It can be hard for parents to identify gross motor coordination issues, however the earlier any issues are identified, the easier it is to address the problem and help babies during early stages of their growth.
Debbie Evans, founder and clinical director of Sydney’s Therapies for Kids, shares five ways to identify gross motor coordination issues in babies, and her top five tips on how to help them develop.
1. Difficulty with achieving their developmental milestones
There are a few indications that your baby is having difficulty with achieving their development milestones. This includes if it takes your baby more than six months to roll, more than eight months to sit or crawl, more than 10 months to pull to stand or cruise or more than 15 months to walk independently. A great way to encourage your baby to work towards achieving their developmental milestones is giving lots of praise for small successes. It also helps to show them to do the movements – assist with the movements initially, then see what they can do on their own.
2. A little hard to hold
Is your baby a little hard to hold? Do they feel stiff or floppy? They may lose their balance easily when sitting and may even sit in a ‘W’ shape for stability. Select a variety of different activities to help your baby balance themselves. For example, tummy time can be done on the floor, on a wedge, using a ball, on parents or in a carrying position.
3. Finding it challenging accessing and communicating within their environment
For babies, instead of actively moving some will be frustrated being stuck in a sitting position and will simply point. They may be unable to get in and out of positions easily and when they can move, it can be on their bottom rather than crawling. They can also have difficulty coordinating getting in and out of positions. To help them access and communicate within their environment, frequently repeat activities. Do little bits and do it often. Break the skill down and practise it whenever you can. You can even put toys out of their reach so they have to work out how to get them.
4. Difficulties with holding and using objects i.e. feeding themselves
If your baby is having difficulties with holding and using objects for feeding e.g. taking a bottle to their mouth or holding a spoon or bowl, this indicates that they can be experiencing motor coordination issues. Tailor the way you teach to the way your baby learns. Try a range of prompts, whether it is physical, verbal or visual.
5. Required support with motor planning and balance activities
Motor planning is the ability to plan and carry out a skilled, non-habitual motor act in the correct sequence from beginning to end. There are various signs you can spot when your baby is having difficulty with motor planning and balance. A sign is if they are six months and unable to roll on and off their tummy. They can experience difficulties moving in and out of positions without assistance and become anxious when they lose their balance and are afraid of falling. To help your baby overcome these issues, ensure that all activities are fun. Use different environments – make it safe but also stimulating. Props are also helpful too – this can vary from letting your baby crawl under chairs, placing pillows on the floor and using tablecloths and sheets for cubby houses. By using bubbles, lights and songs, this can engage your baby. It’s also great to involve siblings and friends as they can support and encourage one another.