TEACHING BABY THE MOTOR SKILL OF STANDING
QUESTION FROM A MOTHER IN CLASS:
My pediatrician recommended that we now set my 10 month old son’s toys up on the seat of a chair instead of on the floor in front of him so he will learn to pull and stand. But, when I do that, he gets frustrated because he does not know how to get back down. What should I do?
STELLAR CATERPILLAR’S ANSWER:
REVERSIBILITY OF THE MOTOR SKILL OF STANDING
He is still learning to crawl on his hands and knees, so he is not quite ready to stand up. When a baby learns to stand up, he must be able to reverse himself by returning to a hands and knees crawling position or a sitting position as he goes back down onto the floor. If those positions are not familiar to him he may feel a bit of panic. Wait a couple more weeks before encouraging the motor skill of standing. This will allow him time to crawl on his hands and knees which he is learning. You can discuss this with your pediatrician as well. Read some of our posts on cruising to see some videos of babies pulling up to stand, cruising, and then sitting back down on the floor again.
ALIGNMENT OF THE MOTOR SKILL OF STANDING
The hands and knees position also teaches his nervous system to place his legs under his hip joints. This develops excellent alignment. When he stands up his legs will be more stable because they will be more under his hip joints. You can also play a game with him where you place a box in front of him that is turned upside down. Put baby on his knees in front of it and teach him to play it like a drum. He will enjoy the game and it will be giving his system a clear feeling of placing his knees on the floor. This increases the familiarity of the position through which he will pass when going up and coming down from standing up.
BABY INDEPENDENCE AND MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
He is only 10 months old. Many babies do not walk until they are 14 or 15 months old. He still has time. What is important is that he has time in each developmental milestone so he can benefit from what each motor skill teaches his body. Then when starts standing up he will be stronger, have improved alignment, feel more stable, and be more emotionally confident that he can get in and out of that postion on his own. This is independence.
Advertised as a protection for bruises, scrapes, and cuts, baby knee pads are one item you can leave off of your baby gear list. They are constructed as a stretchy sleeve with a firm cotton or silicone piece that slides over baby’s knee joint. When baby crawls, the pad goes down on the floor with baby’s knee and “protects” it from the hard surface. An important question to ask is how do these knee pads effect baby’s development of the motor milestone of crawling? Let’s evaluate knee pads by looking at three developmental tips that help baby learn to crawl.
CRAWLING TIP #1: DEVELOP PROPRIOCEPTION OF KNEES
Crawling occurs on the hands and knees when it is in its most efficient pattern. Some babies learn to crawl on the hands and feet (bear crawl), but most babies learn to crawl on their hands and knees. Developing a very clear feeling of the bones and muscles of her knee joints, which is called proprioception, baby feels more stable as they touch the ground and support her weight. With the knee pads the soft protective material in front of the knee may make it difficult to feel the physical sensation of the bones of the knees clearly pressing into the floor. It might be similar to an adult standing on a thick cushioned exercise mat rather than on a hardwood floor. The adult would feel more stable on the solid floor as well. Some babies feel distracted by the strange sensation around their knee and try to crawl while avoiding putting their knees down, in the bear crawl pattern.
Instead of buying knee pads, try tapping and gently squeezing her knee joint so she will feel it more clearly and remember that the firmness of the floor is helpful. She will feel more stable and balanced. Wearing a simple cotton pair of pants can also prevent scrapes. Remember that babies learn to crawl without knee pads on stone floors all over the world in countries such as Mexico and Israel.
CRAWLING TIP #2: IMPROVE FLEXION OF KNEES
To get into the hands and knees crawling positon, baby has to bend her knees, this is called “flexion.” Both the knees and the hips bend until the hands and knees are on the floor. Once baby begins to crawl, each “step” she takes requires bending the knee quite a bit. The knee pads may limit the bend in the knee joint. Although they are made of a flexible and sometimes thin material, it sits right in back of the joint and may diminish the range of motion to some extent. Full range of motion is essential for baby to achieve the optimal alignment for her skill development. I have seen videos of babies wearing knee pads where the pad rides up or twists around, limiting the flexion of the knees. Instead of wearing knee pads, try bending and extending her legs while she is lying on her back to remind her to bend her knee.
CRAWLING TIP #3: ALIGN HIPS AND KNEES
When the knees bend easily and she feels her knees firmly on the floor, baby easily achieves her proper alignment for crawling. The shoulders are placed more or less over the hands and the hips are placed over the knees. Wearing baby knees pads may lead to her knees sliding around a bit inside the pad or minimize the bend of her knee making good alignment difficult. Opt to leave the baby knee pads out of the gear bag.
Benefits of proper alignment include more strength or power in the motor milestone of crawling. If the knees are not quite under the hips baby may not get as strong of a push off of the floor. Starting from good alignment will also prepare her for standing and walking. Her body is learning to place her knees under her hips which is the same alignment for standing and walking. Initially, babies often walk with the feet a bit wide and then as their balance improves they bring their feet and knees more underneath their hips. If they are familiar with this hips-over-knees alignment when crawling, they will find it more easily in the motor skill of walking.
WHEN CAN BABIES STAND?
During his lesson, the eleven month old baby grabbed his grandmother’s trouser pants and proudly pulled himself up to a standing position. The grandmother was very tempted to congratulate him, but she knew better. She was wise enough to take his hands back down to the floor. “Not yet,” she quietly said, “Wow! That is good crawling.” She praised the motor skill activities appropriate for the moment.
