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Physical Development in Infants & Toddlers

by Lisa Walker, studioD

Your baby has a lot of developing to do in the first years of his life and you will be constantly amazed at how much he changes and learns during this time. He will work hard on his physical development from the day he is born and you will be extra proud when he reaches certain milestones along the journey.

Building up Muscles

Your baby may only be able to lie in the position you have placed her during the first weeks of her life, but somehow she knows that she has to exercise as much as she can to get those muscles ready for greater things. She will start trying to lift that heavy head to build up her neck muscles and her legs will be moving all the time -- preparing for the day when they will hold her up. If you lie her on her front, you will notice her start to lift her head and chest off the ground, exercising her back and tummy for the day she sits up on her own.

First Movements

Before they learn to walk, most babies will find another method of moving around. Many start by rolling from front to back and back to front -- this may become a favorite game as you try to change his diaper. This movement can happen between three and six months, although all infants are different. Crawling on all fours is an image associated with babies and this milestone typically takes place around the age of 6 to 9 months; however, many babies never crawl. Other inventive methods your infant may choose before the walking stage include shuffling on his bottom or moving along on his tummy like a caterpillar.

Learning to Walk

That magical moment when your infant takes his first steps and becomes a toddler is an exciting moment and milestone. It is often less significant as it sounds because rather than just getting up and walking one day, your infant will most likely move towards this goal one tiny stage at a time. He will start by taking his own weight as you hold his hands, then supporting himself with furniture, standing for a few seconds unaided, walking or "cruising" by holding onto furniture and finally taking one tiny step every now and again (probably never when there is an audience!). It is often a while after this first step before you can actually say he is walking and then when he does -- well, watch out!

Fine Motor Skills

Your infant's or toddler's fine motor skills refer to her ability to control the small muscles in her hands and fingers. As a baby, she will practice these by playing with her own hands and working out how she can move them herself. This will then develop into an ability to grasp small toys, hold onto them and shake them. She will also learn to press buttons on toys to start music or make lights flash. Toddlers can fine-tune these skills with activities such as modeling play dough, using a crayon or building bricks.

About the Author

Lisa Walker began her journalism career in local newspapers. She later joined Teletext to work on its website and analogue and digital TV services. Walker spent time as a qualified childminder whilst raising her own two children and now enjoys a career writing and editing for various websites, including parent website Surreymummy.com.

Photo Credits

  • Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images