Sensory and Motor Development

As muscles begin to strengthen during the first month, most babies are able to lift their head for a short time while lying on their stomach. Other limb movements at this time may be due to newborn reflexes, such as the startle reflex, where a baby throws out his or her arms and spreads fingers when confronted by a loud noise or surprise. These reflexes begin to fade away by six weeks.

At three months, infants now have better control of their head and begin to appear fascinated with their hands. They will also now knowingly hold onto the fingers of others as a way to gain attention. Around four months, control and balance of their head, neck and trunk will allow them to begin to roll over.

Still unsteady at four months, babies might sit with their hands out front to balance them in a tripod position. However, by six to nine months, leg and trunk coordination have improved, allowing babies to sit, crawl and sometimes even pull themselves up to stand. At seven months, your baby's eyes have developed almost to the same extent as your own.

In the few months before their first birthday, more control over their hands and fingers let babies better grab small objects with their thumbs and index fingers, rather than their palms. As they start to learn and interact with all their senses, babies have a tendency to put objects in their mouth, making baby-proofing your home extremely important.

Until they are able to walk independently, babies will use furniture and other objects to pull themselves up and “cruise” around the room. Be sure to secure any heavy objects that could topple over, such as bookcases and dressers, and move any potentially harmful objects well out of reach.


Title of work: Introduction to early childhood education; preschool through primary grades, 6th ed. (2007) Section: Extracts from Introduction to early childhood education: preschool through primary grades pp. 15--28 Author/editor of work: Brewer, Jo Ann.

Overview of Patterns in Children's Development

Physical Development

BIRTH TO THREE YEARS OLD Physical skills develop rapidly Sits and crawls Walks and begins to run Fine motor skills develop; can stack and pick up small objects Manages spoon or fork for feeding Grasps and releases objects

THREE TO FOUR YEARS OLD Physical skills increase Rides a tricycle Walks up and down stairs, alternating feet Runs Jumps with both feet Walks on balance beam Climbs on playground equipment Undresses and dresses self Catches ball with arms extended Walks backward and on tiptoe Holds crayon with fingers

FIVE TO SIX YEARS OLD Skips on alternate feet Rides two-wheel bike Skates Throws fairly accurately Catches ball with hands Turns somersaults Participates in games requiring physical skills Small muscle development increases; eye-hand coordination develops Fine muscle control increases; can use hammer pencil, scissors, etc. Copies geometric figures Cuts on lines Prints some letters Pastes and glues Begins to lose teeth Handedness is well established


SEVEN TO EIGHT YEARS OLD Physical skills become important in self-concept Energy level is high Rate of growth slows Fine muscle control is good; can form letters well Permanent teeth appear Body proportions, facial structure change More mature throwing and catching pattern Increases accuracy in throwing and kicking