Tag Archives: confidence


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Mastering motor milestones during baby’s first year leads to conquering the dance floor in year two, as little William demonstrates in the above video from Studie43′s youtube channel.  While at a dance hall event he seizes the opportunity to jive solo on the dance floor to the hit “Jailhouse Rock.”  Watch closely to see all of the details he picked up while watching his parents rehearse earlier.  William knows to stay in one place at times and other times to travel around the floor.  He knows to bend his knees and change levels.  He occasionally throws in a good jump.  William moves his arms from his powerful elbows and finds expression even in the movements of his fingertips.  At the end he enjoys taking a bow which is followed by brushing his hands as if thinking “Well done!”  This is a great example of a toddler who has developed a strong self-image by skillfully developing his coordination, stability, and strength by conquering the motor milestones of infancy.  We call these toddlers “Superstars!”


Dictionary.com defines the word “skill” as ” with expertness” or “dexterity.”   Babies learn their motor skills with various degrees of aptitude.  With some gentle guidance and when given a lot of time and space to play with movement, they often improve their motor skills.  When a baby first learns to crawl her coordination may be awkward, but if given time, space, and hands-on cues, she soon crawls very fast across the room and up the stairs.  When given the opportunity to learn each motor skill “with expertness” a baby develops strength,   coordination, balance, stability, and ultimately the confidence to “bust a move” on the dance floor.  We see the relationship between the powerful use of the elbows in William’s jive and also in a baby learning the motor skill of rolling.  His ability to keep his knees bent reminds us of a baby learning the motor skill of standing.  The baby transitions from bent to straight legs many times which builds a lot of strength and familiarizes him with the variety of levels possible:  knees very bent, knees bent a little bit, and knees straight.  This is a skill used in most dance forms.  We see William dancing with his legs, his elbows, his fingers, and his smile!  William is confident, coordinated, and courageous!


baby climbs stairs with guidance from a motor skills teacher


“What is skilled movement for babies?”  Let’s begin by asking “What is skilled movement for adults?”  A skilled tennis player has strength, excellent coordination, and agility.  These skills begin in infancy where we develop our movement patterns in the brain and nervous system.  We all know that abilities are part nature (genetics) and part nurture (experiences).  Skilled movement lessons work with the latter.  They have to be “cultivated” through developmental guidance.  This includes learning parenting tips for hands-on coaching of motor skills at home, choosing toys for developmental play, and selecting baby gear that nurtures optimal development of muscles and bones.  Through an on-line guide for parents, private lessons, group classes, and virtual instruction, Stellarcaterpillar.com is your resource for cultivating baby’s skill development during this important first year.


Motor skill development is one of the many frontiers of infant development.  Others include eating, sleeping, and speech development. Babies receive coaching with their speech development by imitating the sounds mom makes such as “BA, BA, BA,” which soon becomes “BALL.”  In each of these three areas, parents guide baby through her development step by step.

With motor skill development, it is not as well known how to coach the skills along the way.  For years, parents have seen only “delayed” or “disabled” babies receive movement lessons, so they often are not as aware of the value for a healthy baby.  They may see it as “therapy” for “a problem” rather than coaching for confidence and skill development.  Also, many people think: “baby will learn to crawl when she is ready.” Yet, many babies never crawl.  Some crawl after much frustration.  Others crawl without the most efficient coordination. This revolutionary new method, grounded in neuroscience and infant development research, provides a framework for baby to thrive. Our goal for baby is crawling with strength, coordination, and joy.


In a Stellar Caterpillar lesson, parents learn how to touch baby in a way that develops baby’s awareness of her body parts and prepares her to learn movement patterns.  Parents learn how to observe the mini-milestones that make up the large motor milestones so they can show baby the physical clue they need to get the most benefit from the skill they are learning.  For example, a baby in tummy time that struggles to lift her head may need a gentle push down on her pelvis to make it easier to lift the head.  It’s simple, but it works.  After one or two tries baby learns to keep the pelvis down and she lifts her head.  Now she will enjoy tummy time!


  1.  Physical mastery.  Baby gains excellent control of her body through building strong bones and muscles, excellent posture, good balance, and stability.
  2.  Independence.  A sign of a healthy and happy baby is one that can move in and out of positions, travel across the room, and get her hands on objects. She discovers how to get into sitting and then to get out of it so she can crawl across the room.  This is very important since some babies put in the sitting position are “stuck” there (They did not get into it on their own so they can not get out of it either).
  3. A strong self-image. “I can do that” seems to be her attitude as she approaches each milestone.  Baby enters toddlerhood socially confident and eager to try new activities.


The answer is: the sooner the better.  Lessons for newborns also help with colic, sleep, digestion, and crying.  The hands-on skills parents learn cultivate a clear image of the body in baby’s brain. This lays the groundwork for baby to learn how to move her body.  Parents learn how to choose toys that invite developmental play.  Discussions include which pieces of baby gear to avoid and which ones to buy.  For a limited time, the popular virtual lessons are available at a special introductory rate.  For those in the Los Angeles area, try a Stellar Caterpillar class!  Follow us on Facebook!


