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Gross! Part 2

Posted on: January 10th, 2012 No Comments

We’ve been talking about gross motor skill development.  Gross motor skills refer to a child’s ability to successfully use her large muscle groups to control arm, leg, and core body movement.  These muscles support the body’s ability to walk, reach, lift, throw, sit upright, and maintain balance and coordination.

In the second six months of life, an average baby will make further strides in purposeful movement.  She will learn to roll from her back to her stomach; hold her head up; and, sit with little or no support.  She will “creep” by pulling herself forward with her arms while pushing with her legs.  She will learn to crawl and may pull herself up using furniture for support.

During this developmental period, some parents may begin to notice that their child reaches the above milestones later compared to other same age babies.  Please remember that early childhood development varies.  Your child’s development may be ahead or behind the age estimates and still be within normal ranges.  If you have questions about your child’s developmental progress, ask your pediatrician to conduct motor screenings during well baby visits.  If necessary, your doctor can make additional referrals to address any concerns that arise.

A child with autism, however, will begin to show signs of less muscle tone and coordination than her peers as she approaches her first birthday.  You can help her exercise the muscles that she needs to sit on her own by placing her in a bouncy seat complete with hanging toys at her eye level.  Reaching for them will help her do those baby crunches that she needs to strengthen her stomach muscles.  You can also place her in the corner of a chair or couch and prop her up with pillows so that her neck and back muscles learn to hold her upright.  And, when your baby is ready, you can take her “travelling” around the room sitting in a laundry basket.

Stimulating, physical exercise for her arms and legs becomes even more important when it comes to crawling.  You can help your baby practice crawling using a sheet for tummy support while she learns to coordinate her arms and legs for forward movement.  Placing her favorite toys at her eye level, a short distance away will urge her to move toward them.  A multi-color play mat can provide her a cushion (plus additional sensory stimulation) during her adventures.

As with exercise for all of us, fun and consistency make the difference in our level of engagement.  Make movement practice part of your baby’s daily routine.  Vary the toys that you use to entice her to reach, creep and crawl.   And, be sensitive to when she is tired.  It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

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