From Rolling Over to Jumping in Puddles: Moving and Grooving with Infants and Toddlers
From rolling over to jumping in puddles, from gripping your finger to stacking blocks, infants and toddlers astound us with their day-to-day achievements as they grow in their abilities. Here are some ways that families can support these exciting new skills as they develop. If your child could talk, he or she might say...
- Start at the beginning, before I can go anywhere on my own – hold me, rock me, cuddle me, and carry me in your arms or on your body. As you move I learn to move with you.
- Offer me your fingers to grip. Once I can grip and let go of things, hand me lightweight toys to hold, mouth, and bang. Give me choices: a rattle, a cloth doll, a wooden block. I can explore these objects while on my back and on my tummy.
- It’s so fun to bat at things that hang down from a play-mat. Watch as I learn to connect my action to the movement of the toy!
- When I can sit up, I can explore toys with two hands. I like to put them in my mouth and see what I can make them do. Invite me to bang things together – I like to imitate you!
- When you place me on my belly, place new and exciting toys just out of reach – I may roll over or even crawl over to see them. Soon I’ll crawl or scoot in and out of the places I want to go – a basket or a box, perhaps?
- Pulling up is so much fun! Place me near stable furniture such as a couch so I can improve my view and coast along.
- Standing up means I can play at a low table, scribbling on paper, poking at play-dough, or moving puzzle pieces around. I can also coast around the table, developing balance and learning to alternate my feet.
- With a finger for balance, I am taking my first strides! Follow my lead, and soon I won’t need any help. Let me take steps on different surfaces like grass, sand, wood and carpet so I learn to adapt my pace.
- I am walking! Let me try safe climbing, low slides, swings, tunnels, balls, and “ride on” toys so I can refine my balance and expand my skills.
- I’m getting better at moving my hands too! I can put rings on sticks, pick up a small snack, open a pop-up toy, and turn book pages. This is because I have learned to move my pointer finger and thumb together to pinch and pick up small things, and can use both hands together. Pick out toys and snacks that let me get better at these tasks.
- I am running! Give me space to go! Give me things to push, carry and ride! I love to climb, give me safe places to try: stairs, ramps and balancing on the curb. I love to dance, dance with me! Let’s jump together! Let’s hide in a box!
- With my hands working together, I can stack blocks high, connect wooden tracks, peel stickers off of sheets, and string big beads onto laces. I can hold a paper down while I draw on it, and sometimes catch a ball. I’m better at these things with you beside me, coaching me.
These are just a few suggestions for strengthening the motor skills of infants and toddlers. Learn more on how infants and toddlers develop fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
Happy moving and grooving! What are some of the ways you support how your baby moves?
Julia Luckenbill, MA, is program coordinator at the Early Childhood Lab School at UC Davis.