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Lena Engel
Worked as an Ofsted Early Years Inspector for Kensington and Chelsea Borough. Supported teachers in schools to improve outcomes for children’s learning, and written for Nursery World Magazine. She trains, assesses and mentors early years practitioners, and offers advice and guidance to parents.
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Stage 4 – 9 months

Let’s rock and roll – physical movement and development in babies and toddlers

The behaviour of the foetus in the womb is similar to that of the newborn: long periods of sleep and inaction are punctuated with periods of strong movement.  As the foetus grows it is more and more restricted by the walls of the womb and often causes increased discomfort as it searches to stretch its legs and arms.  Babies are telling us straight from the start that they need plenty of exercises, balanced with a good routine of sleep and food.  We must take note of these messages and ensure that we create an environment and provide the human contact and support to stimulate our babies and children.
In Short
Your baby benefits from lots of supervised tummy time on a safe blanket or across your lap to strengthen his back and head control.

As your baby develops the strength, encourage him to pull himself up and cruise along sturdy chairs and sofas.

Once your baby can walk and toddler take him along to wide open spaces so he can practice running and changing direction unimpeded.

Lay me on my back and front – 0 to 6 months

  • Young babies love to be held by parents but they also like to lie flat.
  • Place a rug or blanket on the floor indoors or outside. Lay your baby on a rug on his backs and sit by him showing them objects such as bells, soft toys or rattles. Talk to your baby to encourage responses, and help him enter into an expressive dialogue with you. You will notice how much movement this position allows as your baby kicks his feet and waves his arms. In the confined space of a baby-seat, they do not have the freedom to move like this. On the blanket, a baby’s developing body and limbs are in motion, exploring the space around them and teaching them what they are capable of doing – having an impact on the world around them.
  • Lay your baby on his front for tummy time so that similarly he develops physical skills and the strength in his neck and shoulder muscles to lift his head and turn it from side to side. Babies who do not have this experience of lying on their tummies often have weaker muscles and develop skills in sitting up and crawling later than expected.
  • Make the most of the outdoors with babies. It is very pleasurable for babies to lie on a rug beneath a tree, sheltered from the sun, watching the foliage as it sways in the breeze. Talk to your baby about the birds and the other wildlife that surrounds you.
Babies sitting-up – 6 to 9 months

It is a thrill for babies to see the world from a new point of view and this is what sitting-up on their own enables them to do.

  • Promote the enjoyment of this newly acquired skill by giving your baby a seat at the dinner table.
  • Also, use comfy furniture to support him as he plays on the floor indoors and on the grass or blanket outside.
  • Place toys and interesting objects within reach so your baby will stretch forward and place himself in a position to begin crawling.
  • The more freedom and encouragement to explore that you provide the greater will be his acquisition of gross and fine motor skills.
Babies standing and walking – 9 to 16 months

Control of the body starts from the head and makes its way down the body. The act of walking is a significant aspect of babies’ development and the one that establishes independence in the most visual terms.

  • Encourage your baby to pull himself up on furniture and low-level ballet bars attached to a wall.
  • Suggest he pushes small trucks and trolleys. Babies learn quickly to put one step in front of the other to propel themselves forward.
  • Praise your baby for every new skill and encourage his efforts to stand on his own bearing his own weight.
  • A baby’s delight in achieving this sign of independence is usually conveyed by smiles, giggles and shrieks of delight.
  • A trick first learned will be repeated so there will be no stopping a baby who has made their first few steps.
Toddlers love to run, climb and fall over

Once toddlers have gained the freedom of upright movement, they need constant supervision as well as constant stimulation to ensure that they have challenging experiences that continue to perfect their skills.

  • Take your toddler to parks, museums and places of interest where large open spaces do not frustrate his ability to walk and toddle.
  • Children’s playgrounds can be wonderful places where toddlers play alongside other children, copying their actions to achieve new skills. Never underestimate what toddlers can learn to do and help promote your toddler’s achievement by commenting on his successes.

If you would like to contact Lena for one-on-one advice for children aged 0 – 19 years, please email her on

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This article is for information only and should not be used for the diagnosis or treatment of medical conditions. Essential Parent has used all reasonable care in compiling the information from leading experts and institutions but makes no warranty as to its accuracy. Consult a doctor or other health care professional for diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions. For details click here.