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Lauren B. Stevens @LaurenBS

Rock 'n Roll: Your 4- to 7-Month-Old Baby and Movement

Your 7-month-old baby is mastering his muscle control, sitting pretty and gaining dexterity with play. But how can you help?

Your baby grew by leaps and bounds its first three months, and months 4 through 7 are no different. Your 7-month-old baby is developing muscles and moving with much more purpose, but what big milestones will he tackle at this stage?

According to Aimee Ketchum, a pediatric occupational therapist and founder of early childhood development company Aimee's Babies, your baby is gaining more control over his body. At this age, "newborn reflexes go away, and they make way for purposeful movement." Environment is key during this time, and the best way for your little one to develop physical skills is "for baby to have belly time on a firm surface," says Jo Ann Serota, a pediatric nurse practitioner and a primary case study editor for the Journal of Pediatric Health Care.

Here's what your little one will learn during his tummy time, and how you can help:

And read our guide to developmental milestones for kids

What to Look For
By 5 months old, your baby should be rocking on his stomach and kicking his legs, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This rocking will eventually turn into rolling, but not the musical variety. Your baby will likely roll from his stomach to his back first, and then return to his stomach. According to Ketchum, "any child that's given enough tummy time should [roll] on their own, and parents can [do activities] to help strengthen the core, and strengthen the neck, to facilitate rolling."

Each milestone builds upon the next, so rolling will transition into sitting around 6 months. Ketchum says that "once [baby] gets a little more strength and stability through their trunk, then [they] can transition from rolling into sitting, and then sitting back into rolling." Sitting unassisted is one of the most important milestones for your 7-month-old-baby, and he should be sitting with or without the support of his hands.

Your 7-month-old baby's vision has developed significantly since birth, and he's now able to perceive depth. His physical milestones are closely connected to his visual development, says Ketchum. He'll test this newfound perception with his hands by reaching, transferring objects from one hand to the other, exploring his knees, feet and toes, and even using a raking grasp to snatch objects of interest. These 4- to 7-month physical milestones are the result of your baby's development, and Ketchum recommends "touching opposite hands and feet together" to help your baby learn more about his body.

Play With a Purpose
Providing opportunities for your 7-month-old baby to practice his new skills is the greatest thing you can do at this stage in development. Ketchum emphasizes the importance of keeping toys novel to avoid boredom and doing activities that promote body awareness to pique all of baby's senses. Ketchum explains, "Movement activities help [babies] process," so baby massage, partially hiding toys under a blanket, rolling him around on his back and belly and helping him do some baby sit-ups are all activities that help promote both brain and physical development.

The movement around rolling, and later sitting, is what develops your little one's core muscles, paving the way for walking. Begin by sitting him up with his hands in front to balance in a tripod-like position (you can put a pillow behind him if you're worried about him tipping backwards). Placing toys or other objects of interest in front of him will keep him occupied while he continues to practice independent sitting. What toys should you use? Serota is a fan of rattles during this stage in development, since they stimulate all the senses and encourage babies to master motor skills through play.

For these early milestones, Ketchum says, "The key things parents should be aware of ... is that [their baby] just continue to make progress. They don't need to hit every milestone at exactly the time AAP says. They need to be making progress, never regress." As long as your little one is building on one milestone to reach another, he'll be walking -- and running -- before you know it.

And check out this Overview of Milestones from 4 to 7 Months.

Lauren B. Stevens is a freelance writer, whose parenting pieces can also be found on The Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, and Mamapedia. When she's not chasing her rambunctious toddler, Lauren can be found blogging and chatting about everything from cloth diapering to toddlerisms with her Facebook community.