When your baby starts pulling up to a standing position and side-stepping while holding onto furniture—also known as cruising —she’s learning how to explore the world on her own two feet. It’s an exciting stage in which children discover that they can be upright and move to an object rather than waiting for someone to bring it to them, says Jennifer Shu, M.D., a pediatrician at Children’s Medical Group in Atlanta and author of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Baby & Child Health (2006).
The majority of babies begin standing and cruising between 9 and 12 months of age, once they have adequate leg, arm and back strength; head control; coordination; and balance. Since being upwardly mobile helps foster independence, parents should encourage this skill, Shu says. “Have your child hold onto your fingers and show her how to pull up to standing,” she suggests. Then, try placing a toy on a low table to entice your baby to pull up, or on an adjacent armchair so she has to “furniture surf ” to retrieve it.
Providing a safe environment with plenty of stable furniture is key. To prevent “owies,” be sure to cover any sharp corners on tables; also secure wobbly furnishings. And remember: To develop motor skills, little ones need lots of opportunities to practice. So resist the urge to carry your child everywhere or keep her confined to a car seat or activity center.
If your baby isn’t making any effort to pull up and stand by the age of 12 months, talk to your pediatrician, who may offer helpful tips or want to evaluate her, Shu says. Chances are, it’s nothing serious, and you’ll have a mini cruiser in no time.
Keep progress in perspective! Milestones are a fun way to gauge your baby’s development, but it’s important not to go overboard. Find out why at fitpregnancy.com/milestones.