700 Children's® – A Blog by Pediatric Experts

Early Motor Milestones: What to Expect in Your Child 0-6 Months

May 17, 2016

Becoming a parent is so exciting; we read books, talk with our friends and do as much research as possible to keep our bundles of joy safe, happy and healthy.

But do you really understand how important movement is and when, or how, your baby should start moving? Here’s some insight from a parent — and pediatric physical therapist.

Zero to Three Months

The movements your baby makes are small, but important. When you first meet your baby, she will remain in a little ball, head turned to one side or the other and arms and legs tucked into her body. It will look like she’s doing random stretches. When your baby is on her belly her cheek will rest on the floor, with her arms out to the side, and her bottom in the air. As your baby gets closer to three months of age she should be able to turn her head from one side to the other. Tummy time is important so place your baby on her belly to play for a period of time every day while she is awake and you are with her to encourage early movement develop.

Three and Four Months

Your baby is much more aware of her surroundings and more alert. Arms and legs move with more symmetry and purpose. Your baby will begin playing with her clothes and, eventually, will reach for a toy. Your baby’s head control has improved and she is now able to keep her head upright without working too much. When on her belly, she is able to lift her head up and look around for brief periods while supporting weight on her arms. Continue to encourage belly time as much as possible; this will be the easiest position for your baby to start playing with toys. When your baby sits, she needs help to keep her body up. Her back may look rounded forward, but that is typical as muscle strength develops.

Five and Six Months

Your baby’s head control should have improved so that she can maintain her head against gravity and look around when in a supported seated position. When lying on her back, your baby should play with her feet, pulling them toward her mouth or banging them together. You should see your baby attempting to roll from side to side and even playing with toys while lying on her side. When on her belly, she is able to reach for toys and may even rotate in an entire circle to get to other toys or objects.

In a couple of days, we will review motor milestones from six to twelve months. If you feel that your baby seems to be “stuck” and does not like to move her own body or if she enjoys staying in one spot, talk with your pediatrician about the possibility of getting a referral for physical therapy to assess your baby’s gross motor skills.

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Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Ilene Crabtree, PT
Physical Therapy

Ilene Crabtree, PT has attended numerous Neurodevelopmental Treatment (NDT) courses since 2007 to increase her knowledge of the neurological system and its' effect on gross motor development. In November of 2010 she became NDT certified.

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s® features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.