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The Second Six Months: Moving Up - Part One

This article includes the following items: Six To Nine Months: Exploring Big, The Crawling Sequence, Lunging forward, First crawls, Making a Bridge, Cross-crawling, The Mental Side of Crawling, Advanced Maneuvers, From Crawl to Sit, Reinforcing the Little mover, Pulling Up and Moving Around, Taking a Stand, First Cruises, Waive the Walker. There will be five more parts to this article, so be sure to keep an eye out for them.

During the first six months parents and trusted subs are the center of baby's universe. While this remains true during all states of development, from six to twelve months baby develops the skills to extend his world of interest. He becomes less an arms and lap baby and more an exploring floor baby. During his stage, growth accelerates. Baby's weight increases by a third, first words appear, and true thumb-and-forefinger pickups emerge, as well as first crawls and steps. These skills also bring about parents' development as safety patrol officers. Baby's motor development allows him to get more and more of his body off the ground. By six months he's on his own two feet, and the baby chase begins.

Six To Nine Months: Exploring Big

Two important skills form the next steps up the ladder of infant development: progressing from sitting to crawling and learning to pick up objects with thumb and forefinger. At each stage of development baby masters one primary skill that then triggers a series of accomplishments. In this stage, sitting without support is the master skill. This, in turn, opens a wide new world for baby to explore. He now sees his environment straight on, an entirely different perspective from the one he gets lying on his back. By six or seven months, most babies can sit unsupported. Since he no longer needs his arms to prop himself up, baby is able to use them more fully for socializing and play.

The Crawling Sequence

Line up ten beginning crawlers at the starting gate and watch them make their individual ways around the track. They all reach the finish line, but with different styles and different speeds. Each is normal. While no two babies crawl the same, most follow a similar sequence of development.

Lunging Forward
Intense curiosity coupled with increasing strength in trunk, arm, and leg muscles seem to plant an idea in baby's mind: "I have the capability to handle my toys. Now how do I get to them?" Here's how one skill leads to another. The ability to sit unsupported encourages baby to try lunging forward in pursuit of a desired toy. Place your baby's toys just beyond his reach and you will notice that he lunges to lengthen his reach, extending his hands and arms to rake the toy in paw like fashion until it is comfortably within reach.

Baby translates a stationary skill (sitting) into a moving skill (lunging). This is the precursor to crawling. As you place the toy farther beyond baby's reach, notice what happens. He lunges his trunk forward as much as possible, stretching his arms toward the toy. Next he learns to fold his outstretched legs in toward his body. This tucked-in position shortens the rocking axis, allowing baby to roll forward over his feet. As he begins to lunge forward on his little rocker bottom, he builds up momentum until the forward-lunging movements of his body gradually overcome the weight his bottom, and he falls, usually on his tummy, just short of his intended goal.

Safety Tip: When a baby is practicing these forward-lunging skills, choose soft toys for him to go or in case he falls splat on top if his goal. such an encounter with a hard wooden, metal, or plastic object could be very uncomfortable.

First Crawls
Baby's first crawls are frustrating. As with many developmental skills, intent precedes ability. Like a stuck turtle's, baby's propelling arms and legs kick, but her heavy abdomen won't budge off the ground.

The styles of beginning crawlers are variable. Some babies inchworm along the floor. This early style progresses toward a commando-type crawl, with baby squirming forward on her tucked-in elbows, her head scanning from side to side searching for objects to capture. Some babies begin moving more backward than forward in a type of crab crawl as they push instead of pull with their arms. Others prefer the thrusting motion of their legs as they dig in with their feet, making a sort of ridge with their extended legs and arms and then thrusting forward in leapfrog fashion, propelling themselves ahead a foot or two at a time.

Making a Bridge
Until baby can get her pelvis and abdomen off the ground, her crawling is inefficient. Once her heavy middle is raised -- "making a bridge" -- she's off. Baby first rocks back and forth on hands and knees. Now she's up on four wheels and ready to explore ways of rolling on them.

A major turning point in crawling skills is mastered when baby learns to alternate arms and legs, getting the arm on one side and the leg on the opposite side to move forward together and strike the floor at the same time. This refinement in baby's ground transportation is called cross-crawling. This stance allows baby to balance steadily on the hand and knee that remain in contact with the floor while elevating the opposite ones. This is the most efficient and speedy of the crawling styles and takes baby in the straightest line. Cross-crawling is a loco motor skill that teaches a baby to use one side of his body to balance the other.

Want to really appreciate the efficiency of cross-crawling and have some fun? Along with your friends, get down on the floor and start crawling. Notice that most adults crawl "wrong." The move the arm and left on the same side of the body together, which is off balance, instead of moving the opposite arm and leg ahead and maintaining their balance. How smart this nine-month-old engineer is to have developed such a balanced suspension!

The Mental Side of Crawling
Imagine the learning power that a baby derives from learning to crawl. He experiments with various styles and then "chooses" the one that works best. Baby learns problem solving and cause-and-effect relationships -- "I push with my feet one way and I move faster than if I push another way." Baby also learns self-reinforcement: The more he moves and reaches the pursued toys, the more motivated he is to improve his loco motor skills.

