Tag Archives: coordination


Hi, I’m from South-Africa and would like to know if you have any advice for me. My baby is almost 6 months, he is great at push-ups, and sitting but he struggles with rolling. He can roll from his back to both sides and then he gets stuck. He struggles to do a roll from back to tummy but he manages sometimes to roll from tummy to back. He is a big boy, weighs 8.5 kg (18 lbs.), might this be the reason why he struggles?  –From a mother in South Africa


Yes, you are correct in thinking that the size and weight of your baby may present a challenge in learning the motor skill of rolling.  The larger or heavier a baby is, the more difficult to it is to move their body.  This is simply because their body parts weigh more.  However, with patience and some developmental activities your son can learn to roll.  First, resist the temptation to put him in a sitting position.  Until he learns to sit on his own, he should spend his time on the floor on his belly and his back.  This is where he will have the opportunity to push against the floor with his arms, legs, and hips to develop the strength and coordination for rolling.  If he is sitting up, he will not be able to play with these movements.  It is wonderful to hear that he is great at doing push-ups.  This shows he has quite a bit of upper body strength, so now he just needs the time on his belly to learn to use his skills for rolling.


Try this developmental activity for teaching your baby the motor skill of rolling. When he is on his back, bend one of his legs toward his chest and extend it down to straight a few times.  Next, bend the leg and keep it close to his chest as you take the arm on the same side across his chest, slowly turn him onto his side and then continue to roll him onto his belly.  Touch the knee to the floor so your baby learns to take the knee to the side and then to the floor.  Next, gently push the pelvis so he feels that the weight of the pelvis completes the roll.  See the video in the blog post, “How to Roll” for a visual demonstration.  Repeat this a few times on the same side, let your baby rest for a few minutes and then repeat a few times to the other side.  It is important to move slowly so the brain learns to do the movements.  Repeat this every day with him, at least twice a day.  Gradually do less of the movement for him and see if he will complete it on his own.


Keep the activity playful by using your voice to talk to your baby in a calm and soothing manner and make some fun sounds as you go through the movements. For the movements that are smaller try a quicker sound (for bend and extend the leg, for example) and for the longer movements such as turning the baby onto his stomach try a more drawn out sound.  You can also describe the activity with your voice as I do in the video, just keep the pace of the movement.   The sounds capture the baby’s attention so the focus closely on what you are doing.  Once your baby learns to roll he will enjoy showing off his new skill!





a baby sits in the shape of a W

W-Sit Position


A baby sits with legs straight

Sitting with Legs Extended

When babies learn to crawl, they stop and sit so their hands are free to play with a toy.  One common pattern of sitting that emerges in infancy is the W-sit.  The name of this position comes from the idea that if you take a photo from above, the shape of the legs looks like the letter “W.”  Look at the top photo of baby Sayid in the W-sit position.  His hands are free to play with toys while he sits.  However, Sayid’s mother knew that the W-sit position was not the best for him, so she requested a virtual lesson with Stellar Caterpillar.  After one virtual lesson and some daily guidance from his mother, Sayid learned to prefer other sitting positions such as the long sitting position which is seen in the bottom photo where he sits with his legs extended out in front of him.  Let’s explore why other sitting positions are preferable for the motor skill development of a baby.


When crawling or walking, babies often just plop down into the W-sit.  It is a quick movement and requires less coordination of the bones and muscles, so it is easier to do than the side sit, butterfly sit, or long sit.  Sitting in this position very quickly accomplishes their goal of sitting down and freeing their arms and hands to play with toys or eat a snack.  Quite simply, babies W-sit because they get what they want quickly!  As they learn other patterns of sitting, baby’s body recognizes the benefits and begins to prefer the other, and developmentally beneficial, sitting positions.  These include tailor sit, butterfly sit, Z-sit, and long sit.  Slowly they drop the pattern of W-sit.


