Tag Archives: balance



baby demonstrates a sitting position

From Rolling To Sit

baby sitting with straight legs

Straight Legs

Baby demonstrates Buterfly Sit

Butterfly Sit (soles of feet together)

baby sitting with crossed legs, right leg on top

Crossed Legs (right leg on top)

baby sitting crossed legs, left leg on top

Crossed Legs (left leg on top)

baby in Z-sit position, feet to right

Z-sit (feet to right)

baby Z-sit, feet to left

Z-sit (feet to the left)


In this photo essay, Madison (7 months old) demonstrates the various sitting positions included  in the optimal gross motor skill development of a baby.  When she learns these various sitting positions, her balance improves.  They can be introduced once baby has learned to come to the sitting position from rolling.  This is at around 7 months of age.  In the top photo, Madison has rolled to a sitting position. From the rolling position, baby may arrive in a Z-sit, straight legs, one leg bent and one straight.  There are several options.


Balance is one of the skills learned from sitting.  In previous posts, we discussed other benefits.  Sitting frees the arms so baby can grasp and reach bigger and better toys.  Sitting becomes a transition through which baby passes to go from one motor skill to another.  For example, baby rolls from her back to sit before coming to stand.  Sitting also develops the hip joint, which is important for the more challenging gross motor skills she will soon learn.


While baby is sitting on your lap, gently slide her legs and feet into a position and hold them there for just a few seconds.  This should not be forced.  They should move easily and smoothly into the position.  Your hands show her one of the many options of how she can arrange her legs and feet.  With repetition she will begin to find these positions on her own.  Eventually she will use them when she plays on the floor.  Her balance is challenged in the beginning, but when she is on your lap you help her feel stable.  Later, when she uses the positions on her own, you will know that her balanced has improved.  When she begins to stand, cruise, and walk she will be quite stable because of this time spent on the floor learning these sitting positions.


YouTube Preview Image


How do babies learn to walk?  In the above video, Rochel begins to walk forward toward her mother.  She is still holding on to the coffee table, part of the side cruising skill.  However, some of her steps are now moving forward rather than sideways.  She only needs to hold on with one hand, not two.  Observe the close-up shot of her feet.  You can see her take one step forward with the right foot, then the left foot moves sideways, toward her right foot as in side-cruising.  She is still moving forward, but is slowed down somewhat by the occasional side step which is from the familiar side cruising skill.  Soon she will figure out that she gets where she wants much faster with only the forward moving steps of walking.


Cruising is the first motor skill where baby is supporting all of her weight on her feet.  It has taken many months for her baby bones and baby muscles to strengthen enough for this advancement in skill.  Observe the flat shape of the feet.  Moving in this upright position will begin to develop the muscles and arches of the feet that are necessary for balance, support, and locomotion in this vertical position.


An important aspect of motor skill development is transition, especially for changing levels.  We all have to learn to move from sitting to standing, standing to sitting, standing to crawling, rolling to standing, etc.  Rochel demonstrates perfectly how to transition down to the floor.  She steps forward on her right foot, shifts her weight onto that foot, which frees up her left leg so she can bend it underneath her.  Then she slowly bends her right leg to lower her pelvis down to the floor.  Through much practice, she has developed strength in her legs so she can make this movement quite slowly.  She immediately transitions again into a quick scoot to get to her toy, the stuffed animal.  The skill of sitting is a transition to move from standing and walking to crawling on the floor.  Once again, her movement is motivated by her desire to get to her favorite toy.


YouTube Preview Image


Parents celebrate the motor milestone of cruising as it indicates baby will be walking very soon.  Cruising is the motor skill of standing up and taking small steps sideways while holding onto a stable object such as a coffee table.  It is a very important preparation for walking because it it the first skill where baby is fully weight bearing on her feet.  By 10 months or so, her bones are strong enough to support her weight.  Her muscles have developed quite a bit of strength from crawling.  Over the course of several days of pulling herself up to standing, she has developed her balance well enough to cruise after a toy.  She takes a couple of small steps, very slowly, in a sideways direction.


She is learning to shift her weight, which is no small task.  It requires balance, coordination, and strength. She moves one foot to the side by adjusting her weight onto the stable foot, thus freeing the other foot so she can move it to the side.  Once the moving foot touches the floor she can put her weight on that foot.  Cruising also develops the muscles and arches of the foot which will be necessary for walking without holding on.


Parents are often concerned when baby shows a preference for one direction over the other.  This is not something to be concerned about, this is actually an advantage.  Babies will start to make a preference early on.  Most of us have a dominant hand, leg, and eye.  Even professional ballet dancers will tell you they can do something better on one side, for example with their right leg.  So, parents need to understand that it is a normal part of motor development to show a preference to one side.  By setting up the furniture in a safe and attractive manner for the baby to practice cruising, parents encourage the exploration in which the dominant side may emerge.  Furniture and toys evoke the curiosity that motivates the cruising and facilitate muscle and balance development.


