Gross Motor Activities for Infants

How to Improve and Develop Your Baby's Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are a fundamental part of a baby's development. In fact, did you know a baby will begin learning gross motor skills, such as kicking, while they are still in the womb.  

Gross motor skills are the foundational skills that a child requires to build more advanced and complicated skills later in their life.  It is this reason that we encourage parents to educate themselves about gross motor skill activities for infants. By helping your baby's development you can ensure they will grow into a independent and rounded individual. 

In this article we are going to cover a step-by-step Gross Motor Activity plan for the first year of your baby's life. We will also provide detailed instructions of how to encourage your baby to learn the activities. 

However before we get into the activities, for those that are just beginning to learn about motor activities, let's take a quick recap of what exactly they are and the role they play. 

What are Gross Motor Activities?

Gross Motor Activities is a term used to describe the physical activity that babies perform.

Gross Motor Activities for Infants

It includes things like crawling, walking and rolling around in their play area. As mentioned earlier, Gross Motor Activities can be performed by your child at any age, but it’s important to remember as your baby develops and gets older, they will use these skills to learn more complicated skills.  Therefore, it is important to help your child master the fundamental skills before moving on to more advanced gross motor skills.

If you want to learn more about Gross Motor Skills for infants, check out our other article where we take a deep dive into everything you need to know about Gross Motor Skills

Best Baby care tips

How Can I Help My Child Learn More About Their GMA’s?

We recommend starting off early, so your child has plenty of opportunities to learn new skills. You should also make sure you include some fun games during playtime too. These could involve throwing balls, climbing over obstacles or even playing hide-and-seek!

If you want to know what else you can do to help develop your baby’s gross motor skills then keep reading our guide below:

Rolling

One of the first main gross motor skills your little one will learn is to roll.  Babies can begin to roll anywhere between 3 months to 9 months. Helping your baby to learn to roll is a great way to kick off your baby's gross motor skills journey.  It allows them to gain more mobility and independence. 

One of the keys to helping your baby to roll is to engage them in the right activities like playing with toys on their side, lots of tummy time for muscle building, and also teaching them about shifting their weight to help them gain some momentum for a roll. 

We actually have a comprehensive guide to lending your baby a helping hand to learn how to roll - we recommend checking it out. 

Crawling

The next step towards developing good gross motor abilities is to teach your little one how to crawl.

To start off, find an appropriate place where there isn't much clutter or other hazards. Make sure it's safe before letting your baby try out their arms and legs.

When teaching him/her to crawl, put your hands under their knees and gently position your baby into the crawling position. This allows them to build up their strength and confidence in the crawling position. 

Once they have gained this new-found confidence, you will find it is only natural for them to start experimenting with the crawling position and move their legs back and forth.  As soon as he/she starts moving independently, stop assisting them to go further. Instead, let them explore on their own. 

Here is a great video by Nekole Amber showing the process of teaching your little one how to crawl:

Walking

Gross Motor Activities for Infants

Now that your baby is starting to gain more and more gross motor skills in their tool belt, it's time to introduce them to walking. Walking is one of those major milestones parents love to celebrate, and it is for this reason we recommend keeping your camera phone close by to capture the moment.

Walking can occur anytime after your baby has mastered the previous gross motor skill activities. However, generally speaking it can occur anytime between 8 – 20 months old. 

To help and encourage your baby to walk try placing a small toy between two chairs. Your baby should naturally want to pull themselves up onto the chairs to "furniture surf" around the chairs.  However, if they are more inclined to crawl, give them a hand in the right direction and help them up to the chair and support themselves by holding onto the chair. 

It is at this point that you can begin to encourage your baby to take their first steps.  Simply draw their attention to the toy and entice them to move toward the toy with movement in their feet.  You can even try shaking the toy to gain their confidence in moving. 

Another method for encouraging walking that worked for us is using play toys that your little one can shift along the floor.  We didn't intend for it, however our second daughter learned how to walk by pushing a Fisher Price Stand Up Activity Center along the floor. 

She just started shifting it to the places she wanted to go, and the fact that it didn't have wheels meant that it moved and supported her at just the right pace.  As is the case for everything in parenting - each baby develops in their own unique and wonderful way. 

Running

The next obvious gross motor acitivity that an infant will learn is running.  This being said, don't be discouraged or worried if your bubs doesn't pick this skill up until their second year. 

There isn't much you need to do here, since it is only natural for them to want to go faster once they have mastered their walking motor skill. 

