Baby’s Motor Development: From Rolling Over to First Steps

Bringing home a new baby can be an exciting, overwhelming, and nerve-wracking experience for a new parent. Often it feels as though this tiny little creature demands so much time and energy—as if all your little baby is capable of is eating, sleeping, and crying. But that’s not really the case. Your new baby is so busy growing, and what’s going on in that tiny little body is fascinating.

Baby Reflexes at Birth

Every infant is born with certain reflexes that help prepare for the extraordinary physical development that takes place over the first year of life. Even though a baby may be hours or just days old, these reflexes are already present and demonstrate that Baby is prepared to grow and develop gross motor skills.

Rooting ReflexIf you stroke a newborn’s cheek, she will turn to the side of the stroke, opening her mouth ready to suck. This is the baby’s way of saying “I’m ready to eat.”
Babkin ReflexIf you put pressure in a newborn’s palm, he will bring his fist to his mouth and possibly try to put a finger inside. This reflex will eventually help the baby suck on his fingers.
Crawling ReflexIf you place a newborn on his tummy, he will flex his legs underneath him and possibly even pick up his head. This reflex prepares him for crawling.
Babinski ReflexIf you hold a newborn’s foot and stroke it from heel to toe, she will spread out her toes and turn her foot inward. This is a normal healthy response to this type of touch.
Walking or Stepping ReflexIf you hold a newborn upright on a flat surface, such as a table or a bed, she will lift one foot, then the other as though trying to walk. This reflex shows that the baby is already “wired” to take real steps, a year or so down the road.

Baby’s first year is filled with many developmental milestones, and parents often ask when to expect each one to occur. It’s important to remember that every baby is different and many factors affect development.

Rolling Over

Usually the first milestone parents anticipate is their baby rolling over. The time frame depends on the child’s weight and sometimes his temperament or disposition. A calm baby on the heavier side may roll over later, while an active, smaller child may roll over sooner. Babies can roll over anywhere between two and six months. Because babies can roll over at such a young age, it’s important to never leave them alone on high surfaces.


During their first six months, babies learn to grab onto things. If you have used a mobile or a toy bar, you may have noticed that baby isn’t all that interested in it until he is around three months old. It is only at this point that he will begin to swat or reach towards objects. Your baby will usually practice this for several months before he is able to deliberately grab at something.


A baby can usually sit while supported by four months, and by six months she may be able to sit for a short time without any support. You can encourage this by holding on to your child’s hands and seeing if she attempts to pull up to a sit. Many babies have this mastered by seven months, however it could happen later for larger babies. While your baby is practicing sitting up, keep soft pillows around her, and don’t leave her alone. She could suffocate if she falls face first into the pillows.


Crawling is another important motor skill that typically develops between six and ten months of age. It is a complex milestone that requires the coordination of several muscle groups. Some babies may skip crawling altogether and move directly to pulling themselves up and walking. To encourage crawling, place toys just out of your baby’s reach and provide plenty of tummy time. Remember that each baby develops at their own pace, and there is no need to worry if your child takes a little longer to start crawling.

Pulling Up and Cruising

Between nine and twelve months, babies often start to pull themselves up to stand using furniture or your hands for support. This is called cruising. Cruising is an essential step in learning how to walk, as it helps develop the strength and balance necessary for independent walking. You can encourage cruising by placing interesting objects on furniture that is at an appropriate height for your baby. Additionally, making sure your home is baby-proofed and free of hazards will create a safe environment for your baby to explore and practice their newfound mobility.

First Steps

The moment every parent eagerly awaits – the first steps! Babies typically take their first steps between nine and sixteen months. Some may take a little longer, which is perfectly normal. It’s important to remember that every baby is different, and their walking timeline will vary. To help your baby with this exciting milestone, provide a stable and safe environment for them to practice. Hold their hands and let them take a few steps with your support, or use a push toy to help them gain confidence.

Walking Independently

Once babies have taken their first steps, they will gradually gain the strength and balance needed to walk independently. This usually occurs between twelve and eighteen months. As your baby becomes a confident walker, you can introduce more challenging activities, such as walking on different surfaces or climbing stairs with your assistance. Always supervise your child during these activities to ensure their safety.

In conclusion, it’s important to remember that each baby develops at their own pace, and there is a wide range of normal when it comes to motor development milestones. As a parent, you can support your child’s growth by providing a safe and stimulating environment, encouraging their attempts, and celebrating their achievements. If you have concerns about your child’s development, consult with your pediatrician, who can provide guidance and reassurance.

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