  • Baby proof your table corners
  • Place furniture pieces close enough together so she can cruise from one piece to the next
  • Choose hard materials such as wood rather than soft sofa cushions, as this provides stability for baby
  • Plant toys that are colorful, lightweight, and non-breakable on the furniture
  • Toys should be spaced so some are near and some far





Motor skills are defined as movement skills, and gross motor skills are defined as large movement skills.  This means that the large movement skills not only are big in size, but they also use large muscles in the body.  Usually these skills result in locomotion, coordinated movement of the whole body which travels across the floor.  A baby milestone is the average age at which a baby acquires a particular motor skill, which pediatricians monitor during baby’s first year.  Examples of gross motor skills in babies include:

  • kicking
  • lifting the head
  • rolling
  • belly crawling
  • crawling
  • standing
  • cruising
  • walking


Excellent gross motor skill development results in the abilities to maintain balance,  move with coordination, sit in class with alertness, and master mechanical control of a pencil for handwriting.  On the other hand, a child with poor motor skills may be perceived as clumsy since he has difficulty with balance and coordination, essential components of movement activities.

Read stellarcaterpillar.com and learn how to guide your baby to master the milestones for skilled gross motor development, giving him a great start!



The journal Science published a study in 1977 offering promising evidence of the impact of mild vestibular stimulation on the gross motor skill development of babies.  Babies ranging from three to thirteen months were subjects of a research project.  The gross motor ability of each baby was evaluated prior to the project.  Each baby received sixteen sessions of chair spinning (four times a week for four weeks).  The researcher seated an infant on his lap and spun around in a swivel chair ten times, and after each single spin he made an abrupt stop. The objective was for the infants to receive stimulation of the three semicircular canals of the vestibular system.

The researcher varied the position of each baby from the following three positions:  sitting with the head tilted slightly forward, side-lying on the left side, and side-lying on the right side.  The variations in positions provides stimulation to each of the three canals in the vestibular system.  The babies loved this experience, and they expressed it through laughing and babbling!  Often, they fussed when the chair stopped for its thirty-second rest between spins.  In addition to this group that received the chair-spinning, there were two “control” groups of infants.  One group that did not spin at all, and one group that sat in the chair on a researcher’s lap for sixteen sessions, but did not spin.


The results showed that the group which received the chair spinning treatment improved in their motor skill development significantly more than the infants in the two control groups.  The babies who were spun showed advanced development of not only their motor skills, but also their reflexes.  It is noted that the gross motor skills of sitting, crawling, standing and walking were particularly improved in the group which received the stimulation.


What we learn from this experiment is that it is not only muscular strength that is necessary to develop motor skills, but also vestibular activity.  When baby learns each of the Stellar Caterpillar “Top 10″ motor skills, she is receiving vestibular stimulation which facilitates learning her next motor skill.  After baby learns “lifting the head,” which brings a certain amount of vestibular stimulation, she learns “rolling.”  When baby learns to roll, she often rolls across the floor, which brings an increase in vestibular stimulation.  This level of stimulation does not occur with a random roll, but with a series of rolls, one after another.  It also stimulates different canals from lifting the head.  From the above experiment we know that babies who receive vestibular stimulation may show advanced development of gross motor skills such as crawling, standing, and walking.  By “advanced development” we do not mean that they achieve these milestones earlier than average, but they acquire them with advanced skill.  Advanced skill means they perform the skill deliberately with repetition, confidence, and optimal mechanics.



Rocking, swaying, spinning, bouncing, carrying, and jiggling are techniques instinctively used by parents with baby to calm, soothe, and induce sleep.  Why?  Because of their effect on the vestibular system.  Considered to be one of baby’s most highly developed senses at birth, the vestibular system is responsible for balance and motion perception.  It also plays an essential role in maintaining the head and body posture.


Located in the skull, in a small space called the vestibule, the vestibular apparatus consists of three semi-circular canals.  Each canal is filled with fluid and lined with tiny hairs.  When the fluid moves it stimulates the hairs and triggers a series of electrical signals which send information to the brain.  The superior, horizontal, and posterior canals, as they are named, are situated in different directions or angles from one another.  Thus, one canal may be stimulated more than another depending on our direction and plane of movement.  This stimulation sends the signals to the brain which tell us our position in space and provide balance.  The vestibule also houses the inner ear and the otolith organs.  Some motion such as head tilts and linear movements are sensed by the otolith organs.


In 1922, Minkowski identified the vestibular system as well-developed in early human fetuses.  Minkowski became noted for his research and findings on fetal development.  During the prenatal period, the fetus experiences a lot of moving around due to the constantly changing position within the warm amniotic fluid that cushions her from the outside world.  The fetus experiences positional changes relative to gravity as well.  When the mother is standing up the weight of the fetus shifts in response to gravity and when the mother is sleeping on her back the fetus moves in a different direction in response to this orientation.  These are examples of the kind of passive motion stimulation the fetus receives during the prenatal period.  All three canals in the vestibular system sense these changes in position and motion.

Later in the pregnancy the mother begins to feel the baby kicking and other reflexive movements, adding to the motion stimulation.  Because the level of prenatal motion is particularly high, after birth the baby will probably not experience the same degree of vestibular stimulation until she starts independently walking.


Parents quickly learn that baby responds quite well to motion.  From rocking baby to sleep to spinning in a circle with baby to thwart her fussiness, parents turn again and again to motion for inducing calm, quiet, and sleepy states of their infant.  The vestibular system is stimulated with these activities and that is a familiar and welcome feeling to baby.  The acquisition of motor skills that move the head and body in space offer a lot of vestibular stimulation that is self-induced. This is part of the pleasure in the movement for baby.  Not only do they get the “feeling” of the movement, but they can create it for themselves whenever they want.  For example, rolling across the floor moves the vestibular apparatus around and around with each roll.  Another example is the skill of lifting the head up and down while in tummy time.  Research suggests that these activities improve the brain and mind development.