My 6 month old doesn’t roll from her back to belly or her belly to back. She does roll from her back to side. She can’t get to her belly, and I think her arm may be in the way. We were going to try this motor skill of rolling exercise but was told to wait and see if she can do it on her own but she still hasn’t, should I try to help her now? From Lilly’s Mommy
THE COORDINATION OF BABY ARMS
Thanks, Lilly’s Mommy, for asking one of the most frequently asked questions by moms in my classes. You observed your daughter very carefully and discovered that she is getting stuck in the movement from her side to her belly because her arm is in the way. In the above exercise that you refer to, observe how the baby is holding a small toy. She is holding a small toy that can not poke her in the eye. This toy helps her arms to be in one of the useful positions for learning to roll. The incorrect position of the arms for rolling is when baby is on her belly and the arms are straight out to the sides like an airplane where they can be bent backward as she rolls onto her back. Please avoid this position of the arms.
If you try this baby exercise you may want to give her a soft toy to hold in her hands. Roll her in very small increments. Begin rolling her from her back to her side, where she is comfortable. Then go a bit further, then a little bit further. With each repetition you can increase the range of motion about 1/4 an inch. This gives you the chance to make sure her arm is not in he way. If you want to send a video to me I can be more specific about it, but I do not know exactly where her arm is getting stuck. (Videos remain confidential.) Or, you might try a virtual lesson with me.
Developmental play for babies is where parents and caregivers interact with babies in a manner that evokes the next developmental pattern. For example, saying “Ba,Ba” and then pausing for baby to repeat after you eventually results in baby learning to say the sound “Ba!”. Looking at a book with baby and pointing out the doggies and saying “dog,” “dog,” and “dog” teaches her to say the word “dog” herself. Soon, she will pick up the book and point to everything and say “dog.” These are examples of baby play for speech development.
Movement developmental play is where you show baby how to improve a motor skill in a playful way. For example, when baby is on her back, you can bend her legs and put her feet down on the floor so she can push and scoot backward. This is the motor skill of scooting. This movement is a fun surprise to her. She did the movement, not you. You just gave her the clue! It is a fun game for her that develops her strength in her legs and the ability to push off of the floor. This is developmental play through movement. This is what we do in these lessons.
Through showing her with your hands where to move her baby arms when she rolls is developmental play. To just keep her stuck and wait until she magically figures it out is to assume that all babies will learn to roll, which is not true. Many babies never roll, many babies never crawl, etc. Or they reach a state of frustration before they learn the skill. Sometimes a clue from us regarding the coordination of the movement is all that is needed. It is to their advantage to learn these skills with ease and play. Through our guidance they can master their motor skills with joy. This ability to learn motor skills through ease and with coordination and skill develops a strong self-image.
BABY WALKING SHOES
When baby masters the motor milestone of walking, it is time to buy baby shoes. But, please do not buy just any baby shoes. Prior to this moment, shoes were worn primarily for photo moments. Now shoes need to be purchased that allow baby to move efficiently and have a textured sole to prevent slipping. This allows her to master the motor skill of walking. When purchasing shoes, take into consideration how the construction of the shoe effects the mechanics of baby’s walk. This means parents should observe how the fabric, the sole, and the shape of the shoe effect how baby moves her body. Thanks to the above video from SagetoSummit’s youtube channel, we can observe the skill in an infant’s new walking ability with soft-soled shoes vs. a stiffer shoe (in this video the stiffer shoe is made by NIKE).
STRIDE ANALYSIS OF A BABY LEARNING TO WALK
When you see your baby walking, look closely at his stride before and after you put a pair of shoes on him. The term “stride” or “gait” refers to how the legs and feet move while walking. When a baby learns to walk their stride can be a bit wide (feet are wider than hips). This helps them feel balanced. A wider base of support can be more stable than a narrow base. Some babies learn to walk with their feet under their hips (a narrow stride), especially if they have received skilled movement lessons.
In the above video when baby wears the stiffer soled shoes (NIKE baby sneakers) his stride gets even wider showing less balance. When he wears the baby sneakers (stiffer sole) he also has to pick his feet up quite a bit to take each step forward. This is because his ankle joint is not able to move as much due to the stiff material of the shoe. If you have ever skied before, think about the feeling of wearing a pair of skis or snow shoes which do not allow for ankle movement. You have to pick your feet up as this baby is doing in the video. With the soft-soles shoes, the baby walks with more articulation (bend) in the ankle joint and a slightly narrower base of support. As a result, with the soft-soled shoes baby walks faster due to his improved mechanics. The baby sneakers slow him down. Save them for the basketball court in another ten years and buy soft sole baby shoes for now.
BABY SHOES FOR MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
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.
WHAT ARE PUSH/PULL TOYS ?
Push/pull toys are toys on wheels that move when pulled by a string or pushed by a long handle that resembles a stick. Pull toys have a long string attached to them and are often in the shape of an adorable animal such as a duck, caterpillar, or dog. The animal moves when the string is pulled and sometimes makes a sound suck as a clacking. Push toys can be small and in the shape of an animal such as a duck or large and in the shape of a pram. These toys are great for babies and toddlers who have mastered the motor milestone of walking. The toys also stimulate baby curiosity and benefit babies not yet crawling.
