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.


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