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Once a baby is on the move, they practice moving in whatever way they can. This not only strengthen the brain connections for movement, but all the muscles they’re using too. The rate of change can be surprisingly fast, and parents need to be fully aware of the increased risks a mobile baby can face.

Pulling up and standing

Before too long they’ll be working at pulling themselves up to a standing position using anything even slightly stable – furniture, the toy box, or someone’s leg – to try to reach higher levels and explore the things they can see. Standing and holding on with one hand leaves the other hand free for exploring.

When a baby can stand up, parents and whānau will need to review safety around the home, as baby can now reach further. Things hanging within reach like jug cords or tablecloths can be grabbed and pulled, and cause injuries so easily.

Cruising

As a baby’s legs get stronger, they’re likely to take some side-steps along the furniture – this is known as cruising.

Parents can play games with baby using the furniture and toys that baby’s interested in. For example, putting something baby wants just slightly out of reach on the furniture will encourage cruising. If a parent also gives a running commentary of what baby’s doing (known as ‘parallel talk’), they’re adding another dimension to support baby’s learning.

Stooping

The next skill baby can develop is stooping and then standing back up. Baby will learn to squat down to get something off the floor and to stand back upright when they’ve picked the thing up. It might seem basic to parents, but it actually requires a lot of co-ordination between the eyes, brain and body.

Some babies master standing on their own and walking independently by their first birthday, others may still be using some form of crawling to get around.

What about baby walkers?

Baby walkers (walking frames that a baby sits in) don’t help babies learn to walk. They were originally designed to help children with disabilities to move. They were never intended to be used by babies who are developing normally.

Movement skills are best developed by letting babies move about freely on the floor.

Walkers have also been the cause of many injuries and have been associated with developmental delays, rather than helping children learn to walk. Walkers have caused some babies to have:

  • accidents (some with serious consequences, due to falls, babies reaching hot liquids, heaters or fireplaces)
  • play-related accidents before baby could even move the walker themselves, where older siblings have been giving baby a ‘ride’ and have left them somewhere dangerous
  • shortened Achilles tendons through spending too long in a walker (or even a stationary walker) and their feet not being flat on the floor
  • falls even when parents have been nearby — it’s very difficult to watch baby every second.

Other resources

Safekids Aotearoa(external link)