Parents are eager to see the day that baby grabs onto their leg to pull himself up to a standing positon. This means the day he will walk independently is soon approaching. There is no question that the motor skill of standing up is one of the most celebrated baby milestones. It signals the end of infancy is approaching–the transition from moving on all fours to standing and walking on two feet.
IS BABY STANDING TOO EARLY?
Sometimes baby learns to pull up to a standing position too soon, before his bones and muscles are strong enough to support him. In this situation, it is best for the parent to take his hands back down to the floor and tell him it is not time to stand, and it is still time to crawl. It is very beneficial for baby to crawl for several weeks before standing up. For many years, experts in the field of child neurology and development have researched and shown that crawling is very important for the development of the brain. Give baby plenty of time for crawling. The baby milestone of crawling strengthens his bones and muscles, improves his coordination, and develops his brain.
3 REASON FOR BABY STANDING EARLY
There three common reasons why baby tries to stand before crawling:
- Baby is imitating an older sibling.
- Baby attends daycare where older babies are standing and walking.
- Baby spent time in equipment such as a jumper that put him on his feet too soon.
Remember, babies learn by imitation. They are motivated to do what everyone else around them is doing. If baby is around an older sibling or older children at daycare, often he will try and stand too soon. With parental encouragement to continue crawling or to learn to crawl, baby will understand that crawling is the better choice. Through offering a lot of praise when they crawl, baby will understand this is the preferred milestone for now.
The answer to “When do babies learn to stand up,” is “After they crawl for awhile.”
Madison, age 7 months, demonstrates one of the advantages of excellent posture. It is easy for her to grab objects and play with them and bring them to her mouth while sitting up. One of the most commonly searched developmental phrases on google is, “baby sits with curved back.” This is because many parents do not understand how to teach baby to sit. Babies do not learn perfect posture from being put in the sitting position at a young age. They have not developed the strength in their muscles and bones to hold the position so they collapse into a rounded back. Their parent often sits behind them with a hand close to baby’s back to catch her when she falls.
To learn how to teach your baby to have beautiful posture, please read our posts on the topic (see links below). Through understanding how to strengthen the back and neck muscles and understanding that this process takes time, your baby will learn to sit up straight, too. Most important is to learn patience. Madison did not sit up until recently because it takes time to strengthen her bones and muscles. When she sat up for the first time, she had perfect posture. This is the experience of our Stellar Caterpillar students!
STELLAR CATERPILLAR TOP 5 POSTS ON BABY POSTURE:
- What is Alignment?
- Baby Posture Tips
- Baby Sitting Positions
- Baby Sitting Up: Posture Training
- Why Do Babies Love Sitting Up?
What do baby diapers have to do with baby learning to crawl? A lot, actually.
KEEP DIAPERS DRY
A wet diaper is a heavy diaper. Not to mention that it makes baby uncomfortable and can lead to diaper rash. A baby can feel when her diaper is wet and heavy and often she is not happy about it. If ahe is not happy, she is not likely to explore new movements such as crawling. If baby is content she is much more interested in playing with new movements. So, what is the best way to keep baby dry, clean, sweet, and happy? It is quite simple, you need to stay on it! Keep checking the diaper to see if it needs to be changed, and when it does please change it immediately.
Not too small…
Remember that babies need to be comfortable. Therefore, the diapers must have a good fit. Diapers that are too small put too much pressure on the hip joints making it difficult for baby to move. The hip joints also must be free for baby to step down a stair. The tightness of the diaper may also cut off circulation and put pressure on the lower back. The breathing can be negatively effected as the pelvis and abdomen become restricted.
Not too big…
When diapers are purchased that are too big there is excess material that impedes movement. It pushes the legs too far away from the pelvis and widens structure of the hip joints. She may still manage to crawl, but usually her legs will be too wide. Since the bones are still soft at this age, the large diaper can negatively influence the developing alignment of her legs and knees.
….but Just Right!
A diaper that fits just right is very comfortable for baby. They are able to crawl around and climb up and down stairs without any hesitation. Her hip joints can move freely, her pelvis can shift from side to side, and she travels quite quickly with some practice. We all know the image of a smiling baby crawling quickly across the floor with the pelvis moving from side to side.
BABY CRAWLING VIDEO
For baby it is quite a feat of strength and alignment to achieve the hands and knees crawling position. For 7 month old Madison that achievement happened today! We have watched Madison learn to kick her legs, lift her head in tummy time, and belly crawl. Each of these Stellar Caterpillar Top 10 Movement Skills have strengthened the muscles of her back, legs, neck, and arms. After strengthening these major muscles groups, she has learned to lift her pelvis high up into the air so she can pull her knees underneath her hip joints.
ALIGNMENT OF HIPS AND KNEES IN BABY CRAWLING
In her lesson today, we showed Madison how to put her knees more directly under her hip joints so that she would feel more stable. At the beginning of the lesson she could lift her pelvis up a bit and then pull her knees up, but they were too far to the outside of her hip joints. She would fall back down to her belly! Crawling with the knees wider than the hips is not a stable position. We showed her how to place her knees in alignment under her hip joints so she could feel stable enough to continue moving. By the end of the lesson she had figured out how to stay on her hands and knees and crawl just a little bit forward.
It is not only strength in the arms and legs that is necessary to achieve the hands and knees crawling position, but the optimal alignment of the knees under the hip joints and the connection of the heels of her palms into the floor to best support her weight. Only when baby feels stable in the hands and knees position will she feel confident to move one arm or knee forward. After all, three points on the floor is less stable than four. When one point is in motion the others must provide stability.