Motor Milestones: Birth-6 Months

motor milestones baby

Dinosaur PT is back from hiatus and we are proud to introduce the newest DinoPT mascot, our son, Abe!

motor milestones

With the wisdom of a Stegosaurus and the speedy reflexes of a Velociraptor, Abe has me thinking more and more about developmental milestones for our little ones. I have broken down development into month by month blocks, with tips and strategies to promote attainment of these important foundational skills!

Month #1:

During the first month of life, children demonstrate physiological flexion and are governed mostly by reflexes (ATNR, Rooting, and Moro to name a few!). 

motor milestones

Favoring positions and deep pressure which replicate their time in the womb. 

motor milestones

As the first month progresses, we notice the child extended a bit more, moving extremities in a random manner, and beginning to move head and eyes localizing to sound.  

Child will also begin to:

  • Lift head momentarily when placed on tummy, and turn head from cheek to cheek
  • Lift head (bobbing motion) when held upright with support from caregiver
  • Kick legs out when lying on back
  • Look at faces and objects
  • Move arms together in more symmetrical fashion

Month #2:

Child begins to develop more control of head and neck, tracking objects with eyes and developing those all important self-soothing strategies (like bringing hands to mouth for comfort).  

Child will also begin to:

  • Turn from sidelying to back, initiating movement by turning head
  • Bring hand to mouth when on back and when lying on side
  • Lift head and turn from side to side when on tummy
  • Visually track toy
  • Look from one object to another
  • Respond to social engagement with smiling

Month #3:

More symmetrical movements noted this month, with child beginning to hold head in midline when lying on back (supine), lifting head when placed on tummy with forearms pushing off surface (prone prop), bringing hands together in midline and demonstrating less fisting of hands to allow for early stages of intentional grasp.  

Note child’s ability to:

  • Hold head in midline when supine
  • Lift head and upper body while in prone prop position
  • Glance at toy that is placed in hand when supine     
  • Bring hands together (midline) when supine
  • Look down in supine by tucking chin down
  • Maintain hands held open (50% of time or more)
  • Attempt to reach for objects  
  • Continue to bring hands and objects to mouth
  • Follow or track moving objects with eyes in supported sit
  • Vocalize in response to adult engagement

Activities (0-3 months):                                  

motor milestones
Engage visual system to promote tracking and reaching for objects. Facilitate reaching with hands and legs to promote and build awareness of extremities.
motor milestones baby links
Colorful links are a great tool for this activity!
motor milestones
Promote range of motion of individual joints (i.e. can gently flex baby’s legs in a bicycle movement while in supine)
motor milestones tummy time
Tummy time! Placing auditory or visual stimuli to encourage lifting head off mat when in prone position. Can use tummy time pillow to encourage more propping on hands.
motor milestones
A floor mirror is a must have to motivate child during tummy time!

Month #4:

Note ability of child to:

  • Roll from back to side
  • Hold head steady and erect when child held in supported position
  • Play while on side
  • Reach and grasp with both hands
  • Clasp hands together
  • Maintain hands open, less fisting

Month #5:

Child begins to:

  • Bring feet to hands and hold for short intervals when on back
  • Roll from belly to back
  • Extend both arms fully when placed on tummy, to push up through hands
  • Transfer objects from hand to hand
  • Hold two objects at a time (one in each hand)
  • Pick up objects using “raking” motion with fingers
  • Hold bottle independently

Month #6:

Child begins to:

  • Roll from prone to supine, and supine to prone purposefully
  • Sit alone for 5-10 seconds while placing hands forward for support
  • Push entire chest off surface with arms extended and open hands during tummy time
  • Reach with one hand for toy while supporting body with extended arm during tummy time
  • Bring feet to mouth in supine
  • Reach with one hand at a time
  • Follow objects with eyes without head movement
  • Hold small objects between index/middle fingers and palm
  • Bring bottle to mouth with hands

Activities (3-6 months):

motor milestones
Practicing quadruped position, from prone position help child flex knees underneath to maintain weight bearing on all four extremities. Weight shifting/reaching activities in quadruped helps prepare for crawling.

baby milestones

Love using the O-ball for this activity!

motor milestones
Sitting balance, supporting child in sitting shifting weight reaching for objects
motor milestones
The star stacker is great toy to manipulate in sitting!
motor milestones
Maintain tall kneel at support surface and engage with objects (bimanually) in field of vision.  The cube chair is a perfect surface for tall kneel!

All children develop at their own pace, so use this only as a loose guideline of what to expect. If you have any concerns reach out to your Pediatrician or Pediatric Physical Therapist to determine if your child requires intervention. These initial motor skills are the foundation for each child’s motor learning and development. Enjoy each of these milestones, have fun, and engage with your child and you will be amazed as they develop and hone new skills each day!

For more ideas to encourage Tummy Time, check out our Tummy Time Tips and Tricks post here!

tummy time tips

For more ideas to encourage Independent Sitting, check out our Sitting Tips and Tricks post here!

Teaching child to sit

For more Motor Milestone information visit our post on Motor Milestones: Part Two!

motor milestones

For great Developmental Toy Recommendations for Infants visit our post here!

best baby toys

Learn more about Dinosaur Physical Therapy!

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