Apprentice, Athlete, Scholar, Poet – Part 2

The Athlete

Soon your little athlete will be full of energy, sprinting forward in life. Training for this race begins with tummy time soon after the umbilical stump has fallen off. This exercise builds strength and postural coordination, and gives a great opportunity to work on head control. Achieving head control is baby’s first weight lifting accomplishment. He can usually comfortably handle this weight within just 12 weeks. Rolling follows as the whole body gets into the act.

Sitting alone is a major childhood milestone. With practice, babies are able to maintain a sitting position with less and less external support. They progress by planting their own hands in front of them to create a human tripod. You will see your baby’s growing adeptness as her hands come closer to her body as she sits — until one day she lifts up her arms for a few seconds!

And in just a few more weeks, she will be a sitting master–twisting, turning, reaching for objects with easy confidence.

Soon your budding athlete launches across the floor on an obstacle course of new discoveries. Many healthy babies never crawl , but they do need to find some way to move across the floor.

When babies are able to pull themselves to standing, there is a sense of triumph. But there is also an urgency to walk . As your baby gains skill at cruising, the force of his hands on the support objects becomes less and less. Meanwhilehis cerebellum, the balancing part of the brain, grows rapidly. The long nerves down to his feet gain their myelin insulation. The long bones of his legs start to remodel in preparation. The hinge joints of his knees, the ball and socket joints of his hips, and the sliding joints of his ankles all mature just in time.

No milestone of development is the focus of more attention than learning to walk. More than half of the babies in the United States start to walk after their first birthday! The normal age for first steps has a broad range. About 95 percent of babies will take this giant step sometime between 9 and 17 months. At the moment of that first step, your baby becomes a toddler .

Athletic skill continues to increase through the second year’s walking, climbing, and jumping. By 2, your young runner is ready to take off on the toddler marathon!

Read More from the Apprentice, Athlete, Scholar, Poet:
The Apprentice
The Athlete
The Scholar
The Poet
The Parent Detective

Published on: October 25, 2006
About the Author
Photo of Alan Greene MD
Dr. Greene is a practicing physician, author, national and international TEDx speaker, and global health advocate. He is a graduate of Princeton University and University of California San Francisco.
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