6–12 Months

Parents (USA) - - Contents - by RE­BECCA FELSENTHAL STE­WART

Help de­velop your baby’s mo­tor skills.

Pedal her legs.

Lay your baby on her back, hold her an­kles, gen­tly bend her knees into her stom­ach, and then stretch them out. Make it more fun by say­ing “in” and “out,” singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” and kiss­ing her feet.

Prac­tice grab­bing.

With your baby on his back, dan­gle a toy above him to see if he can grasp it. Move it higher, lower, and to the sides. You can also try toys of vary­ing shapes so he will learn to form his hand into the best po­si­tion for grab­bing. Play­ing with blocks helps de­velop fine mo­tor skills as well as lan­guage skills be­cause you’ll nat­u­rally talk to him as you stack to­gether.

Play ball.

Sit your baby on an ex­er­cise ball and hold her se­curely by the hips. Tilt the ball slowly in dif­fer­ent direc­tions so she can learn to shift her weight, which will strengthen her core and im­prove her bal­ance. As she gets stronger, you can move her at a slightly faster speed.

En­cour­age stretch­ing.

Help him into a sit­ting po­si­tion, and put a toy on the floor close enough for him to reach for­ward and pick it up. Then move it around so he’ll shift and reach to each side to get it. Try­ing this with dif­fer­ent types of toys lets him prac­tice hold­ing mul­ti­ple shapes and weights. Be sure the toys are safe: If they fit through a toi­let-pa­per roll, they’re too small and could be a chok­ing haz­ard.

Cre­ate ob­sta­cles.

When your baby starts crawl­ing, block her path with a pil­low and en­cour­age her to crawl over it. You might need to en­tice her by hold­ing a toy on the other side of the pil­low. Mov­ing on her hands and knees in dif­fer­ent direc­tions will help strengthen her hip, trunk, arm, and shoul­der mus­cles.

Source: Anne Zachry, PH.D., O.T.R., chair of the oc­cu­pa­tional-ther­apy depart­ment at The Univer­sity of Ten­nessee Health Sci­ence Cen­ter, in Mem­phis, and au­thor of Retro Baby.

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