The best thing to do is really help them walk properly, so when the time comes to run they have a good technique and can handle the new pace! 

Just a heads up - there will be many falls, bumps and bruises! But that is the best way for your little one to learn. 

Final Thoughts for Gross Motor Activities for Infants

You should keep in mind that babies are born with only 5 senses: vision, hearing, smell, taste and touch. That means you can’t expect your baby to learn anything new unless you provide exposure through these five senses. You have to be patient when introducing new skills to your baby so that she/he doesn’t become overwhelmed. If you follow the above tips, I am certain your child will grow into a healthy adult who has mastered many types of physical activity.

Help Baby Roll Over

Tips to Help Baby Roll Over - Teach Your Baby to Roll Over

Did you know that rolling over is one of the first milestones for a baby? 

If your baby still isn't rolling over, you're not alone. It may seem like all your friends babies are learning how to roll over while your little bubs is no where near rolling.  It's important to have patience and take solace that your baby is doing absolutely fine.  

Rolling over can be tricky, but there are some things you can do to help your baby learn how to roll. 

One of the most common reasons why a baby doesn’t know how to roll over is because they are too young. The muscles and spine aren’t strong enough yet to lift their arm or leg. So one of the first things you can do is to assist your baby to strengthen their core and muscles. I can hear you asking "How do you get a baby to exercise?" That's where these tips can help.  

This article is designed to provide tips to the parents who want to help baby roll over.  The parents who want to give their little one a helping hand to reach that first milestone - rolling over.  

So without further delay, let's learn how to help baby learn to roll over.

When do babies roll over?

For a baby to learn how to roll over independently represents an important developmental milestone. 

Rolling over is their first step towards mobility - which is fantastic for them (maybe not so fantastic for you depending on how you want to look at it 😛 ). Rolling over also helps with the development of a baby's muscle structure in the arms, legs, back and shoulders. 

Being mobile opens up an entire new world of exploration and experimentation with you and wonderful textures/toys. 

But when should a baby learn to roll over independently? 

Babies can begin to roll from their back to their belly from around 3-4 months old, and from their belly to their side around 4-6 months old. It is best to pay special attention when your baby is first learning to roll from back to belly.  This is because when they do actually learn to roll one way, it can take a while for them to learn how to roll back.  Unfortunately, they will often get stuck on their belly. Either way they will be sure to let you know they are stuck by giving q quick cry of frustration. 

How to Help Baby Roll Over

help baby roll over

Babies learn sophisticated motor movements by interacting with their environment. It is through different cues in your baby's environment that you can encourage your baby to develop the necessary muscles and skills for rolling over.  Helping your baby to roll over is a milestone of its own, and there are many ways to encourage your baby.  Here are my favorite top tips to help baby roll over. 

Tummy time is the first step

One of the first steps you can do to help your baby develop strength and muscles for a roll over is tummy time.  Allowing your baby to spend time on their tummies helps them to build neck, arm and back muscles.  All these muscle groups are necessary to help baby roll over.  

Top Tip for new parents - your baby may find tummy time awkward and uncomfortable at first.  They will cry or let out noises of frustration in the first few sessions of tummy time.  And you will instinctively want to put them onto their back again.  But this is absolutely normal.  Tummy time is new to them, and they won't have developed the necessary strength to get themselves into a comfortable position.  Keep the first few tummy times sweet and short, and then gradually lengthen them as your baby gets used to it more.  As their muscles continue to develop and grow, you will notice them pushing and holding themselves up.  It is at this point you know they are ready to use their new-found strength for their rolling movement.  

Engage and Play with them

help baby roll over

When your baby is getting some floor time get down there and play with them.  Lie to their side and call their name.  Brush their cheek with the back of your hand.  Do anything to get their attention and engage with them.  Not only will this build the parent - baby bond.  It will encourage them to explore a new range of motor skills.  Skills needed to help them achieve an independent roll over. 

By repeatedly using toys to pique your baby's interest and encourage them to reach sideways, builds their muscles and core.     

Use Visual and Auditory Motivators

Baby toys like the baby floor gyms are a perfect learning tool to help baby roll over exercises. Especially the toy mats that have toys hanging on the arch that covers your baby.  The toys on the sides of the arch encourage your baby to reach and move in the sideways motion (the beginning of the roll over motor skill).   

