Baby crawling

Sensory & Motor Development: Milestones From 6-12 months

Posted by Kerry Nevins on

The first twelve months of a baby’s life are full of sensory advancements. Sensory and motor development is the gradual process by which a newborn gains use and coordination of the large muscles of the legs, trunk and arms as well as the smaller muscles of the hands. A baby becomes aware through sight, touch, taste, smell, and sound. As this happens, their unique preferences and responses begin to reveal themselves, and their personalities begin to shine.

You may have heard the term 'tummy time’ as a parent of a newborn and assumed it was just a simple, fun activity for your baby. However, it is also a crucial technique to assist your baby in developing muscle strength and motor skills. Continue reading this article to discover how a baby's sensory and motor development will follow a typical pattern.

Baby tummy time

Milestones at One Month

Within the first month of a baby’s life, their neck muscles are not yet strong enough to support their head for long periods. Babies can lift their heads only briefly when lying on their stomachs. Newborn reflexes influence limb movements. One example is the startle reflex. It makes a baby throw out their arms and spread their fingers in response to a loud noise or other sudden, unexpected stimulus. By six weeks of age, newborn reflexes start to fade, and the baby's strength and coordination improve.

You can start tummy time with your baby on your chest or in your lap when they’re newborn (between the ages of 0 and 3 months). Later, tummy time should be on a low, safe surface. The babocush helps support tummy time and is excellent for strengthening your baby’s neck, back and torso, as well as helping prevent flat-head syndrome and promoting cognitive development. The babocush encourages the airways to remain open and relaxed, reducing the time needed to burp your baby.

Tummy time will benefit your baby's Sensory and Motor Development if you practice it daily. It's an integral approach for your baby to acquire the motor skills and muscular control they’ll need for all the exciting milestones ahead.

Milestones at Three Months

By 3 months, your baby can control their head movements. Put your baby on their tummy during awake periods and closely supervise. Engaging in tummy time for your baby is a crucial technique to assist in developing muscle strength and motor skills. Allowing your baby to exercise and move in this position helps develop head and neck muscles. Around four months of age, babies gain control and balance in their head, neck, and trunk. Most babies can balance their heads for short periods when in a stable position. Around this same age, your baby starts playing with their hands. Your baby can grasp your finger on purpose rather than as a reflex.

Milestones at 4-6 Months 

Between 4 and 6 months of age, babies' balance and movement improve dramatically as they gain the use and coordination of large muscles. During this time, babies roll over on purpose. They may be able to sit with their hands, balancing them in front (tripod position). Babies may grasp toys with their palms when they reach toward an object with both hands.

Baby hand

Milestones at 6-9 Months

Babies gain more control of their muscles between 6 and 9 months of age as the nervous system connections continue to form. By the 7th month, babies can see almost as well as adults. Babies develop leg and trunk coordination, sit alone steadily and may crawl using both their hands and feet. Some babies even pull themselves up to a standing position. But the timing and sequence of these milestones varies widely.

Milestones at 9-12 Months

Between 9 months and 12 months of age, babies explore the world with all their senses. At the same time, they are gaining more control over their hands and fingers. They may be able to grab small objects with a forefinger and thumb. Most babies this age like to experience and explore objects through taste and texture. This prompts them to put almost anything they can into their mouths. The brain keeps growing, helping to refine control over the large muscles. By now, your baby will probably be able to crawl and stand. In these few months before babies start to walk, they often spend hours "cruising" around the room, holding onto furniture and other objects. Cruising develops muscles and coordination and allows your baby to practice walking.

Baby walking

Toddler Milestones

Many toddlers start to walk around 9 to 15 months of age. Those first steps are possible because of changes that have taken place in the brain and the spinal cord.

To encourage sensory development:

  • Make consistent and meaningful gestures. Try teaching your baby some simple sign language words, like “more” and “milk.”
  • Avoid harsh-smelling environments, and continue to introduce new flavors.
  • Use noisy toys to show cause and effect - hit it, and make a noise!
  • Play with toys that require gripping and finger movement to encourage hand and finger control. Create associations by naming textures.
  • Experiment with offering new food textures, including soft finger foods.

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