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Posted By

Amy Aitman

Your little one is learning new tricks every day, but the most picture-worthy may be his gross motor skills milestones. Though he'll be up and running on his own soon enough, there are some ways you can help get your baby crawling and walking.

It may be hard to imagine your newborn doing anything but sleeping and eating, but he'll be moving and grooving before you know it. There are lots of ways to encourage his movements and get your baby crawling, standing and walking. But watch out -- once he finds his legs, he'll be tough to catch!
 

0- to 3-Month-Olds
 

  • Hang Ten Tummy Time. Placing your little one on his stomach helps build arm and core muscles, which will help get your baby crawling later down the line. "Tummy time should start as soon as you get home from the hospital, as long as there isn't any doctor's restriction," encourages Jenna Zervas, a pediatric physical therapist and founder of infant exercise program Baby Builders.

    One fun way to do it is to let your baby surf away on your stomach. Sing songs, make eye contact and enjoy oohing, ahhing and cooing with your baby. "You want to make tummy time fun for them, right from the start," says Zervas. So let your baby hang ten, and enjoy that tummy time together.
     
  • Sweet Swaddle Rock 'n' Roll. Babies this young love to be swaddled. You should always "cultivate a good awareness of their body," says Donna Eshelman, a movement specialist and founder of Stellar Caterpillar. She says, "Gently holding their legs, kind of like swaddling them with your hands, is important. Just swaddling material against them helps them feel where they are."

    She encourages parents to "really help babies become aware of the shape of their arms and legs" at this age. To encourage physical awareness in your infant, do this sweet swaddle, rock and roll activity with your baby: bend and extend his little arms and legs using gentle movements. Do this to the beat of the music as you sing silly songs like "Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes."
     

4- to 7-Month-Olds
 

  • Stability and Open Hands. Eshelman encourages parents to teach their babies how to have an open hand, which will eventually help them be more stable when pushing off the floor to crawl. Bath time is a good time to practice this. Eshelman says,"When baby is in the bathtub, parents can take a washcloth and massage their hands, and help them feel that their fingers can be stretched out. Count their fingers with them. Make them aware, and help them stretch out their little fingers." Experiment with different textures in your little one's hands -- rough washcloths, slippery soap and a smooth rubber ducky. Which does your baby like best?
     
  • Baby Obstacle Course. At this age, the floor is best for your baby. "They need a firm surface to be able to learn to roll and crawl. Tummy time is even more important now than before, because this is the age where they really need to use those core and upper body muscles," explains Dr. Claire McCarthy, a pediatrician at Boston's Children's Hospital and contributor at The Huffington Post.

    Give your baby a reason to move, groove and crawl around by building your own obstacle course. Find a few special toys that you know your baby loves and set them out among some rolled up blankets and a few pillows to chart a course for you and your baby to work through. "Get your mind ready to let your baby climb up and over again and again," says author and pediatrician Dr. Laura Jana. Provide a safe and fun way to get baby moving around and have fun watching them navigate the maze.
     

8- to 12-Month-Olds
 

  • Little Drummer Baby. Eshelman suggests parents teach their babies at this age to get their legs underneath them. She says, "Put them on their knees in front of an overturned box and teach them to drum their little hands on top of the box. Sing silly little songs along to your baby's best drumming efforts. You are also teaching them where to put their legs in the proper alignment. This helps babies learn how to stand up, cruise and then sit back down again." So find a box, and let baby drum away.
     
  • Let's Go Shopping. As your baby gets closer to the 1-year mark, he will really enjoy push toys. A creative way to encourage walking is to take a pretend shopping trip with him. Set up some plastic toys, fruit and dolls that he will want to shop for around your living room. Give him his own little shopping cart (a pint-size stroller will do in a pinch) and watch him push around and shop for the toys that they like. You might have to help him put things in the cart and find the next item, but he'll have so much fun pushing that cart around with you cheering him on.
     

Amy Aitman is a freelance writer, mom and mommyblogger at www.mommypatter.com. Since her own little guy started crawling, she hasn't been able to get much done. But she enjoys life on the move with a now healthy, active 4-year-old to chase around the house.

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