My goal with these checklists is to create a resource for parents, a resource that provides both the age-appropriate milestones AND purposeful play ideas on how to help your little one stay on track. There is so much information out there, sometimes information overload, and having this in one place I hope it makes your parenthood journey a little easier.
If you are reading this you probably have a baby on the move or one who is about to move! Be sure you have baby proofed the house in a way you feel it is safe enough for your little to move throughout the house. For us it was baby gates, outlet plug/covers, and securing certain cabinets. Babies can be fast, especially heading somewhere they are not supposed to be!
A lot is happening from 10-12 months! You will likely see your little one crawling on hands on knees, picking up more speed and confidence each day. Mobility and the ability to get from one place to the next is HUGE for cognitive development, so crawl crawl crawl! Not to mention the added musculoskeletal benefits of crawling on hands and knees: strength and stabilization to arms, hands, and shoulders, strength and stability at the core/trunk to allow the arms and legs to move, and the reciprocal movements and coordination gained – it is golden!
Pro Tip: if your child has seemingly skipped crawling, I highly recommend making crawling a game, play with purpose! Crawl through tunnels, over couch cushions or pillows as in an obstacle course to help your child still experience the total body benefits of crawling.
Playing with purpose during this age is truly about toy placement; placing the toy just out of reach to encourage independent mobility is key! I’ll break it down with a few essential activities for 10-12 months below:
- When crawling, place a toy or yourself a few feet away. There is a sweet spot, too close will not encourage crawling and if it is too far your child will likely lose interest and head to the nearest toy! Climbing through tunnels and/or over obstacles aids in the development of problem solving and motor planning necessary to navigate their environment. Place the desired toy inside the tunnel or on the other side of a pile of pillows and watch your little one move! Crawling and climbing on compliant surfaces, like pillows, provides fun yet purposeful sensory experiences and allows for increased strength and endurance. You can even practice crawling up stairs if you have them, with close supervision of course. Start small with 2-4 steps AND if you show your child how to climb up stairs, PLEASE show them how to get down. The best way to get downstairs is crawling backward, or feet first. You got this!
- Pulling to stand – yay! This is such a fun time! Encourage your little one to crawl toward the couch, chair, or table. Then place a toy on top of the couch, chair, or table and watch them transition from being on their hands and knees to kneeling. If your little one easily grabs the toy off the couch and returns to sitting, try using a larger toy or suction toys on a solid surface. They won’t be able to pull it down and will have to pull to stand to continue playing. Typically, kids will pull to stand with both arms and legs initially and as they build up the strength you will see the transition into pulling to stand with one leg leading. If your kiddo is at this point, be sure to encourage them to alternate legs – think of these as lunges, you want to do lunges on BOTH legs! During this phase of motor milestones I also like to encourage squatting. Have your little stand at a surface and “Uh oh” drop a toy on the floor by their feet and repeat on both sides! Squats prepare those feet/ankles, legs, and hips for standing and walking!
- Cruising is THE pre-walking skill everyone wants to see. Cruising is walking along a surface using both hands. It’s the cutest thing and there are so many ways to cruise while purposefully preparing your child to stand and walk independently. Again, once your kiddo is pulling to stand place that toy JUST out of reach. Initially, your little one will learn how to shift weight over one foot so they have the ability to lift the other to take a step. Once this is mastered, move that toy even further and watch the magic happen. You can even add obstacles such as pillows or even your leg while encouraging your little one to step over or up onto the surface for motor planning and added strengthening. As your kiddo progresses and gets more confident with cruising at a couch or table, encourage cruising at vertical surfaces – think kitchen cabinets and walls. Cruising at vertical surfaces requires a more upright posture and more overall balance, thus preparing your little for independent steps. This is also the time to encourage transitioning from one surface to another, essentially the couch to coffee table. Transitioning from one surface to another requires your child to release support to move, once they master transitioning from surfaces that are close, you guessed it – move then further away and see what happens! If your kiddo lowers to sit to get to the other surface, it's too far. Bring it close enough to keep your little in standing, but not too far that they lower themselves to the floor. Remember, it is all about toy placement, a toy just out of reach can encourage BIG skills!
- Your kiddo just stood for the first time by themselves – eek! How exciting! Standing independently in the middle of a room is a precursor to walking. A child MUST be able to stand independently before they are able to safely take steps and control their movements. How can you improve your child’s standing balance? Have them stand on a couch cushion while singing a song or clapping, have them stand in the middle of the room while blowing bubbles, or encourage them to stand while reading a book to them. I also like to encourage reaching overhead and to the floor in standing, you can use bubbles, toys, puzzle pieces, Tupperware, pots and pans, you name it! Reaching while standing encourages your child to navigate moving their center of mass while maintaining standing – a necessary skill when walking! If your little one is interested in playing catch, standing in the middle of the room trying to catch, throw, and pick up a ball from the floor targets all the skills required for good standing balance. Give it a try!
- Is your little one showing interest in walking? I am so excited for you! I highly recommend utilizing a sturdy push toy during this phase. A push toy will encourage a kiddo to support themselves AND develop balance/coordination necessary to navigate their environment independently. If you walk with your child holding their hands, be sure to keep their hands BELOW their chest. This ensures they are once again supporting their own weight and learning proper body mechanics required to walk without support. Another pro tip: have your kiddo hold onto the hand of stuffed animal and you hold the other hand. This again allows your child to ground themselves and support their own weight and develop confidence without physical touch from another person.
This phase is an exciting one and it should be fun! However, remember development is a continuum and all kids move at their own pace. Not all follow the developmental progression and that is OK! So, hang in there! During this time, if you notice a side preference (crawling asymmetrically, only pulling to stand on one leg, only cruising in one direction), reach out to your local pediatric physical therapist for some extra tips or feel free to send us a message! A side preference before 12 months may indicate tightness and may lead to difficulties with balance, coordination, posture, and strength required for those larger gross motor skills.
If you have questions or concerns about your little one's development don’t hesitate to reach out. As a mom and a pediatric physical therapist, I am here to help! It is my goal to set kiddos and parents up for gross motor success and you can book a free discovery phone call! Stay tuned as I publish more blog posts with checklists from birth - 5 years of age!
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