Sara Connolly, MD, FAAP, is a Board Certified Pediatrician who practices in Palm Beach County, Florida.
With a 6 month old, you may find yourself stopping to simply watch them grow. Time has already flown by! Bundoo Pediatrician Dr. Sara Connolly describes that while it’s too early to start officially crawling, you can still encourage your baby’s physical development in big ways.
Bundoo: Although crawling typically occurs a little bit later than 23 weeks of age, what kinds of locomotion do you expect to see babies doing at this stage?
Dr. Sara Connolly: Babies at this age are really starting to get the hang of spending time on their stomachs. They are able to raise themselves onto their arms in preparation for sitting and crawling. Often, they can raise both their upper bodies (head, neck, and arms) and kick their legs — sort of like they are swimming on land. For some, this motion may even propel them backward! They are also reaching for toys that are just out of reach, prompting rolling over from one side to another in order to attain an object. Most can roll from stomach to back and back to stomach purposefully.
Is there anything parents can do at this stage to help their babies get closer to crawling and eventually walking? Does it really help to stand babies up and hold them so they put their weight on their legs?
The best way to encourage your baby’s natural motor development is to give them a wide, safe space to play and explore. A large area rug with developmentally appropriate toys is a great place to let them practice their skills. There is no need to force them into any specific position (like sitting or crawling). Left alone with enough time and space, babies will find their own way. Allow them to reach for items and to explore their hands and feet as they find their way into their mouths. Watch, but try not to interfere too much; allow them to experience small struggles so they can learn.
You’re a big proponent of parents reading to their babies, even from a young age. What else do you recommend parents do to help cognitive development?
Have I mentioned reading? Just kidding. Talk! Simply chatting with your baby is a great way for him or her to learn social cues, hear words, and practice sounds. Babies love to chat, and they love to hear your voice, so feel free to read your grocery list out loud. Music is another way to stimulate cognitive development. Babies love music and things that are familiar, so playing the same music frequently or singing the same songs are great ways to both stimulate the brain and make them happy. Turn off the TV. While hearing words is good for the brain, watching TV has been found to increase attention problems in older children. Parents often remark that their infants “like” the TV. So do adults, but that doesn’t make it good for us. Beware of infant “educational” programs that claim to increase IQ points with videos for babies. Skip them. Finally, let your baby have room to think. What I mean is, when you notice your infant carefully studying an object, resist the urge to inject yourself into that moment. Sit back and wait for them to seek out your eye contact before commenting on what they are experiencing.