Activities to help boost baby’s gross motor development during the first year

Posted on June 30th, 2015

Develop the muscles your baby needs to lift his head, roll over, sit, crawl and walk with these fun games and activities.

Learning to make his body do what he wants it to do is still pie in the sky for a baby who can’t even hold his head above his neck. But before you know it, you’ll be struggling to keep up with him.

Boost your baby’s gross motor development with these fun activities:

Tips for developing head control (0 – 3 months)

  • An important way to develop head control is in the pull-to-sit position. This can only be done when your baby can bring his own head forward, and use his shoulders to help you pull him up into a sitting position. Place your baby on his back, either on the floor in front of you, or on your lap. Slowly raise him up towards you, as you bring him from the supine (lying on his back) to the sitting position. As his neck and trunk muscles get stronger, you can do this activity by holding your baby’s arms at the elbows, and gently pulling him up into a sitting position. Shake a rattle, or place a musical instrument next to your little one, to encourage him to turn his head.
  • Gently stroke the side of your baby’s cheek with your fingers, and with a variety of soft textures (fluffy toys, a feather, etc) to encourage head turning to each side.
  • Playing in front of a mirror is the perfect way to work on head control. Sit on the floor in front of the mirror, with your baby on your lap, facing the mirror. Gently rock him from side to side, and forwards and backwards. This will allow him to keep his head upright.
  • Let dad balance baby on his arm, holding him under his tummy while you talk to him. He’ll lift his head up to look at you.

Tips to help baby roll from his tummy to his back (4 – 5 months)

  • Place your baby on the floor, lying on his stomach (make sure his head is turned toward one side). Slightly tuck his opposite arm and shoulder under him. Place a rattle or brightly coloured toy in front of baby, where he can easily see it. Slowly raise it above where he is lying, encouraging him to follow it while turning his head, and shifting his weight over towards his tucked shoulder. Your baby will then be in a position to roll over onto his back as he continues to follow the toy. If he gets stuck anywhere along the way, gently grasp his thigh and help him to complete the rolling movement.

Tips to help baby roll from his back to his stomach (4 – 5 months)

  • Place a brightly coloured or musical toy to one side, and slightly above the level of baby’s head. Gently grasp baby’s leg on the side opposite the toy, and rotate that leg across baby’s body, moving him onto his side, then over to his stomach, as he completes the rolling movement.

Tips to help baby sit (6 months)

  • Place your baby on the floor in a sitting position, and seat yourself behind him to provide support as needed. Place a toy or familiar object on the floor in front of baby to encourage him to prop forward on both hands. If your baby cannot put both hands on the floor, you can help him by placing both of his hands on the floor and gently placing your hands over his to give him the sensation of taking some weight through his hands and arms. While your hands are still over his, rock him forward over his hands several times to help facilitate this propping position. Once he can prop forward, you can begin to encourage side-to-side balance by placing a toy or familiar object off to one side, and slightly in front of your baby. Your baby will begin responding by putting his arms out automatically as he leans to one side, until eventually he can maintain the sitting position without the use of his arms.

Play tips for tummy time, sitting, crawling and standing

  • Babies love mirrors. When your baby is first learning to push up on his arms while on his stomach, this is a great way to have him tolerate this position.
  • Your baby will enjoy rolling a ball back and forth to you when seated on the floor. This is a great way to challenge his balance for sitting.
  • Build an obstacle course in the house or garden with pillows, boxes and mountains of blankets for your baby to crawl over.
  • Place a toy or a snack on a low table, and with your hands at his hips, shift his weight forward over his feet, and help him to assume a standing position. As he develops more strength and trunk control, allow him to do more of the work in pulling up to a standing position.
  • To help strengthen your baby’s trunk and hip muscles so that he is able to cruise along furniture, have him stand on your lap while you are sitting on the couch or a chair. Hold both of your baby’s hands, and gently move your legs up and down, one at a time, so that he will be shifting his weight from one side to the other. If he needs more support, place your hands at his hips to do this activity.
Living And Loving Staff

About Living And Loving Staff

Our experienced editors work with trained journalists and qualified experts to compile accurate, insightful and helpful information about pregnancy, birth, early childhood development and parenting. Our content is reviewed regularly by our panel of advisors, which include medical doctors and healthcare professionals.