A child develops a step at a time and a delay in one will have an effect on the subsequent milestones. A baby learns to control his or her head movement first and followed by body movement and positions. Every child takes these steps at his or her unique pace.

Gross motor development

  • 0–4 weeks old baby lifts her head when lying on his or her stomach.
  • 0–9 weeks old baby holds her head up when lying on his or her stomach.
  • 2–3.5 months old baby holds her head up, when pulled into a sitting position by the arms.
  • 3.5–5 months old baby pushes her chest and head up if leaning on elbows.
  • 4–6 months old baby rolls over from back to stomach.
  • 5–7 months old baby pushes down with his legs, if lifted to a standing position.
  • 6–8 months old baby crawls and sits on the floor without support.
  • 7–10 months old baby sits up unassisted, crawls and stands up against a support.
  • 7–16 months old baby stands without support.
  • 7–17 months old baby walks with minimum support or unassisted.

Fine motor development

A baby starts to move his or her upper limbs already before birth. This is the beginning for the fine motor development which continues after birth as follows:

  • 0-3 months
    • A baby practises head and eye control and the upper limb motor skills develop.
  • 3-6 months
    • A baby learns to watch his hand movement. When an object is handed to the baby he grabs it with the hand closest to it. A baby watches closely the shape and size of an object.
  • 6-9 months
    • A baby’s hand coordination is improving and the dominant hand is emerging. A baby’s raking grasp develops into a fingertip grasp which eventually becomes a pincer grasp.

Progress of motor development during the baby’s first year

Here are some tips how to support the baby to practise age-appropriate skills in everyday care and play activities.

Newborn – 3 months old baby

By three months old a baby has learned to hold his or her head in midline position in all positions, clap his or her hands together and lean to his or her elbows when lying on his or her tummy. The development of these skills can be supported:

  • By picking the baby up and putting him down side first.
  • By guiding the baby’s head and arms to midline position and handing him a toy to watch or grasp.
  • By carrying the baby on his stomach on the caregiver’s arm
  • By giving the baby a lot of tummy time on a firm surface, when he is awake.
  • By providing good toys which are easy to grasp, e.g. a ring, small ball or small colourful soft toy.

3-6 months old baby

A six months old baby can grasp a toy with both hands, has found her feet, can roll over to her stomach and can push herself up with straight arms when lying on her stomach. The development of these skills can be supported:

  • By providing the baby large, light toys which can be grabbed by both hands: a ball, swinging toys and rolling toys, light rattles.
  • By picking the baby up and putting her down side first, without supporting her head.
  • When changing nappies, help her see her feet within a grabbing distance.
  • By carrying the baby so that she sits on the carer’s hip.
  • Dressing and undressing the baby on the caregiver’s lap.

6-9 months old baby

At nine months old, a baby can change an object from one hand to the other, move by rolling, tummy crawling or on hands and knees, sit unsupported and stand up, or at least stand supported, firmly with hips in midline position. The development of these skills can be supported:

  • By allowing the baby to spend as much time as possible on the floor, also on uncarpeted floor.
  • By assisting the baby from belly crawl to hands and knees crawl by lifting under the stomach.
  • By not keeping the baby sitting down on the floor unnecessarily – unless the baby can sit up unassisted.
  • By providing the baby opportunities to try to stand up.
  • By providing good toys: A ball, tubs that fit on top of or inside one another, shape sorting box.

9-12 months old baby

By one year old the child masters vertical position. The child can stand up against a support, stand supporting himself, lower self down from a standing position, move along a rail and walk assisted or unassisted. A one-year-old child is skilled at using his hands in many different ways. A child can for instance throw objects, clap, wave, stack objects one inside the other, turn pages of a book, and pick crumbs using the pincer grasp. The development of these skills can be supported

  • By creating opportunities to safely practise standing up.
  • By allowing the child practise walking by pushing his buggy, toy cart etc.
  • By helping to keep balance when learning to walk by giving the child a large, light toy (a ball, soft toy) to carry.
  • By providing good toys: a ball, toy cart, board books, shape sorting box, stackable tubs and blocks, knob puzzles.

To interpret the baby’s signals relating to mealtimes, caregivers should use reliable sources of information compiled by public authorities or, for instance, material provided by Imetyksen tuki ry (Breastfeeding peer support in English) and ask advice from the association helpline or breastfeeding support groups on Facebook.

References and other links