We spoke to Darcy Fass, Pediatric Physical Therapist and soon-to-be first time mum, for her expert advice and tips on newborn motor development and milestones.
Darcy is passionate about working with children and helping them and their families on their developmental journey to learning new motor skills and helping facilitate their independence, exploration, and play.
She started Tips and Pediatricks to educate and empower parents and caregivers in advocating for their child so they feel safe to share their thoughts and concerns in a supportive environment. Darcy also uses her online platform to share fun and purposeful play ideas, alongside tips and tricks, to incorporate into your daily life to help promote your little one's motor development.
What are the most common questions you receive from newborn parents?
- When do I start tummy time?
- What should I do with my newborn to help with their development?
- How do I play with my newborn?
- What types of toys or products do you recommend for a newborn to help with development?
What are the common milestones for a newborn's first year?
There are so many motor milestones in your baby’s first year of life. I've listed the major ones (alongside the common age ranges they occur), however so many of the precursors to these well-known milestones are just as important.
Remember these are just the common age ranges, and some babies may be earlier or later, which is absolutely okay.
- Lifting head on tummy: 2-3 months
- Rolling: 4-6 months
- Sitting: 5-7 months
- Getting into and out of sitting: 8-10 months
- Crawling: 8-11 months
- Pulling to stand: 9-11 months
- Standing independently: 10-12 months
- Walking: 12-18 months
Do you have any advice for parents who may be unsure if their child is meeting milestones?
I would urge parents to just always go with their gut. You know your child best and if you feel something might not be typical, talk about it with your child’s health care team. If they just want you to “wait and see” and that still doesn’t sit well with you, continue to push. You are your baby’s best advocate.
Are there any exercises you'd recommend to help progress different skills?
I have tons of tips and tricks on my instagram @tips_and_pediatricks - that is just what the platform was created for! They are categorised into major milestone highlights so they are easy to find.
I am a true believer in purposeful play activities so parents can feel empowered and supported when it comes to your little one’s motor development.
Are there any types of products or toys you would recommend (or avoid) for early development?
I tend to recommend any type of toy or product that will promote motor development or that will help to create a safe place for your little one to learn to explore their environment freely. These can include, pack n’ plays, play pens, push toy walkers, seats with good ergonomic design, floor mats, toys that move around on the floor to encourage your little one to move, climbing blocks or play couches, activity tables…just to name a few.
I tend to urge people to stay away from having their little ones spend too much time in any type of container. This can include, bouncers, sitting devices, exersaucers, jumpers, walkers, etc. This is anything that restricts your little one from true, free play and movement. Of course, your little one is not doomed if they use these products, but they can impede development if your little one spends too much time in them. The key to motor development is to try to have 2x as much free floor play on a mat than container time, limit container time to 10-15 minutes at a time with no more than 1 hour per day, and to try to get your little one adequately positioned in the product so that they have the best alignment.
Two products that I NEVER recommend are walkers and jumpers. Walkers are actually banned in some countries due to safety concerns and do not in any way correlate to teaching your child how to walk. Jumpers can inhibit gross motor development, be harmful to your little one’s hips, and contribute to toe walking gait pattern. Jumping is not a developmental skill for your little one until closer to 20-24 months, so there is no need to put them in these devices to encourage it, until they are developmentally ready for it.
Like I previously said, if your little one needs a place to be while you run to the bathroom or while you are cooking or getting something else done around the house, that is totally ok! I’m not here to shame anyone. Just use these containers sparingly and create other free play opportunities throughout the day and all will be fine!
From a paediatric physical therapist's perspective, are there any essentials you'd suggest packing in your baby bag for a day out?
There are tons of essentials for a baby bag for a day out, however some of the things that I will be packing, for motor development specifically, will be:
- Blanket or portable play mat for on-the-go floor play
- Toys and suction toys (and toy links) that can be attached to stroller or window to encourage reaching up overhead (and will keep your little one entertained)
- Muslin blanket (can be used for a tummy time chest prop in a pinch)
- Wrist and/or ankle rattles to encourage active movement and play
Do you have any advice for new or soon-to-be parents?
I’m about to be a first time mum myself, so I will share some of the advice I’ve received as I await baby girl’s arrival in a few weeks. You know your baby best. Trust your gut. Even if nobody is telling you, you are doing a great job. Your baby thinks you are the most incredible human. It’s ok to cry. It’s ok to feel defeated. It’s ok to take time for you. It’s ok to ask for help. These are just a few of the affirmations that I will choose to live by these first few months as I’m navigating first time mom life!
For more information on motor development for newborns, including an online gross motor skills guide for 0-6 year olds, visit Darcy's website at www.tipsandpediatricks.com or @tips_and_pediatricks on Instagram.