Getting Your Child Rocking & Rolling

Those who know me best might be amused to hear me say that I love dancing. Let me just say that there’s a big difference between thinking highly of something and being good at it. Regardless of my own abilities (or lack thereof), I view dancing as an all-too-often overlooked activity that has the ability to bring people together, foster body confidence and serve as a fun way for children (and adults) of all ages to get up and get active. As a pediatrician, mom and health communicator, I’m all for it.

These family-friendly benefits are the reason for my current focus on dance. I truly believe that the Primrose Schools Family Dance-off is a winning combination of family fun, easy and healthy activity, and hasthe undeniable appeal of sharing online videos of your adorable children dancing their socks off for a worthy cause.

So, just what does it take to get children of all ages up and moving? If I put on my pediatrician hat for a moment, it occurs to me that this is the perfect time to take a closer look at several of the “motor milestones” of early childhood. These milestones represent the predicted patterns of development responsible for your child’s ultimate mastery of such dance-defining movements as shaking, rattling, rocking and rolling!

Before we jump into an age-specific look at what you can expect from your child, it’s worth clarifying just what motor milestones actually are. Milestones serve a very useful purpose in monitoring healthy physical growth and development in your child. It’s always important to keep in mind that every child develops at his or her own speed, but there are clearly identified milestones (not just motor, but social, emotional and learning milestones as well) that children should reach within a defined range of ages.

First steps, for example, are certainly well-recognized and perhaps one of the most eagerly anticipated of the milestones. Learning to interact well with others and enjoy social play are both defined social milestones that typically kick in around age 3 or so. Put these skills together, along with the mastery of a few other key motor milestones, and you’ve got all the makings of happy, healthy children who are more than ready to rock ‘n roll….and run and play and dance!

Shake, rattle and roll. It takes about four months for newborns to overcome the reflexes they’re born with and be able to intentionally reach for, grab and shake a rattle. Over the same first few months, daily tummy time while awake allows your child to strengthen her head, neck and body muscles. So what does all this mean? That 2 month-olds can hold their heads up and even start to push themselves forward while on their bellies. By 4 months, you’re likely to see the addition of front-to-back rolling, with back-to-front usually taking a bit longer (closer to 6 months). And finally, you can expect to add rocking to your baby’s rolling at around 6 months, as well.

Onward and upward. All of the rocking and rolling (and sitting and scooting) of the first 6 months inevitably lead to children moving onward and upward. Although initial efforts at crawling may result in going backward at first (6-9 months), babies usually make significant strides in moving forward as they scoot and crawl their way toward their first birthdays. Add to that the typical 9-month leap upward – from getting to a sitting position to pulling to a stand – and babies are well on their way to toddling into toddlerhood.

Off and running. Once children master the skills involved in getting themselves upright and holding on to and then cruising along furniture (1 year) – it typically doesn’t take long for them to be off and toddling. While true running is considered more of a 2-year-old milestone, the months between 12 and 18 often involve a big increase in most children’s movement repertoire – from standing to cruising and first steps, to tackling stairs and picking up the pace (18 months-2 years). Add the ability to stand on tiptoes (2 years), alternate feet while walking up stairs (3 years) and stand on one foot and hop (4 years), and even young children are fully ready and should be actively encouraged to be off and running…. and dancing!

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