Babies are limited in their mobility as they W-sit.   Their lower legs and pelvis are fixed in a way that is not easily moveable and they are not able to shift their weight from side to side or twist/rotate their torso.  They play with toys on their right side with their right hand and toys on their left side with their left hand.  This does not develop the skill of mid-line crossing (reaching across the body) and does not encourage the development of hand dominance (preferring the use of right hand or left hand). The internal rotation of the hips tightens the hips muscles and actually makes it more difficult to sit in the other positions as time goes on.  This leads to the W-sit becoming a habit.  Over time if the child continues to W-sit as she grows it may lead to orthopedic problems such as hip dislocation or knee pain.


The key to avoiding the W-sit is to guide baby to learn other choices for sitting.  Baby will feel the advantages in these other positions and choose them over the W-sit.  Some babies will learn the other sitting positions right away, the first time you show them.  Other babies will require much repetition until they finally find them on their own.  And a few babies will need even more repetition to find the position.  What is important to remember is that baby will learn to choose other ways of sitting and will enjoy them very much as they discover improved mobility.  They can grab toys all around them in these other positions due to the ability to rotate their torso and reach across their mid-line.

Observe baby Sayid in the above photos. In the top photo (in the view taken from above his head), he is in the W-sit and can turn only his head to the side.  His torso is fixed in position.  In the bottom photo of Sayid in the long sitting position, he is able to turn his torso toward the camera to smile and to reach toward his mother.  The more he sits in this new position, the more he will discover he can turn his torso and reach to the side.  His movement will develop with more skill.  By teaching baby alternate ways of sitting that offer her more mobility, baby will develop motor skills with more strength, balance, and coordination.  This will enhance more advanced motor skill development such as walking, running, climbing, dancing, and more.






My baby is 10 months old and is pulling herself up to stand.  What motor skill developments can I expect next?—from a mother in class


Every parent is excited to see their baby pull herself up onto her feet.  This is a sign that the stage of infancy is soon coming to an end and toddlerhood is on the horizon.  However, there is still much for baby to learn and develop from the skill of standing up to the skill of walking.  For example, once baby learns to stand up she often learns an improved way to stand.  Sometimes she begins standing up on the side of her ankle, or by pulling herself up with her arms and keeping her legs straight.  We show baby how she can stand up by placing one foot on the ground and stepping on it to lift her up.  This uses the bigger and stronger muscles of the legs and hips and encourages healthy development of the foot and ankle joints.


After baby stands up, she will need to learn to sit down again on her knees or her behind.  Reversing the skill of standing up is very important.  Sometimes babies cry after they stand up because they do not know how to get back down again.  If a baby has crawled a bit before standing up it will be easier to get back down on the knees  or to sitting because it is a familiar place for them in their nervous system.  She will need to bend her knees to get back down on the floor.  A considerable amount of baby strength develops with this action of standing up and squatting to a sitting or kneeling position.  Think of it as baby squats.


The motor skill development of standing is most significant for it’s placement of baby on her feet for the first time.  Baby’s bones and muscles in her feet will develop strength and she will develop her ability to balance during the action of standing up and just standing there.  It is important to understand that when baby stands up and does not move, significant development is occuring in her feet.  Look down at her feet and watch them wiggle a bit as she develops her balance.  You may see her toes curling under a bit at first and then soon they can elongate onto the floor once her balance is more secure.  Holding onto a chair or coffee table (that is baby proofed) is essential for baby to feel stable during this time.  Holding onto your hand is not stable enough.  Wait until she is walking on her own to hold her hands in the standing position.


Once baby is stable on her feet she will be motivated by her curiosity to take some side ways steps.  This is the motor skill of cruising, also called “side cruising.”  The steps are taken sideways as she faces a chair seat or a low table to hold onto for stability.  This movement develops the ability to transfer her weight from one foot to another.  This presents additional challenge to her balance, coordination, and strength.  Place a light weight object such as an O-Ball on the table or nearby chair so she will be motivated to move toward it.  If she throws it on the floor it is not heavy and will not hurt her foot.  You can develop this into a game for baby of throwing the O-Ball off of the chair.


