Although we don’t want our babies to grow up too fast, it’s hard not to look forward to the next milestone that they will achieve. If you’ve seen their first smile, roll, or reach, you realize how amazing it is to see your little one accomplish a new skill.
Babies learn and grow so quickly and you’ll see a ton of new skills emerge during their first year of life. They go from being a tiny little newborn who can barely open their eyes to a walking, talking toddler whose curiosity is abundant.
What are motor skills?
Motor skills are the actions that your baby will make using their muscles. They are the most prominent milestones that you will see in your baby’s first year, allowing them to move, eat, and play.
Gross motor skills involve the large body muscles enabling them to roll, sit, reach, crawl, stand, and walk. Fine motor skills involve smaller muscles in the hands and fingers, allowing your baby to grasp and manipulate objects.
Related Post: Fine Motor Skills Checklist for Babies 0-12 Months Old
How does my baby learn new motor skills?
While many parents just assume that motor skills emerge naturally, that’s not always the case. Just because your child hits 4 months, that doesn’t mean they will automatically roll, or if they hit 7 months, they will crawl.
It may be true for some babies, however, not all of them. Babies and toddlers often need to be taught in order to understand and be successful at a new skill.
Sometimes they may imitate a movement they see from a sibling or other baby or it will happen as they try their hardest to get themselves to their favorite toy.
Either way, they will get there when they are ready.
7 Tips to Get Your Baby Learning a New Motor Skill
Below are 7 important tips to remember when teaching your child a new motor skill. Be sure to implement all of these steps and your baby will be well on their way to reaching that next milestone.
ownload this printable checklist to remind you of these tips: Teaching Motor Skills to Babies Printable Checklist
1. Demonstration and Modeling
Children learn by seeing, feeling, touching, and doing. Their curious, little minds love to take in everything through their senses and imitate what they’ve seen.
Therefore, you need to show (not tell) them how to perform a new motor skill. It can be as simple as crawling on your hands and knees right in front of them or putting blocks into a bucket for them to see.
Demonstrating the actual action is a great way to let your baby see and understand what their body is capable of doing. If they have siblings or even other babies at a play group, it’s helpful for them to see others their own age doing these skills, as well.
Related Post: 9 Tips to Teach Your Baby to Crawl
The best way for a baby or child to learn a new motor skill is to physically do it. Even if you are doing it for them, they are still learning!
Hand-over-hand simply means to guide their hands (or any part of their body) with your hands in order to produce the action that you want them to do. Most of the time, demonstration is not enough and your child will need the physical guidance.
For example, if you want to teach your child to put blocks into a container, simply put your hands over theirs, while you use their hands to grab the block and put it in the container.
If you want to teach your baby to crawl, use your hands to physically move their arms and legs while on all four’s to produce the crawling action.
To hold their bottle, place their hands on the bottle with yours on top. For clapping, physically take their hands and clap for them.
Even though your baby isn’t doing these movements independently, their brain is still taking in the signals from using those muscles. Their body and brain will then remember how to do that action later on (muscle memory).
Related Post: 11 Simple Fine Motor Activities for Babies 9-12 Months Old
Give your baby maximum exposure to the skill you are trying to teach. Repeat it as often as you can throughout the day.
Practice during bedtime routine, diaper changes, meal time, or free play. Room to room and hour by hour, there are plenty of opportunities to practice different skills at all times.
4. Vary the circumstance
You want your baby to learn this skill in all different types of situations, not just one.
For example, if you’re teaching your baby to wave hi, don’t only wave hi to them when you walk in to daycare pick-up, but when they wake up in the morning, mealtimes, and diaper changes.
If you’re working on clapping, clap their hands during diaper changes, in the high chair, while listening to music, and when they wake up in their crib.
This will help teach them that they can carry over the skill across all areas and not just one.
Related Post: How to Teach Your Baby to Get Off the Couch or Bed Safely
Make sure that the skill you are trying to teach is appropriate for their age and developmental level.
If you’re trying to teach a 4 month old to clap or a 6 month old to walk, they are most likely not going to be successful. Make sure you are sticking with the expected milestones and motor skills for that age range.
*Remember, if your child was born premature, their adjusted age is their developmental level, not their actual age. This is only the case for the first two years.
Therefore, if your baby is 6 months old, but was born 2 months early (4 months adjusted), you shouldn’t expect them to learn to sit yet. This makes them capable of the 4 month old milestones and not the 6 month old’s.
Below is a great list of the ages in which your child should be hitting both fine and gross motor milestones. The ages are a rough approximation and it is normal for a child to be outside of this window, as well.
It may take your baby some time to learn the new skill that you are waiting for. Some will pick it up quickly while others need a lot of practice.
Every child learns at their own pace. The best thing you can do is let your baby learn new skills on their own time.
Applying these tips is sure to help them learn quicker, however it’s important to remember to be patient and it will come.
Don’t push them too hard. Don’t get frustrated if they aren’t learning the skill that your nephew learned 2 months before. Don’t compare them to other babies, whether they are friends, siblings, or cousins.
Learning one skill is not necessarily indicative of the time it will take to learn another. For example, maybe your baby started sitting up very early, but it could take them a longer time to figure out how to stand.
There are many factors that contribute to your baby learning a new skill, but they will get there when they are ready.
Everyone likes to be praised when they’re working hard at something, right? That includes babies too.
Give them lots of over-exaggerated applause, smiles, shouts, and “great jobs.” Your baby will pick up on your excitement and be more eager to keep working toward that goal.
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Have fun playing with your baby and helping them to reach their next milestone! Comment below with what tip worked best for you!
Be sure to download this printable checklist to remind you of these tips: Teaching Motor Skills to Babies Printable Checklist