Motor Development FAQ With Darcy Dzurino Fass
May 23, 2022
Most of us walk and run every day without a second thought to all the cognitive and motor skills that are required for these simple tasks. But, when we’re raising children of our own, we get to see everything that it takes to build these skills that will eventually allow our little babies to do the same one day. From pushing through diligent tummy time sessions in those first few months of life, to taking those wobbly first steps, our babies amaze us with their hard work and rapid improvement. In the blink of an eye, they go from helpless, immobile newborns to rambunctious, speedy toddlers who somehow move faster than our eyes can track. But, in between those two stages, there’s a lot of milestones that we wait and wait for our little ones to hit. We do a lot of Googling, obsessing, worrying, and celebrating because these small milestones are huge for these babies, who could barely lift their heads off the floor just a little while ago.
It’s hard not to obsess over whether our kids meet their milestones on time, and even harder not to compare them to other kids who seem to progress more quickly than our own. But, the truth is that every child is different and develops at their own pace. These milestones simply exist as an average, but parents who are concerned about their child’s development can seek help from professionals who can help these children reach their full potential. One such professional is Darcy Dzurino Fass, PT, DPT. As a pediatric physical therapist, Darcy is the owner and creator of Tips & Pediatricks, which serves as a platform to educate and empower parents or caregivers. She is based in Orlando, Florida, and has spent the past five years helping parents feel heard, and helping children learn fun and purposeful play to promote their development. We teamed up with Darcy to answer your top questions about gross motor development in babies and children.
Q: How soon will babies usually walk once they can pull to stand or crawl?
DF: I feel like every baby is different when it comes to this. If you’re talking about typical neurodevelopment, a baby can start to walk any time between 3 to 5 months after pulling to stand. But, it could be earlier and it could be later. They could start walking a few days after crawling, or it could be months after crawling. That’s why there are ranges for normal skill acquisition for kids with typical neurodevelopment.
Q: Is it bad to let my 3.5-month old sit on my lap?
DF: Babies at 3.5 months old are totally fine to do some short durations of upright sitting on your lap, as long as they have fair to good head control. It shouldn’t harm anything in their spine!
Q: How can I help my baby learn to roll?
DF: To help your baby roll from back to belly, take a toy and try to get them interested in it so that they’ll maybe roll onto their side or at least initiate the roll. If they aren’t laying on their side yet, you can take a hand and put it on their hip to help them roll onto their side. You can take your hand on their hip and gently pull down toward their feet so that they have to lift their head and trunk on their own. Make them do as much work as possible because that’s the only way they’re going to learn. If their arm gets stuck, shift their weight to the opposite side and see if they bring up their arm on their own.
To help your baby roll from belly to back, move a toy for them to visually track upward toward the ceiling. Position the arm that they are rolling over up toward their head so that it doesn’t get stuck. You can also place your baby on their side and try to make them do the rest of the work by moving their toy upward for them to track. Gravity will help your baby roll more if they are placed on an incline. You can use a pillow and prop something underneath one edge so that it creates an inclined surface.
Q: What are some tips to get my 12-month old walking? He stands with support only.
DF: At 12 months, it can be totally typical that your little one is not independently walking yet. I wouldn’t fret about it until around 16 months of age, if they still aren’t doing some of those precursors to walking. To encourage your little one, you can place toys along furniture to set up the environment to “cruising.” You can also place two different surfaces right next to each other to encourage “bridging,” then try to see if they will transfer between surfaces set up in your house. Start them within arm’s reach!
Q: My baby likes to “stand” with support at 4 months. Is this okay? Will this hurt her legs or hips?
DF: At 4 months, your baby’s hip joints aren’t necessarily developed enough for this. Their hip sockets are very shallow at that age, so I wouldn’t do long durations of standing. You can support them in standing while holding them for up to a minute or so, but I wouldn’t place them in standing position for long durations at this time because it can actually be harmful to their hips and hip development.
Q: My 9-month old sits, rolls, pivots, pushes up on their hands, but can’t get into or out of sitting, get on all fours, or crawl. Should I be concerned?
DF: 9 months is kind of right on that cusp where I would be wondering, “Why aren’t you crawling? Why aren’t you getting on your hands and knees?” But it sounds like your baby is doing a lot of the precursors to crawling, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about it.
About the Author: Alice
Alice Mendoza is a copywriter and blog writer based in Los Angeles. She began writing for a baby brand while on maternity leave, and realized she had found her niche. Today, she writes exclusively within the baby space, using her BFA in Creative Writing and her own experience as a mother to guide her. When she’s not working, you can find her chasing down her toddler, going on walks around the neighborhood, or watching reality TV.