You can tell that baby is thinking about how best to crawl by watching how he accommodates his crawling style to different textures. Place baby on a deep-pile carpet and notice that he uses his feet and toes to dig in, thrusting forward leapfrog style. Now place him on a smooth kitchen floor, and he is likely to inchworm his way and slide along the smooth surface. Some babies like to bear crawl on hands and feet on tiled surfaces because the soles and palms stick instead of slide. Watch how your baby learns to navigate using different styles on different "roads."

During this stage of development it is not so important how baby moves in pursuit of a toy. The important milestone is that he realizes his capabilities to move from place to place and experiments with various methods. Sometimes he may dig in and scoot; other times he may twist and roll toward the toy; sometimes he may crawl. During the next stage of development baby refines these various modes of transportation and selects the one that is most efficient.

Advanced Maneuvers
Babies like to crawl up and over obstacles. For fun and games, place a foam-rubber roll or wedge between baby and an interesting toy. Also, make yourself an obstacle. Lie down on the floor and place the toy on one side of you and the baby on the other, an feel your baby crawl over you.

From Crawl to Sit
Besides developing new loco motor skills, baby enjoys combining skills. Around seven months a baby can go from sitting to lunging to crawling forward. Baby next learns how to maneuver his body in the opposite sequence, going from the crawling position back to a full sit. To master this maneuver, baby uses the foot tuck. Watch baby crawl along and then quickly stop, tuck one foot underneath, and swing sideways, vaulting over the tucked-in foot while digging in and pushing with the other foot and hand. Presto, he's sitting upright! Baby's ability to achieve a sitting positing by himself is another relief milestone for parents. Previously he would fuss because he couldn't right himself back to the sitting position. He needed a nearby helper. Now he doesn't.

Reinforcing the Little Mover.
Each time your baby shows a new skill, he will do best amid the encouraging cheers of his sibling (if he has them). For example, when baby crawls up the step, rolls over, or goes from crawling to sitting, watch how she beams afterward. When you notice she is pleased with herself, praise her. By acknowledging her performance, you share her joy, and she may give an encore.

Pulling Up and Moving Around

The desire to ascend from a horizontal to a vertical position stimulates baby to grab hold of furniture, railings, or parent's clothing and pull himself upright. Watch the delight on your baby's face at the thrill of his first pull-up.

Taking a Stand
Once baby has mustered all the skill and energy needed to pull up to a standing position, he wants to stay there awhile and enjoy the view. At this state baby may stand briefly while holding on to your hand only for balance, not for support. An eight-month-old may be able to learn against a sofa for five to ten minutes. Many babies at this stage still do not plant their while foot of the floor, preferring to stand on tiptoe with their feet turned in, a position that greatly compromises their balance. The tiptoe tendency is probably due to the baby's tensing his whole body to get into this exciting new position.

Help baby take the right stand. If he is hanging on to a sofa and his feet are turned in and overlapping, gently turn them out and plant them flat, teaching baby to use his feet as a firm base of support. If baby still crumples easily when standing, support his bending legs with your hands around the back of his knees. By taking of the frustrations out of failed attempts, you can help baby enjoy a new skill and reinforce it s development.

Waive The Walker
Pediatricians strongly discourage you from exposing your infant to a walker for both safety and developmental reasons. Providing exercise for baby, keeping the pre-walking baby occupied, and as a baby-sitting aid to keep the mobile baby happy are not good enough reasons to justify the safety and developmental risks that walkers pose for babies.

The number of walker accidents steadily increases each year, prompting the American Academy of Pediatrics to propose a law banning the sale and use of infant walkers. Studies show that as many as 40 percent of infants placed in walkers suffer a variety of injuries, such as skull fractures, neck injuries, lacerations, knocked-out teeth, and burns. Some of the most common injuries occur from falls, such as when a baby gets up enough speed to crash through a safety gate and falls downstairs, tips over when rolling over throw rugs or thresholds, or bends over to pick up toys on the floor. Baby's fingers can get caught in collapsible walkers, especially the older models with exposed springs and coils. Walkers give babies wheels to navigate into dangerous places.

The second reason they are strongly discouraged is that walkers reverse the normal sequence of motor development. Infants develop from head to toe, with their upper body skills progressing ahead of their lower body skills. In typical motor development from birth to one year, baby gets more and more of his body off the ground. He begins by raising his head, then his chest, then his tummy, then his hips, then raises himself on hands and knees, then stands with support, then takes a few steps while holding on, and then walks solo. In relying on the walker to do the work, baby loses he ability to keep experimenting with his own body in order to develop crawling and walking skills. In fact, studies have shown that babies who spend a lot of time in walkers are more likely to be slower in developing a normal gait. These studies showed that "walker-trained" infants demonstrated a stiffer-legged gait.

If you absolutely must have a gadget that entertains the pre-walking baby, never leave the baby unattended.

First Cruises
Around eight or nine months babies lean against furniture only for balance, not for support. Next baby cruises around furniture using the couch or coffee-table top as his balancer. Finally, baby tries letting go with both hands and may even stand momentarily by himself before grabbing on to the nearby couch or table or crumpling to the floor from lack of balance.

There will be more articles on infantsFree Articles, breast or bottle feeding and other related topics to follow. So please keep an eye out for more of my articles.

Article Tags: Motor Development, Some Babies, Baby Learns, Loco Motor

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