 

  4. "Creep off of an object with legs first" (belly being used heavily for support) - moving down stairs 
  5. Climbing for purpose - discovering the why behind climbing, highly motivating
  6. Step down with feet - walking off an object, landing to feet instead of butt or belly

  7. Climbing with feet and hands only - no belly support, this is when we introduced Pikler Triangle
  8. Bear Crawling up Incline - supported by Pikler, fully climbing without belly support
  9. Larger Gaps + Testing Strength - many months of refining and testing limits of climbing
I'm sure there are lots of small movements and LOTS of repetition that isn't evident here in this journey to climbing. It's been a super fun process to watch this unfold, and definitely responsible for a few grey hairs. 😅

Have you seen any of these climbing stages during your baby's natural gross motor development?


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