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Reading books teach babies more than just how to say new words.  When selecting books for baby’s first library, think about what concepts the books are teaching.  Some books teach colors or numbers, some teach the names of animals, and others stimulate the senses through touch and feel.  Some of our favorite baby books teach concepts of spatial orientation.  This means that baby learns the difference between on and off, in and out, under and above, and more.  Baby learns these concepts in the context of the environment.  For example, in “Dear Zoo” by Rod Campbell the animals hide under the rug, behind a door, and more.  In Campbell’s story, the words “under” and “behind” are concepts of spatial orientation and the objects “the rug” and “a door” are the locations in the environment where these concepts occur.


An outstanding baby book for teaching spatial concepts is “Inside, Outside, Upside Down” from the beloved Berenstain Bears collection. The main bear of the story takes a trip to town “inside a box” that gets placed “upside down” and  “on a truck.”  Baby learns the concepts of inside/outside a house as well as inside/outside a box.  You can listen to a reading of the story in the above youtube video from NatalieStarfish’s youtube channel.  A clear understanding of where one is in space is one of the most important aspects of motor skill development.  This understanding develops a much higher level of skill in a child’s movement ability.  Begin teaching these concepts early through baby books.

Inside, Outside, Upside Down:  by Stan & Jan Berenstain.  (New York:  Random House, 1968.)


Offer baby encouragement and support through your words. Recently we learned the word, “Stupendous!”  Below is a list of 15 additional dynamic and positive word choices for you to use to praise baby as she develops her motor skills.  Choose one of these words and use it along with the work that describes the skill she is learning.  For example:  good crawling, beautiful rolling, fantastic reaching, etc.


  • Good
  • Outstanding
  • Beautiful
  • Wonderful
  • Lovely
  • Splendid
  • Nice
  • Spectacular
  • Magnificent
  • Terrific
  • Amazing
  • Fantastic
  • Sensational
  • Great
  • Stellar (our favorite!)




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Praise can be defined as the expression of warm approval.  The action of praising baby occurs when baby does something new such as reaching a motor milestone or speaking a new sound.  It also occurs when baby does something familiar in a new and improved way, which may also include motor skill development.  For example, when baby crawls with improved coordination and strength her mother may say, “Good Girl!”  Although baby may not exactly understand the words, she knows by the tone of your voice and the bright smile on your face that she has done something good.  This communication from a parent serves as feedback for her so she will know what actions to repeat (and which to avoid).


Baby hears your message of encouragement most clearly when it is echoed through more than one of the 5 senses.  If you speak carefully chosen words of affirmation in a warm tone of voice which she can hear, smile at her and nod your head which she can see, and maybe pat her on the back which she can feel, she understands your affirmation through 3 sensory systems:  visual, auditory, and touch.  This is very clear communication for baby.  The other two senses, smell and taste, are used with animals when we give our dog a treat to eat when he sits upon command.


One of the most commonly used expressions today for praising baby is, “Good job!”  The baby rolls for the first time and mother says, “Good job!”  The baby crawls for the first time and the father says, “Good job!”  This phrase of “Good job” should be crossed off of our list of words for encouragement of baby development.  Why?  First off, regarding motor skill development, what baby is doing is not a job at all.  It is a movement they have learned for getting around in life.  Later on, when they learn a chore such as washing dishes you can say “Good job!”

Secondly, the use of the same phrase for each new skill learned does not guide them toward identifying the word that is associated with the skill.  Instead, choose words that describe the skill they are learning.  It is much more beneficial for the development of a baby if you say, “Beautiful rolling, Mary!  Good girl,” when she learns to roll and follow with “Good crawling,” later on when she learns to crawl.  Adjectives to combine with the name of skills for affirmation include beautiful, outstanding, excellent, good, great, and more.  And don’t forget Elmo’s lesson above from Maestro Gustavo Dudamel on Sesame Street’s youtube channel, when you see something “very great and amazing,” such as your baby crawling for the first time, you can say, ‘STUPENDOUS!”


  • Tone of Voice:  A positive and encouraging tone in the voice is like a gentle massage to her–it feels good.
  • Facial Expression:  Smile and nod your head.
  • Choice of Words:  Identify the skill baby is learning.
  • Touch:  Include an occasional pat on the back with your words.




baby crawls toward a set of infant stairs

a baby sits at the foot of infant stairs

a baby is climbing stairs

A baby focuses on putting her knee on the next stair.

baby reaches the top of the stairs


Madison, at 7 months, learns to climb stairs for her visits to Grandma Sally and Grandpa Frank’s house. What a big staircase they have!   This is her third time to climb the steps in a one-hour Stellar Caterpillar lesson.  If you look at her first encounter with the baby stairs, and then her second encounter, the confidence in her third climb (above) is obvious.  She is more familiar with what to do with her hands and knees and she enjoys the challenge!  Her mother is nearby to encourage her every stair along the way.  She gains confidence with each repetition as she reaches the top stair!