After baby spends time in the skill of side cruising, she will gain the strength and confidence to let of of the table and stand on her own two feet without holding on to anything.  Watch her feet as she stands.  This is a tremendous skill advancement and further develops her balance.  You will know when this skill is emerging when she can hold onto the table with only one hand and turn and look behind her or off to one side.


After baby’s balance improves so she can stand without holding on, she will begin to take forward steps on her own.  You might observe that during her side cruising, she may turn a bit sideways and take a few forward steps mixed in with her sideways steps.  This is the motor skill of walking beginning to emerge.  Once she has the balance, coordination, and strength to take forward steps without holding on to a chair or table she will do so.  We call this motor skill independent walking because she is walking on her own.  You may see parents holding the baby’s hands to help her walk, but I recommend NOT holding her hands.  Your hands are not as stable as a table and she will feet unsteady.  Look down and you may see her toes curling under to help her figure out how to balance.  After she has been walking a bit on her own, then you can hold her hands to keep her near you.  She will walk on her own when her muscles and bones are ready and when she has the confidence and security to do so.



YouTube Preview Image

YouTube Preview Image

Lukits, Ann, “Waving Bye-Bye Linked To Babies’ Development,”  Wall Street Journal, 12/3/13.


Waving “Bye-Bye” is an important social and motor milestone that may be achieved during baby’s first year.  Learned through the skill of imitation and by the coordination of visual skill with fine motor skill, this skill is a lot of fun for babies.  Think of this skill as a somewhat complex version of grasping and reaching since the arm, hand, and fingers are involved.   Some babies wave by moving the wrist up and down and some by turning the hand round and round.  Observe the baby in the top video from Brandon Cassidy’s youtube channel.  He keeps his arm quite still as he moves his hand from side to side.  In the second video from Blanca Anderson’s youtube channel the baby waves by moving both his hand and his arm up and down.  This baby appears to be younger than the baby in the first video and the movement of his wave is less refined.  In time, he will learn to hold his arm still and move only his hand as the older baby can do in the first video.


A recent article in the Wall Street Journal took a close look at current research regarding this important baby milestone.  The article focuses on a recent study in Pediatrics International which found that premature babies learned the skill of waving bye-bye significantly later than full-term babies and they also used different hand and wrist movements.  The study compared the skill of waving bye-bye in 597 full-term and 95 premature babies in Japan.  Mothers reported the age when baby learned to wave goodbye and the infants’ hand motions were recorded by video camera at well-baby checkups and later analyzed.  Researchers present at the check-ups waved bye-bye to the babies to see if they would imitate them.  This study highlights the differences between the full term and premature babies in learning this skill.


Most full-term babies in the study achieved the milestone of waving bye-bye around the age of 10 months, and all of them achieved it before their first birthday.  Premature babies  learned the motor skill of waving an average of one month later than the full-term babies and 57% achieved the skill by their first birthday.  Learning the milestone of waving occurs as babies coordinate their fine motor skills and their visual ability to imitate an action observed.




My baby (just turned four months) has just started rolling from belly to back, but though she tries she can’t quite manage to do back to belly. I think part of the problem is that she doesn’t seem to realize she can bend at the hips and lift her legs in the air. She always sticks them straight out. (When she’s on her belly she often ‘surfs’ on her tummy with both her shoulders and her hips off the ground.)  I’m making a game of lifting her legs during nappy changes when I have to lift them anyway. Is there anything else I can do to encourage her to fold in the middle?    

-Question from a reader in the UK

Congratulations that your baby has begun to master one of the top ten motor milestones for baby’s first year!  Also, congratulations on your awareness of what she is learning and what she needs to learn next.  This is a very important skill for mothers to develop.  You have asked a very important question and we will look at a few important points of how babies learn motor skills as we answer your question.


