Physical development (first 15 months)

Birth to Childhood 

For the first 8 weeks of life the baby’s senses develop and coordinate around their mother. During this period we need to be rocked, rubbed, talked to and reassured until we have gathered our senses in a new and unfamiliar environment. Compared with other mammals all human babies are born premature. The beginning of independence, standing and walking that takes us some 15 months, other mammals achieve some in minutes, others in hours, days or latest in weeks.

Early Childhood – Phase 1

Cagetory: Birth To Childhood

Written By: Peter Walker

Young children develop rapidly, but they still need the same protective care and unconditional affection as the babe-in-arms.

Young bodies are supple and full of life, and children express vitality with their entire selves, exploring abilities with great courage and adventure. But if not encouraged to test their full range of movements when young, they may never reach their full natural physical potential.

One precious gift from parent to child is physical games, especially those involving imagination. All children love stories and love to join in, responding willingly to fun and exercise through imaginative play. (see Soft Post Natal Mother and Baby Yoga and Boy Yogi stories)

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT ¬ 3 weeks – 1 year

Phase One: From a Few Weeks to Three Months

A new born baby has just spent a number of weeks in a tight foetal position in a confined liquid environment. When born she then has to deal with an unconfined, airy environment and the full force of gravity. To begin with, a baby’s arms and legs are bent and held close to her and she possesses very little resistance to gravity. Her first steps in dealing with her new situation are to unfold her body gradually and gain control of her head. By the end of three months while lying on her back, a child can fully extend her arms and legs; on her front, she can hold her chin and shoulders off the floor bearing her weight on her forearms with hips and legs extended: when held in a sitting position she holds her head and back straight, except for the lower back; and when held standing she holds her head and begins to bear weight on bent legs.

Ease and confidence when handling your baby is established by first getting to know your child’s structure, feeling his muscles and bones and the way in which he can be held and moved supportively and comfortably.

Remember when holding and positioning your child that his head and spine need to be supported and you must be relaxed and at ease.

A secure way of holding your child is to use the palm and extended fingers of one hand to support the back of your baby’s head, while the palm and fingers of your other hand are spread around her or his hips and along his spine.

Lying on her or his back

A newborn lies on her back with her arms and legs bent and held close to her trunk, her head turned to one side, with hips slightly opened and knees slightly parted. Involuntary extension and stretching begins in a baby’s newborn period. Lying awake a baby is constantly moving her hands, arms and legs, at time extending and stretching. At other times she makes identical spontaneous arm and leg movements from both sides of her body. This sometimes included holding out her arms and turning her hands. If she is disturbed by sudden sounds she will arch her back and extend her arms and fingers before bringing them back across her chest.

After one month, a baby lies comfortably on his back with his head to one side and his arms bent, his knees apart and feet turned inwards. His movements are jerky and his arms are more active than his legs.

After two months, when lying on her back her arm and leg movements become more active and less jerky.

Lying on her or his Front

When a newborn is placed on his front he lies with his head turned to one side and his pelvis raised with his knees drawn up under his belly. (see Developmental Baby Massage –

prepare your baby for ‘tummy time’ )

By the age of one month, in the same position, she momentarily lifts her chin from the floor. Her knees are now not drawn up beneath her as much as before and she kicks her legs, instinctively extending and stretching them.

By two months your child no longer kneels for his legs are partly extended or straightened.At thee months, lying on her front, she holds her head and shoulders off the floor for a long time, bearing her weight in her forearms with hips and legs fully extended and stretched.

Phase Two: 

PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT ¬ 3 weeks – 1 year

Phase Two: From Four Months to Twelve Months

In these eight months a child develops many motor skills. By the end of the sixth month he gains full head control. At nine months the sitting position is completed as crawling and standing begins. By the end of another two months a child can crawl and lean over and twist while sitting. At the same time he begins to stand and walk with support.

Lying on her or his back

At five months, a child, lying on her back, turns her head towards a noise and looks for faces. You are no longer dealing with a passive body but with a child who has her own definite reactions and all round movements.

