Supporting the development of gross motor movement in months 4-7

Hello! I know it’s been a while but we’ve had some changes here at Nduoma.com and I am trying balance it all and continue to write these posts which I really enjoy.

Ok! Back to the topic at hand. If you haven’t read them already, you can read about brain development and why you need to support it in the early stages. If your baby is younger than 4 months then read the previous post for birth to 3 months.

To remind you of where we left off… in the first three months, your baby could hold his head up and then turn from side to side and then lift it up. He also started off seeing only black and white and then other colors and then started perceiving depths. All of these you supported by giving him interesting mobiles that supported every stage. Your baby was born with a reflexive grasp and by the third to fourth month, he started getting interested in his hands and you might have even noticed him observing them. This is where we stopped at the last post and where we will pick up today.

I have decided to talk about development and supporting it in 3 categories. The table below shows these categories and lists the different milestones. I have scheduled for the posts to show up in the following order:

Tuesday: Gross Motor

Thursday: Fine Motor

Friday: Language

Also, instead of using he/she or him/her, I will pick one gender for each post and use it for the whole post. For this post, I chose a male child and therefore I refer to the child as he or him. Please read as she or her if you have a female child.

I would like to mention that timelines and milestones are based on averages. Nothing is wrong with your child if he is a bit early or a bit later than any milestone charts. If you are concerned, please speak to your doctor but as long as you are providing the right environment, then I would not worry too much. Now what is the right environment? I will discuss different environments in different posts but for this specific post and the one for the first three months, the right environment is one that allows the child to have freedom, move and build his neck and core strength. The best place for both of these requirements is … wait for it… the floor! yep! that easy. if you have a clean carpet, then put the child down. If not, put a quilt or a blanket that doesn’t move around too much and put down the child. If you provide interesting things to interact with like a mirror , the mobiles we have discussed and the ones we will discuss in this post and future ones, then your child should be able to enjoy some independent play time and meet the milestones at the right time for him. Avoid as much as possible contraptions like bouncers, pods, walkers etc. that restrict the child’s movements and force him to use muscles that may not be properly developed yet. Please also make sure the environment is safe and that you are close by and have an eye on the child.

I have to add yet another caveat that he also has to be healthy and well fed. Ok enough with the caveats.

The category I will talk about today is GROSS MOTOR MOVEMENT: This is the movement of the body from the head to the toe. It usually starts with movement of the head and neck and progresses downward through slithering, crawling, sitting and standing till the child is walking and then running.

During this time frame (4 – 7 months), the gross motor movements milestones that can be attained by the child are slithering (sliding with chest and tummy), turning over (from belly to back and back to belly), sitting and some may even start to crawl.

To encourage and support these developments:

provide opportunities for tummy time as early as possible. If it seems like your child does not like tummy time, make it more interesting! Do it in front of a mirror. I think mirrors are awesome in the child’s movement or play area and it is recommended in every Montessori environment. Children love looking at themselves. The mirror allows them to see what they are doing and what the results are. You can also add interest by doing tummy time in front of a mobile. This allows them look at the mobile from a different perspective. Tummy time allows the child build the core strength needed for most gross motor movements.

Tummy time in front of a mirror
Tummy time in front of a mirror

provide floor time. Spending time on the floor (whether on his back or on his tummy) allows the child to develop and strengthen the muscles needed for these movements. It also gives him complete freedom and control of his body and also allows for involuntary movements. The hands and legs can move as much as they want because they are not restricted. If you are carrying the child all the time or if they are always restricted in one of the well-meaning contraptions available these days (bouncer, exersaucers, walkers etc.), they do not get the opportunity to master control of different movements. Some children even skip stages like crawling which while it may seem “so cool” now… “he didn’t even crawl, he just started walking!”… may have other effects down the line.

Being on the floor allows the child to control his/her body and move as needed
Being on the floor allows the child to control his/her body and move as needed

opportunities to observe feet. Around 4 months, children get very interested in their feet and even try bringing it to their mouths. This is normal and should be encouraged. It can be encouraged by floor time as mentioned above and also by leaving the feet bare. If the child absolutely has to wear socks, you can sew a bell, big button, ribbon, bead or any other interesting item (that is not a choking hazard to the toe of the socks. This provides interest and can entertain the child for extended periods

leg Collage

provide interesting things in the environment for the child to reach for. If you hand the child everything, there is no motivation to move. You can encourage movement by putting a toy or something that attracts the child a little distance away from the child. Do this even before you notice the child moving. When the child starts moving, provide interesting balls or rattles that roll but not too fast or too far. The kicking ball which I will discuss shortly is great for this purpose. You can remove the bell and the child can crawl after it (see pictures). Apart from encouraging the child to move, this also provides the child with the satisfaction or sense of achievement that comes with achieving a goal and subconsciously teaches them that they are capable of doing things for themselves. They reach and reach and reach and then they grasp!