PUSH/PULL TOYS DEVELOP BALANCE AND COORDINATION
A Push Toy
Babies and toddlers benefit from the motor skill activity of pushing and pulling. The benefits include improved balance and coordination. As baby pulls the string on a pull toy she turns in circles and must turn her body to observe the toy. She learns to organize her body movement to allow for the action of pulling something and turning to observe it as she moves. This requires a certain amount of dexterity. Sometimes she shifts her weight onto one leg as she turns which develops balance.
Playing with a push toy, such as the above wooden duck on a stick by Bella Luna Toys, develops spatial awareness. As they push the toy they learn to pay attention to the space in front of them where the toy is moving on the ground. This develops the toddler’s ability to pay attention to what is going on in front of her so she may avoid colliding with other people and objects such as furniture and toys. Children also develop dexterity as they adjust their body and movement in order to maneuver the toy around corners and through doorways.
PUSH/PULL TOYS INVITE MOTOR SKILL DEVELOPMENT
A Pull Toy
Even before baby is able to push or pull the toy herself it can benefit her motor skill development. The novelty of these toys for a baby is that they mysteriously seems to move and then stop. Baby does not understand that her mother is pulling a sting or pushing a stick to create the movement. She is intrigued by these toys. Use a pull toy playfully with baby when she is close to learning the motor skill of crawling. Try placing the toy just out of baby’s reach and then pull on the string to get the toy moving. Baby’s curiosity will motivate her to to go after this moving animal. She may figure out how to crawl one or two “steps” just to reach this toy. Once she takes her first few “steps” she will crawl with more confidence. Please include push/pull toys in your collection of developmental toys for babies and toddlers.
Recently in class a mother of a 4 month old baby was talking about her living room space. She and her husband enjoy watching sports on the weekend and she was wondering where to put the baby while watching the games. I asked her if she had some space on the floor. I suggested she push the coffee table off to the side of the room to make an area for the baby to play. I discussed choosing a quilt or a play mat to cover the area for baby. The mother looked at me with a questioning face and said, “But iI feel bad putting her down like that. Doesn’t she like sitting up better?” I replied, “You might feel that way because we sit up all the time as adults. Many adults are not comfortable on their tummies on the floor, so we fear babies are not either. Your daughter will love floor time if she is comfortable and has some toys. She will have a great time.” The mother smiled and said “Oh. That makes sense.”
During class we explored the motor skill of rolling. The babies were guided from tummy time into a roll onto their backs. Later they were guided from their backs onto their tummy. The parents learned tips for motor skill development to practice at home such as bending and stretching baby’s legs, rubbing the abdomen, and rolling baby onto her side. I explained the importance of floor time for baby to learn how to roll. “In a sitting position it is almost impossible for the baby to learn how to roll because much less of her body is in contact with the ground. She must learn how to shift her weight and move her arm or leg to take her onto her side and tummy/back,” I said. The moms noticed how the babies enjoyed being moved from their backs to their sides and finally to their tummies, and then back to their backs again.
The following week at class the mother who asked questions about floor time was smiling when she arrived at class. “Guess who has been enjoying floor time?!? She is doing tummy time and rolling all over the place. She loves it!” The mother continued to explain that she and her husband were enjoying watching sports and keeping the baby near them on a play mat. All seemed to be enjoying this family time!
One of the most popular questions asked by moms is “How does she learn where to put her arms when learning the motor skill of rolling?” Recently a mom explained that her daughter sticks her arms straight out to the sides like an airplane and then cries when she rolls. She asked, “How can I teach her to roll with her arms in a more comfortable place?” We can learn from our stellar caterpillar Zizu how to master the milestone of rolling by coordinating the arms in a useful way.
ZIZU MASTERS LIFTING THE HEAD IN TUMMY TIME
First, Zizu mastered the motor skill of lifting the head while in tummy time. While practicing this skill she learned to bend her elbows and place her hands near her shoulders. Soon she learned to play with a toy with both hands while in tummy time. This teaches her to be comfortable with her hands in line with the middle of her body and teaches her to bend her elbows. The more time she spent playing on her tummy with toys the more familiar she became with the ideal placement of her arms for rolling. If baby likes to stiffen the arms straight out to the sides like an airplane, gently place the palms of her hands on the floor and slide them while making an interesting sound. If you can bend her elbow as you move the hand that will be even better for her. Soon she will figure out the advantage to having her hands on the floor. She can push the floor and feel the power that it gives her. This is an important connection for baby arms as it develops the necessary strength for crawling on the hands and knees.
BABY ARMS AND THE MOTOR SKILL OF ROLLING
Once baby has learned to keep her hands on the floor, place them near her shoulders, and bend her elbows she is ready to learn the coordination of rolling. If she holds a rattle while in tummy time you can observe if her elbows are under or in front of her shoulders. This is important. Zizu demonstrates this positon very clearly. Then before you guide her into a roll, cross her arm even more toward the midline. For example, if you want to roll her toward her right, move her right elbow and arm even more toward her center (in front of the center of her chest). This puts it out of the way so she can put her head down easily and roll.
Read our post “How To Roll” to see a video of a baby guided through a roll. In the video, once she rolls onto her stomach her arm stays in the correct position for rolling back onto her back so we do not need to move it in the video, but you can clearly see the placement. Sometimes it helps if they hold a small rattle since it keeps their arms more toward the center. Read our post “Motor Milestone of Rolling” to see a step-by-step photo sequence of rolling from the back to the tummy. The photos show clear placement of the arms. With a little practice she learns very easily how to move her arms out of her way so she can put her head down and roll. Learning to coordinate the arms is an important development of a baby.