Be aware of nature’s progression, participate in it the best way you can and let your little one do the rest.* Your child is born with an inborn drive to move. Unless you place restrictions on your child, he or she will continually find ways to practice motor skills. Here is a nice summary to keep on hand as your little one progresses through the developmental years.
Birth to 3 Months
This is the time of helping your baby to unfold from the fetal position. Since your baby has been in the womb for a long time, soft relaxing movements will help your baby stretch out and relax. You can gently massage your baby using a massage lotion recommended for babies or substitute regular baby lotion. As you observe your baby’s hands in a closed position, you can slowly unfold them. As you see your baby’s knees bent, you can slowly open them. In addition, you can move your baby’s legs up and down in a bicycle- like movement. Soft pats and taps all along the arms and legs will encourage new movement.
3 to 6 Months
Now you will see the beginning of eye-hand coordination. Your baby’s hands are now ready to reach and grasp for items. Soft, safe, and simple objects from around the house are excellent for your baby to explore. A good idea is to use them one at a time and play with them in your own special way. In addition, your baby will love the opportunity to stretch out, push up, and roll over. However, remember to always be there for your baby’s protection.
6 Months to 1 Year
This is the time to baby-proof your house. Crawling and walking are here, and your baby will love to explore everything in sight. He or she will want to pick up and hold any and all objects. With so much going on, this is a wonderful time to begin to be fair, firm, and positive. It is fair to explain to your baby what he or she should and should not do. It is firm to say what you mean and mean what you say. It is positive to keep in mind that you are your child’s first and most important teacher. Here is an example. “Stay away from that wire. It could hurt you. Play over here.”
1 to 11⁄2 Years
Because moving around in your house could be limiting now, look for more places to let your toddler explore. Continue to use your stroller on outings, but decrease your child’s time in it whenever you can. In addition, look for a place to practice throwing a ball with your little one. Have fun as you explore the outdoors.
11⁄2 to 2 Years
Because staying close to home might not be stimulating enough, introduce your child to your neighborhood park or playground and a chance to be in the company of other children. In addition, be on the lookout for stairs. Walking up and down will provide excellent exercise for your child. Turning a knob, stacking blocks, scribbling, and using push or pull toys are all appropriate activities to encourage.
2 to 3 Years
With movement for your child increasing once again, add riding a tricycle as a new dimension. Also, be on the lookout for hand dominance. If you do not notice it, you can use “cross the midline exercises.” Here is an example. Give your child an object on his or her left side and encourage your child to reach for it with the right hand. Do this same action on the right side with the left hand. Put items in your child’s right hand as much as possible. While it is not recommended to discourage your child from being left-handed, professionals suggest you encourage the right-hand preference. If left-handedness persists, you will be sure that it was truly meant to be the dominant hand.
3 to 4 Years
While the park and tricycle riding are still valuable, a new level of fine motor skills have been reached and should be nurtured. Cutting and pasting are favorites, and tearing paper is also a big hit. You will notice scribbles turning to drawing and observe tying knots, stringing beads, and other arts and crafts interests. In addition, you will see hopping as a new gross motor activity.
4 to 5 Years
More of everything is the name of this game. For gross motor activities, add skipping and learning to ride a two-wheeler bike. In addition, other activities can begin as well—roller skating, ice skating, skiing, any sports, and even somersaults, gymnastics, karate, ballet, and more. Fine motor skills also become quite advanced. Examples are cutting on a line with scissors, printing letters and numbers, fastening, buckling, and tying a bow. You will even notice catching a ball, coloring in the lines, and doing puzzles.
Always remember, you cannot teach development; you facilitate it.
* For babies and young children with special needs and who may have delays in certain areas, being a facilitator is even more important. Use these basic guidelines to help you through the process.
Dr. Sally is a pioneer in the field of early childhood education. Based on her many previous books, Dr. Sally is now bringing us tips, activities, and parenting techniques. Check in every week to see what she has for you on Monday Morning Coffee, Tuesday Afternoon Tea, and Wednesday Evening Wine.