It is helpful to understand the the motor skill of rolling, which includes both rolling from back to belly and from belly to back, is learned in stages.  At first most babies learn to roll either from back to belly or from belly to back.  Then they practice that skill (which is only half of a full roll) for quite a while.  Later the other piece of the roll is learned.  Some babies learn the second piece sooner and some learn it much later.  With some skilled hands on guidance from a parent, baby may learn the skill more quickly.  At four months of age, your baby is learning the skill of rolling rather quickly.


It is wonderful that you observed that she has the habit of sticking her legs straight out.  Yes, this may be making it difficult to roll from back to belly.  Bringing the legs up and to the side can initiate the movement of rolling.  Ask yourself if you or a caretaker of the baby (such as a nanny or grandparent) puts then baby on her feet at all.  This activity of putting baby on her feet while on your lap, in a jumper, or in an exersaucer teach the baby to straighten her legs.  This is one of the many reasons why it is not encouraged to put baby on her feet until she can stand herself up without your help.  This action of the legs straightening becomes an action that baby learns and when she is on her back she will do what she has learned, straighten her legs.  This does not help her learn to roll now or learn to crawl later.  Remember that she has the rest of her life to stand on her feet, and this time on the floor is important for developing a strong foundation for the development of her skeleton and muscles.


Rather than put baby on her feet, try some playful activities with her that she will enjoy and will facilitate the action of rolling.  Try some developmental activities a few times a day.  Here are a few that we recommend:

1.  While she is on her back, take one leg only and bend it toward her chest while telling her that she can bend her leg.  Then extend her leg down towards straight as your tell her that she can extend her leg.  Alternate between these two actions while telling her she can “bend her leg, and extend her leg.”  Spend more time in the “bend” movement since you want her to learn that action more clearly.  Repeat several time on one leg only and then switch to the other leg.

2.  Take her right leg and right arm up toward the ceiling and gently move them at the same time to the left to initiate the roll.  First go just a little bit, then return.  Then move a bit further and return.  Eventually take her all the way to her belly.  Do this very slowly so she can feel what you are doing.  You are showing her how she can learn to roll herself to her belly.

3.  Roll her onto her side so she feels the place she will move through as she transitions from her back to her belly.

Try these tips for parents at home and let me know how they work with baby!


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The motor skill of rolling emerges one piece at a time.  A baby may learn to roll from her belly to her or her back to her belly first.  Then she may repeat the pattern she has learned several times to develop confidence and skill so she may perform it when she wants.  This is when parents ask, “She can roll from her back to her belly, but not from her belly to her back (or vice versa).”  How does baby learn to roll from her  belly to her back?  She needs to learn to move those hips!  In the above video from Peter Shankman’s youtube channel, you can see the baby wiggle her hips.  She lifts one side of her hips off of the floor, then the other side.  The pelvis is a very heavy part of the body, and when it is moved enough it shifts the weight of the body so it moves in space.  For example, in this video it moves the baby onto her side and then eventually onto her back.  This is an excellent example of the exploration that goes on when a baby is on the floor which soon results in a motor milestone.


One of the reasons why it is so important for babies to spend time on the floor and in tummy time is because it provides them with an opportunity to learn to move their body parts and discover where that takes them.  They discover that they can go onto their side, or onto their belly, and each position gives them a new perspective on the world around them. In a piece of baby gear such as exersaucer those discoveries are much more difficult and that is one reason why I do no recommend them.  Babies learn to move through their relationship to the floor.  By lifting heavy bones in a direction that brings them to lean more on the floor and they learn to master tummy time and the motor skill of lifting the head.  By pushing against the floor with their legs they learn to propel themselves forward in space, which is the motor skill of belly crawling.  By lifting one hip away from the floor the opposite one goes down toward the floor so they can lean on it and find themselves on their side, and eventually on their belly or back.  Movement exploration during floor time is key to motor skill development.