At sixth months, lying on his back, a baby can raise his head forward. He lifts his legs to grasp his feet and can hold his arms out to be lifted, and when grasped braces his shoulders and pulls himself up. He kicks strongly with alternate legs, stretching and straightening his knees and hips in preparation for standing and walking.

By seven months, lying on her back, a child spontaneously lifts her head off the floor and can roll from her back to her front.

Lying on his Front

At four months, when lying on his front a child often arches his back so that his weight rests on his belly and lower chest, his head and chest, arms and legs lifted off the floor.

At sixth months, a child bears her weight on her hands with extended arms, her chest and upper belly off the floor. At this age a child may roll from lying on her front to lying on her back. A month or so later she can also do the reverse rolling from back to front. She may also assume the frog position with its knees bent and apart and her feet turned out.

A child at seven months can bear his weight on one hand while he looks around for a toy. At nine months, a child can turn his body sideways and progress across the floor by squirming and rolling with attempts to crawl. He makes increasing efforts to crawl but often moves backwards in the process. At this age he reaches out.

At ten months, a child is able to move forwards pulling itself by her hands. She lies on its belly and her legs trailing behind. Her legs begin to help and at eleven months a child crawls on all fours rapidly and skilfully. Some children walk on their hands and feet like bears. Though most children crawl on all fours before they walk yet not all go through this phase.

Pulling a Child up From Lying on its Back to a Sitting Position

and Supporting it in a Sitting Position

When a four month old child is gently and slowly pulled up by his arms to a sitting position there is only slight head lag initially, and when supported in a sitting position he holds his head up for prolonged periods and looks around actively. The curvature if his spine in this position is seen as only slight in the lower back.

By five months, head control is almost complete. There is no head lag when pulled up to a sitting position.

At six months, a child lifts up her head from a lying position as she is about to be pulled up and holds her arms out to be held up. A child of this age likes to be propped up in her pram and can sit for a few minutes supported in her high chair, She can hold her trunk and head erect.


By seven months, a child spontaneously lifts his head off the floor to be pulled up to a sitting position and can sit with his hands forwards for support. (Teach your child to use gravity when learning to sit see Developmental Baby Massage)

At eight months she can sit for a few seconds without support but it is not until nine months that she can sit for ten minutes unsupported. At this age a child overbalances at times by falling backwards or sideways when trying to reach for an object at her side.

At ten months, a child can site upright and turn his body without support. He can pull himself up from a lying to a sitting position. He can go forwards from sitting to lying on his front and back to sitting. A little later he can lean over sideways and recover his balance and by twelve months can twist around to pick up objects without overbalancing. By this age a child can raise himself up unaided from a lying to a sitting position

Held supported Standing

At five months, a child held in a standing position bears some weight on her bent legs.

(Teach your child to use gravity when learning to stand see Developmental Baby Massage)

After six months, he bears a large part of his weight, but given his full weight his knees and hips still sag.

Held lightly, a child of this age bounces up and down actively.


At seven months, a child can maintain extension of her hips and knees for short periods when supported and bounces with pleasure, whereas before this she sagged at the hips and knees.

At eight months she readliy bears most of her weight on her legs when she is supported.

After nine months he can stand holding onto furniture but has to be helped into this position as he is not strong enough to raise his body from a sitting to a standing position. However, he can pull himself into a standing position and hold it for a few minutes but cannot lower himself.

Held standing he steps purposefully on alternate feet.

A child of ten months can pull herself up from a sitting to a standing position. At first her feet get into the wrong position and she slips or falls in her efforts. She lets herself down from standing by falling down with a bump.

At eleven months while standing and holding onto furniture she lifts and replaces one foots and in this position she finds some difficultly in picking up objects from the floor.

By twelve months, a child can pull himself up into a standing position and lower himself, holding onto reliable objects like furniture, down onto his bottom. Supporting himself standing he can step sideways and walk with assistance, first with two hands held and then with one hand held and may stand and walk alone.

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