Gross Motor Milestone Series: Kneeling
Kneeling is a critical gross motor milestone that kids use in many ways. It is a position that can be used for playing or as a transitional movement to get from one position to another, such as moving from the floor to standing. There are also a few different variations of kneeling, including short kneeling, tall kneeling, and half kneeling. Kneeling is the first position that really emphasizes core stabilization. The feet, ankles, and knees are not required to do a ton of work in this position, but the hips, pelvis, spine, and trunk are used to keep the body from falling over. Strengthening the hips, back, and abdominal muscles gets a baby ready for standing and walking.
Development of Kneeling
Short kneeling is the easiest of the kneeling postures, therefore is first to develop. In this position, a child sits on their bottom with knees bent. The feet are together and under their bottom. This is not to be confused with “W” sitting where the feet are outside of the hips instead of under the bottom. Babies use this position frequently to transition from crawling to sit and to move up and down from short kneel to tall kneel.
After short kneeling, tall kneeling develops. In this position, a baby is bearing weight through their knees with their bottom up in the air. This position can be used to reach toys that are in the air or on a higher surface with or without using the arms. A baby must be able to get into tall kneeling in order to progress to half kneeling which they will then use to pull up to standing. Tall kneeling challenges balance and body awareness while co-contracting muscles on the front and back of the body in order to prevent falling.
Half kneeling is the most difficult of the three kneeling postures, making it the last to develop. A half kneel occurs when one knee is on the ground in line with the hip on the same side. On the other side, the leg is forward with the foot on the ground. This position is used to pull up to standing and is the mature transition from floor to stand without using arms to help. Some babies have difficulty getting into and playing in these position. This can create delays in other gross motor milestones, such as standing, cruising, and walking.
Ideas to Help Your Baby Learn the Kneeling Gross Motor Milestone:
- Place a fun toy up on a low bench or table. Help your baby reach up for the toy and shift their weight forward on knees.
- Kneel at a toy chest or box and remove items and give them to you.
- Kneel a few feet away from your child and roll a large ball back and forth.
- Blow bubbles or hold a ball/balloon up just beyond their reach, encouraging them to come up into a tall kneel.
- Hold your child’s hand and practice walking forward on knees.