Something to reach for! Mum or dad can also be the "thing" they are aiming for.
Something to reach for! Mum or dad can also be the “thing” they are aiming for.
Some interesting balls and rattles.I talked about this in the last post but quick recap: simple, bright, cloth/wood/plastic/aluminium/rubber/natural materials, interesting design but not  too much, different textures and fillings. Make sure it is safe to put in the mouth because it will eventually make its way there :)
Some interesting balls and rattles.
I talked about this in the last post but quick recap: simple, bright, cloth/wood/plastic/aluminium/rubber/natural materials, interesting design but not too much, different textures and fillings. Make sure it is safe to put in the mouth because it will eventually make its way there 🙂

provide proper clothing. The child uses knees and toes for traction when slithering or crawling. The wrong clothing can prevent the child from developing the proper movement. At these stage, the child has usually adapted to the temperature and so should be clothed for movement. Shorts, onesies or other clothes that keep the knees exposed are best. Barefoot is also best at this stage.

see how she is catching her knees in shirt? Everytime she tried to crawl she would get stuck because of her long shirt. We ended up tying her shirts to allow for easy movement. Avoid long tops. dresses and skirts at this stage or at least when the child is on the floor and on the move.
see how she is catching her knees in shirt? Every time she tried to crawl she got stuck because of her long shirt. We ended up tying her shirts to allow for easy movement. Avoid long tops, dresses and skirts at this stage or at least when the child is on the floor and on the move.

Once the child starts sitting, you can start providing opportunities for explorations while sitting. Treasure or discovery baskets can provide extended periods of concentration and entertainment. They are simply baskets with 3-6 items for the child to explore. I would limit it to a maximum of 6 items. You can make category themed baskets or color themed baskets.

Examples of category themed baskets:

Fabric Basket (different fabrics with different textures e.g cotton, linen, felt, satin, wool, tulle etc. Ideally, they would be of the same color with the only difference being the texture)

Kitchen items (Wooden spoon, metal spoon, cup, whisk etc.)

Bathroom items (hair brush, toothbrush, comb, wash cloth etc.)

Ball basket (Balls of different shapes, sizes and textures)

Color themed baskets would contain different items of the same color. My friend got the idea to use the balls from the gobbi mobile in one of her baskets and I thought it was brilliant!

exploring fabric swatches and color gradation (using the gobbi balls)
exploring fabric swatches and color gradation (using the gobbi balls)

You can also hang the mobile for a sitting child. While the child has more control of the hands, they may still not be coordinated. Also remember that it was a different perspective when they were lying down and trying to catch the mobile. Now they are sitting and instead of reaching up, they are reaching forward to grasp the mobile. This requires different skills. Trying to catch the ball provides opportunities for hand/eye coordination and better control of movement. See the video below for sitting interactions with the kicking ball. *Note how I interrupted her with my excitement when she caught the ball. Please please please take it as a lesson on WHAT NOT TO DO. When the child is concentrating, try not to interrupt even if it is to say “you did it!” Celebrate in your mind.

Finally, read to the child while he is sitting and start showing him how to handle books. The child in the pictures below is 6 months+. Can you tell someone has been reading to him?! We’ll discuss reading in more detail in the language post.

It's ok to explore with your mouth too!
It’s ok to explore with your mouth while reading. How does this story taste?

These ideas probably seem like common sense to you and they are! Unfortunately however, for whatever reason, we find it hard to just put the baby down. It is especially worse these days with a lot of nannies caring for babies. Please talk to your nanny about these ideas and make sure they are giving your child a chance to develop properly.

As you know, I love to hear from you. What are your thoughts, comments, contributions or questions? Leave a comment.

Live a GoodLife!

Nduoma

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5 thoughts on “Supporting the development of gross motor movement in months 4-7

  1. Really good post again. My baby doesn’t like tummy or floor time, but just realised what we are doing wrong. I put a small mirror in front of her today and she was so much happier, so thank you.

    Now we need to buy the proper rattles and balls as she is approaching 4 months.

    Please can you explain a little bit more about the “involuntary movement” I’m not sure if I completely understand it.

    1. Hello Dike,

      Sorry it has taken me so long to respond to your comment. I’m so glad to hear you tried the mirror and noticed a difference! Very encouraging.

      To answer your question, when children are given freedom to move, in this case by putting them on the floor, they move. They waye their hands and kick their legs not because they want to but an inner drive just causes the movement and so it is involuntary. Eventually, they figure out they can control these movement and then you see them working to make it voluntary. I gave an example of a boy I observed today in the sucking vs. pacifier post. He was happily kicking away (involuntarily) until he realized the bell was ringing as a result of his movement and you could see him really concentrating on kicking the ball. The movement them became voluntary. I hope this helps. It will make even more sense when you observe it. I encourage you to pace your baby under something she can kick and just watch. Let me know how it goes!

      Thanks as always for your comment!

    1. Hello Cima Brawn. Thanks for letting me know about the video. I think I fixed it. Let me know if it works now.

      Live a GoodLife!

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