Take for example, the Fisher Price Deluxe play gym above.  You can see in they have cleverly designed the gym mat to have toys dangling on the sides.  These will catch baby's attention and as they reach for them, they will develop the necessary muscles to lift their bodies over.  Fisher Price have also included a mirror on the side to spark babys curiosity - a great motivator to roll themselves over. 

The toys also usually have rattles or scrunchy noises that help to catch your baby's attention.  These are great for encouraging the reaching action. 

Let Gravity Help

Other ways to help baby roll over is to let thing happen naturally - and by naturally I mean letting gravity do the work. 

A babies brain is a sponge - it is constantly absorbing information from all around it's immediate environment.  You can use this to your advantage by lending a helping hand when your baby is showing signs of wanting to roll over.  When you see baby reaching for things to the side, fight the temptation to roll them over yourself.  Rather, follow these few steps to let their brain connect the dots of how to roll over. Simply...

  1. Gently lift the leg opposite to the direction they are reaching,
  2. Bring the leg up over their body.
  3. Then release the leg and let gravity take over.

By allowing your baby to experience this motion (with a little of your help), their brains will begin to recognize the muscle movements required to roll over.  Hopefully they will also understand that they can use gravity to help achieve a roll forwards and backwards. 

Weight shifting is key! 

Let's take a closer look at the previous gravity tip of teaching baby to roll over.  

Lifting your baby's leg up and over the center of their body shifts their weight.  Teaching your baby the process of shifting their weight from their back to the side is an important step in how to help baby roll over from back to tummy. 

By affording your baby the experience of weight shifting, they will hopefully link the 

Lifting a baby's leg up and over their body, changes their weight distribution.  Then, by letting gravity complete the roll over your baby begins to understand the first steps of the rolling action.  

Limit Time in Baby Equipment

This may or may not come as good news to you, however leaving your baby in baby equipment designed to support them while they are newborns can actually work against you. For clarity, we are talking about baby equipment like rockers or baby bouncers.

Don't get me wrong, having your little one in them while they are newborn is absolutely fine - if not necessary.   However, if you continue to use them when your baby is beyond the newborn stage (such as older than 4 months), the supportive structure can actually discourage your baby from developing the necessary muscles for rolling over. 

Rather than using the restrictive baby equipment, try leaving your baby on a blanket or baby mat on the floor where they can begin to move more freely and build their motor skills.  

It's Bowling Ball Time

Encouraging your baby into the right position can help them naturally form the muscles and skills to roll over. 

I find using a baby carrier that encourages the straddled position helps the baby to assume a bowling ball position.  It is this bowling ball position that helps the baby to naturally begin to roll from side to side when placed on the floor.  Again, we are using the laws of gravity to assist in the rolling over motion.  A baby with their legs up above them (or even sucking on their toes) is more likely to roll to their side, than one that is used to lying flat with their legs spread apart like a starfish. 

You can also achieve the bowling ball position when you carry them around the house.  Instead of carrying them at your should like we naturally do, try cradling them in your arms down near your stomach with their legs up. Again, it's just about getting them used to a bowling ball position so they want to form the position themselves. 

What Baby Accessories to Look for to Help Baby Roll Over

I don't have to tell you there is an abundance of baby accessories out there.  Sorting through them to find the diamonds in the rough can be an ordeal. 

When you are looking for baby accessories to help with encouraging your baby to roll over, I always look for ones that are versatile.  This means I want an accessorie or toy that not only encourages my baby to roll from back to tummy, but they will also help baby roll over from tummy to back.  

We have already discussed one very helpful toy which is the baby floor gyms (refer to above tip Use Visual and Auditory Motivators.)

Another useful baby accessory I recommend using are tummy time water play mats.  These are fantastic toys that truly engages a baby. They usually have a rim around the water play mat that acts as a soft cushioning for your baby to rest on. I find these a great for helping your baby build neck muscles, as they are forced to assume an upright lying position.  It also forces them to reach around the water mat, building up their strength and muscles for the eventual roll from belly to back.   

Final Thoughts

So there you have it - my top 7 tips to help baby roll over. 

I sincerely hope this article has helped you understand that even though the rolling over milestone is an important one, just because your baby hasn't achieved it yet, doesn't mean they are behind.  Every baby develops at their own pace.  As long as you provide your baby with love, a little bit of encouragement and use the tips identified in this article, I am sure your baby will be rolling independently in no time. 

Then you have the next problem of you won't be able to stop them from moving!

Let us know your top tips for getting your baby to roll over in the comments section below.