Early action - lying, kicking, rolling and reaching

Lying awake and alert on a firm surface gives the infant her first experience of moving independently, exploring her limb movements, turning to look at interesting things and towards interesting sounds and reaching for objects that catch her visual attention.

Over time the infant learns to control where she looks, starts to keep the trunk steady when she reaches with the arms or kicks and eventually she learns to get off her back, onto her side and tummy.

This early experience is vital in developing the babies sense of being able act and interact with her world on her own terms. She learns about her limbs and how to adapt and change her movements to achieve her goals. She learns how to keep her head steady so that she has more control over looking.

In the baby born at full term, the muscles that flex the hips and shoulder are slightly stiff because of the curled up position in the womb for a few months. This gives these babies a bit of an advantage. They do not have to work as hard to lift the arms forwards and kick with the legs.

Preemies tend to on flat on a flat surface with the arms and legs splayed out. As a result the muscles at the back of the shoulders and those crossing the side of the hips may become tight and provide some resistance to bringing the arms forwards.

It is important that your baby learns to kick vigorously and reach out when she is lying on her back. If she is not doing this you may need to give her some help to make reaching and kicking easier and encourage her to be more active.

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Curled up and ready to learn about the world

  • The newborn lies with the hips and arms bent and close to the body.
  • This flexed position helps the infant to lift the legs and arms up to reach and kick. 
  • The head is usually turned to one side.
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Premature newborn infant's are less flexed

  • Premature infants need to work harder to initiate movements of the limbs for kicking and reaching.
  • Training activities: Helping your premature infant to become an active kicker 

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Stretching out a little bit 

  • Head mostly turned to one side
  • Baby kicks actively - the arms and the trunk move together.
  • Watches own hands as they come into view.
  • Regards interesting object intently.

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Kicks vigorously

  • Kicking is important for strengthening the trunk and leg muscles and also for early development of trunk postural control. 
  • Let get Kicking 

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Head into the middle

  • The infant has more control over his head - can hold it in the midline.
  • Swipes at toys with one hand.  
  • Lifts both feet up off the surface.

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Lifts head actively when pulled up by arms  

Actively lifts head and legs and tightens the arms when he is pulled into the sitting position.

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Head and hands to the midline

  • Watches hands intently

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Hands to knees

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Pushes down on feet and extends the spine

  • May lift pelvis up off the surface

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Hands to feet  

  • Starts to lift pelvis up as abdominal muscles become stronger
  • May tip over onto side .

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Rolls onto side

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Rolls onto tummy

Return to: Tracking Progress 
See also:  PDF Checklists for tracking fine and gross motor development