Among one of the first assessment the doctor or midwife does when a baby is born is to assess his physical activity level. Physical activity is absolutely necessary for a baby to develop not only his gross motor skills but his overall development.
The need to move and have physical activity is second nature to babies and toddlers. From day one, babies will stretch and even though his nervous system is not matured and have poor coordination, he will still try to move. Notice how easily a baby break free from his swaddle.
From simply waving his hands and kicking his legs aimlessly to gradually being able to grasp purposefully using his hands and then putting his fist accurately into his mouth, he needs to develop physical strength, coordination and cognitive skills.
Babies will naturally develop his skills at his own pace. However, parents and care givers can assist and encourage his development by providing a safe and conducive environment while monitoring his progress.
For a start, never be encouraged to leave baby on the sofa either to sleep or to play even supervised. Start wisely by always putting baby to play on the floor on a mat. Baby must always be strapped on to bouncers which must always be placed on the floor.
From birth to about 3 months, baby should be spending most of his wakeful time on the floor with a textured coloured mat. He will be stretching, swiping and touching aimlessly and accidentally kicking at colourful objects placed in front or above him. These movements are the beginning of many bigger movements to follow. He will start to gradually track objects and will be increasing interested in faces and will start to ‘coo’.
Tummy time on the floor will help baby to strengthen his neck, back and arms . He may initially not be too interested but with encouragement and by placing a toy in front of him, he will gradually lift his head and shoulders .
From 4 to 6 months, baby will start to be really interested in his surroundings and the people around him. Strangers may not have a warm welcome if they are too eager to reach out to him initially. He may sit with minimal support,will also be able to reach up and out to toys in placed in front of him, “spin” himself round slowly while lying on his back on the floor, grasp his toes and even put them into his mouth. He should be turning first only from back to tummy on one side then from tummy to back again and eventually roll on both sides. He may even be creeping or lurching forward.
He is now starting to use his fingers better, transferring light toys from one hand to the other and is definitely more vocal.
From 7 to 9 months, baby will now be more mobile. Whether he is creeping, rolling or crawling, he will be on the move. Not all babies crawl the classic way; some are bear crawlers while others are happily combat crawling. Whichever way it maybe, once he is on the move, he will start exploring. Others may start to pull and stand while a few may even start to climb. In a short few months, the baby that is lying on the floor helplessly is now a moving machine plowing his way under the tables and chairs and anywhere he can go.
With better finger dexterity, he will want to start feeding himself creating a big mess. But practice makes perfect and the messier now, the faster he will learn.
From 10-12 months, most babies will be cruising while holding on to a sofa or in the crib. Few may have taken a few steps unaided. Baby is now very curious and will try to reach stick his fingers into electrical sockets, pull at table clothes or anything that appears to be interesting to him.
He will also be perfecting his skill at feeding himself with his hands and fingers. He is fun, he is reckless and he is fearless.
To ensure baby develop all his skills, parents and care givers need to provide the opportunity and space. This can best be achieve by child proofing the house and accept that babies need to move. The more they move the better.