How to help your baby achieve their early ‘mini milestones’

March 25, 2021Advice, How to, Information, Parenting

Brittany is a pediatric physical therapist and owner of Mommy & Me PT! She has been a therapist for almost a decade, treating kids of all ages and abilities. She found her true passion for educating parents on developmental topics when her daughter was born and realized so many parents have the same questions! Follow her on Instagram (@mommyandme.pt) for tons of tips + tricks to foster your baby’s motor development through play!

Since becoming a mom, I have realized that parents have the same pressing questions about milestone development, whether you are a first time mom or have several kiddos under your belt. I know how easy it is to get sucked into the rabbit hole of Google searches and spiraling with worry. To help ease this worry, I created a free, printable Milestone Checklist for you to have easy reference regarding which skills your baby should be achieving. Download it here.

In addition to the big, fun milestones like sitting, crawling and walking, there are also some fun “mini milestones” that are equally important to development, but often less known. Here, I will shed some light on these mini milestones and share some simple play tips to help you foster these skills:

This skill begins to emerge around 12 weeks. Your baby learns to lift the arms and bring them to the middle of the body, often clasping the hands together. This mini milestone is an important prerequisite to being able to hold toys with both hands, bring hands and toys to the mouth, self feeding, getting dressed and so many other lifelong skills. Here are some easy ways to facilitate this skill:

  • Play pat-a-cake and practice clapping your baby’s hands together
  • Place a small, lightweight toy or rattle in your baby’s hands. Use your hands to help your baby hold on to the toy, shake the toy and bring the toy to her mouth.
  • Use teething toys or soft, silicone utensils to let your baby explore mouthing and bringing them to her mouth.
  • Place baby on her side to help decrease gravity to bring hands & feet together. Use your leg or a pillow to prop your baby on her side if she cannot hold the position herself.

Around 4/5 months your baby should be starting to lift her feet up off the surface momentarily when lying on her back. Around 5/6 months, your baby should be lifting her feet a little higher and starting to explore grabbing them. It is common for babies to start by grabbing only one foot at a time. This skill is an important precursor to rolling back to belly. Babies will often grab the feet and then roll to the side, which eventually leads to rolling over onto the belly. Try these tips to encourage grabbing the feet:

  • During diaper changes, practice clapping your baby’s feet together and bringing the feet up where baby can see them
  • When baby is on her back, gather up her hands and feet in your hands to encourage grabbing the feet
  • Use a small blanket roll under the hips to decrease gravity and help encourage baby to bring her feet up in the air
  • Use wrist & ankles rattles to add an auditory and visual component to this skill and make it more interesting for your baby

Pivoting often emerges around 5 months and sometimes this skill will develop simultaneously with early sitting skills. Pivoting is important to develop rotational muscles of the core which will be important later for sitting and crawling. These two activities will help encourage your baby to pivot:

  • When baby is on her tummy, place toys around baby like a clock: 12 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 9 o’clock to encourage looking, reaching and turning in all directions.
  • Grab a hula hoop and some baby-safe fidget toys and sensory items from the dollar store. Attach the toys to the hula hoop and place your baby in the middle of the hoop to encourage looking, reaching and pivoting in all directions.

I hope that you enjoy trying these purposeful play ideas with your baby and enjoy watching these mini milestones develop. The important thing to remember about development is that all babies are unique and will meet milestones at their own pace. My passion and goal with Mommy & Me PT is to educate and empower you about these skills and how to nurture them, but also to help you see the beauty in your own baby’s journey. I would love for you to join me on Instagram where I share many other free resources and content about a variety of topics!