Sensory and Motor Development, Ages 1 to 12 Months - Topic Overview
Sensory and motor development is the gradual process
by which a child gains use and coordination of the large muscles of the legs,
trunk, and arms, and the smaller muscles of the hands. A baby begins to
experience new awareness through sight, touch, taste, smell, and hearing.
Babies' sensory and motor development generally follows a
At 1 month of age, babies' neck muscles are not
developed enough to support their heads for prolonged periods of time. Babies
can lift their heads only briefly when lying on their stomachs. Limb movements
are influenced by newborn reflexes, such as the startle reflex, which makes a
baby throw out his or her arms and spread the fingers in response to a loud
noise or other sudden, unexpected stimulus. By 6 weeks of age, newborn reflexes
begin to fade and the baby's strength and coordination improve.
age 3 months, your baby can control his or her head movements. Put your baby on
his or her tummy during awake periods and closely supervise. Allowing your baby
to exercise and move in this position helps develop head and neck muscles.
Around 4 months of age, babies gain control and balance in their head, neck,
and trunk. Most babies can balance their heads for short periods when in a
stable position. Around this same age, your baby starts playing with his or her
hands and grasps your finger on purpose, rather than as a
Between 4 and 6 months of age, babies' balance and movement
dramatically improve as they gain use and coordination of large muscles. During
this time, babies purposefully roll over and may be able to sit with their
hands balancing them in front (tripod position). Reaching toward an object with
both hands, babies may grasp at toys with their palms.
more control of their muscles between 6 and 9 months of age as the nervous
system connections continue to form. By the 7th month, babies can see almost as
well as an adult. Babies develop leg and trunk coordination, sit alone
steadily, and may crawl using both their hands and feet. Some babies even pull
themselves up to a standing position, although the timing and sequence of these
milestones vary widely.
Between 9 months and 12 months of age,
babies explore the world with all their senses. At the same time, they are
developing more control over their hands and fingers and may be able to grab
small objects with a forefinger and thumb. Most babies this age like to
experience and explore objects through taste and texture, which prompts them to
put almost anything they can into their mouths. The brain continues to grow,
helping to refine control over the large muscles. By now, your baby will
probably be able to crawl and stand. In these few months before babies begin to
walk, they often spend hours "cruising" around the room holding on to furniture
and other objects. Cruising develops muscles and coordination and gives your
baby a chance to practice walking.
Many toddlers start to walk
around 9 to 15 months of age. Those first steps are possible
because of changes that have taken place in the brain and the spinal