Category Archives: GLOSSARY

baby motor skill terms defined




Milestones are a series of numbered markers placed along the side of a road at intervals, often one “mile” apart.  During the Roman Empire the milestones were constructed out of stone or granite, possibly explaining the “stone” part of “milestone.”  They provide the traveler with reference points along a journey indicating distance traveled or distance remaining and reassurance that the proper path is being followed.


The first year development of a baby begins with an infant unable to move beyond the spot on the bed where you put her, and ends with a confident baby walking across the room without holding on.  This in an incredible journey in physical skill, called motor skill.  Baby milestones, including both gross motor skills and fine motor skills, are recognizable physical actions baby acquires along this journey from birth to independent walking.  These motor skills usually occur sequentially as most babies crawl before they pull to stand, and they pull to stand before they walk.  These milestones include rolling, crawling, cruising, and walking, and serve as the “road markers” along baby’s journey toward walking on her own!

The milestones are closely monitored by pediatricians with a developmental milestone chart which indicate the window of time in which baby often acquires each skill.  For example, most babies walk independently by the age of 11 to 15 months.  Baby milestones include not only motor skills acquisition, but also social and emotional, speech and language, and cognitive development.


  1. Each milestone prepares baby’s muscles and bones for the next motor skill.  For example, the skills of lifting the head and rolling strengthen muscles and mobilize joints in a way that prepares baby to crawl.  Crawling strengthens the legs and coordinates the limbs in a way that prepares the body for walking.  This is why it is important to spend time in each milestone and not rush through them, what we call “mastering the milestones.”
  2. Stellar Caterpillar teaches that milestones are important measures of the micro-skills that baby is learning along the way.  For example, rolling indicates that she can use her legs and pelvis to shift her weight, she is comfortable on her side, she has figured out how to initiate movement on her own.  We can learn to identify and coach each of these micro-skills along the road to the major milestone of rolling.  Then, baby rolls with confidence and joy rather than by accident or chance.  She knows she is rolling and finds pleasure in it!
  3. In the medical community, the timely acquisition of each physical skill indicates the normal and healthy development cognitively as well as physically.  A delay in acquiring a motor skill may indicate a neurological impairment.  By identifying the physical delay, the physician can refer the baby to a therapist to receive guidance.

Baby motor milestones are important markers along the road to independent walking.  But even more important are the micro-skills along the way.  These mini motor skills develop strength and flexibility as well as improve baby’s self-image as she confidently masters moves on her own.  Read Stellar Caterpillar website to understand the “Top 10 Movement Skills” and learn how to coach your baby’s journey to free and independent walking!



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.


A Stellar Caterpillar is a baby who spends time in each of the significant developmental phases of movement.  Babies improve gross motor skills such as rolling, crawling, standing, and walking.  Babies even learn to enjoy tummy time!  Babies who receive Stellar Caterpillar movement lessons enter toddlerhood confident in themselves and eager to try new experiences. They are particularly curious and engage with people and activities that intrigue them.  Mothers receive compliments on their child’s posture.  Coaches are impressed with their coordination and stability.  Friends notice their courage to tackle physical challenges and how much fun they have playing with movement.  Family members comment on how “advanced” they seem to be as they watch them galloping across the room at such a young age. Baby enters the toddler years with a positive self-image.

How can my baby become a Stellar Caterpillar?

READ!  WRITE!  SHARE! Read to learn about the movement skills, ask questions in the comment section, and share the link with other interested parents to develop our community.  Learn the techniques to guide baby through the motor developmental phases from the Stellar Caterpillar baby movement lessons.

Where can I find Stellar Caterpillar infant movement lessons?

Contact Donna for private lessons and/or group classes at  Those living out of town may be able to arrange a session via Skype.



We examine the sense of taste in order to understand its role in the movements of eating.  Babies, and adults, have taste buds distributed primarily over the surface of the tongue, but also on the roof of the mouth and upper throat area.  Special taste receptor cells within the taste buds are activated with the action of eating molecules of food and detect the following four “taste” categories:  sweet, salty, bitter, and sour.  There are thousands of these receptor cells within the mouth.  The sense of smell is integral to full flavor experience since it can detect many more variations, therefore the sensory experience of eating is largely an integration of smell and taste receptors.  These receptors are for one of these four taste categories, and they wait until their particular taste floats by and activates it.  The natural sugar in a biscuit may activate the “sweet” receptors while a taste of lemon triggers the “sour.”

All of these experiences are also transmitted into electrical signals which travel to the part of the brain which triggers reflexes necessary for feeding, the medulla.  These reflexes include sucking, salivation, swallowing, and tongue movements.  Signals then travel to the parts of the brain which control the motivation to eat, the amygdala and hypothalamus, and senses the pleasurable aspects of taste, the limbic cortex.  Yet another part of the brain registers the taste in our consciousness, but we will concern ourselves primarily with the parts that relate to movement.  The sense of taste is a dance of sensory experiences detected in the mouth leading to the movements of eating and pleasurable sensations which result, which are controlled and registered in the brain.



Locomotion is defined as the act of moving from one place to another.  Locomotion usually involves the muscles of the legs in contact with the earth or water to transport oneself to another place.  For babies, locomotive skills are rolling, scooting, belly crawling, crawling, cruising, swimming and walking. They learn these skills to propel themselves through the world.  Locomotion usually implies the movement is repetitive or ongoing, such as scooting several times to reach a toy, as opposed to making one single movement or scoot.  Think of choo-choo trains, such as the steam “locomotive,” which rhythmically propels itself forward by the continual turning of the wheels.





Reflexes are involuntary movements that are usually triggered by an external stimulus.  For example, a gentle scratching of baby’s foot with a sharp object results in a quick flexion of the hip, knee, and ankle to pull the foot away from danger.  Infants do not “learn” reflexes, they are automatically present for a specific length of time.  Many reflexes are present at birth, some at 3 or 4 months, and others at 6 or 7 months.  They disappear just as they appear–automatically–in a matter of a few months.  In some cases they remain present longer than the usual length of time.  The purpose of many early reflexes is often survival or protection.

Another important aspect of reflexes is that they cannot fatigue or habituate.  Fatigue means to tire to the point that they stop working, as muscles tiring in a workout demand you stop and rest.  To habituate is defined as a gradual decline in a response over time.  For example, a fetus may respond to a loud sound placed near the mother’s belly by strongly contracting the limbs, yet with repetition the reaction gradually lessens until it stops.  Since a reflex cannot fatigue or habituate it will continue to occur over and over again at the same strength if the trigger stimulus is presented.


The Stellar Caterpillar blog will examine important reflexes visible during baby’s first year and explore their role in motor skill acquisition.  It is important for parents to learn when a movement is voluntary (a motor skill) versus involuntary (a reflex).  Another way to differentiate between these two kinds of movement is to understand that the voluntary/motor skill movements are the intention of the baby, while the involuntary/reflexive ones are not her intention but the automatic response of her brain and nervous system.  Sometimes a baby may be moving as a result of a reflex and the parents mistakenly think that’s what baby wants to do!  Clever parents will learn to encourage the development of intentional movements through reading Stellar Caterpillar tips.  Baby will then scoot, crawl and reach her way to the heavens!