Sitting the benefits of early strengthening

Last week we discussed crawling, the second transition. Today, we’ll talk about sitting, the benefits of early strengthening, and the reward of seeing your baby interact with the world from an upright position.

Key takeaways

  • The stages of learning to sit: 4-6 months, 7-9 months, 10-12 months
  • How to help your baby learn to sit up
  • How to help your baby move in and out of sitting

4-6 months

4 months - “Developing head control”

  • Lying on their backs, babies can bring their hands up to their knees – strengthens hips and tummy muscles.
  • On their tummies, they push up on to elbows and lift head and upper chest – strengthens back and tummy muscles.
  • When pulled to sit from their backs, they control their head position on their neck.

5 months - “Lying down sit”

  • Babies learn to sit ‘lying down’.
  • Can strengthen their legs and lift their arms to their feet - strengthens hip/leg muscles and tummies and shoulders.
  • On their tummies, they push onto straight arms - strengthening their legs at their hips, strengthening hips, back, and tummy muscles.
  • When on your lap, they can lift their head and play with a toy in their hands.
  • When placed in a sitting position, will prop up on their hands for a few seconds.
  • Sit up in a pram.

6 months - “Prop sit”

  • They are moving from back to their tummies, showing increasing voluntary muscle control and strength.
  • Babies on their tummies are adopting the ‘Superman position’ - legs and arms off the floor and arching their backs to ‘fly’.
  • Lift their head up when pulled to sit.
  • Sit independently with their legs in a swimming position for stability.
  • Can prop forwards on their hands if they lose their balance, but not to the sides.
  • Can hold a toy if given.
  • Still needs pillows for protection.
  • Sits in highchair for feeding – good head and trunk control to allow for swallowing efficiently.

7-9 months

7 months - “Transitional movements”

  • Babies dislike their backs.
  • Will pull themselves to sit using your hands. (Hip flexor and tummy control).
  • Many babies will be adapting to many positions: on their tummies, pivoting, crawling, bear stand.
  • Your baby will sit independently.
  • Can reach for a toy and maintain balance.
  • Still have their legs in a ‘ring sitting’ (sitting with legs in a wide base) for balance.
  • May begin to move forwards over the legs towards an ‘all fours’ position.




8 months - “Transitional position I”

  • Busy, active, moving in/out of sitting.
  • Difficult to change their nappies as they want functional independence.
  • Your baby will be moving with all fours to crawl or go to sit.
  • Will use ‘ring sitting’ leg position while sitting while playing.
  • Develops trunk rotation and side sit – able to maintain balance and reach for a toy.
  • Moves from sit to ‘all fours’ due to increasing control of trunk and legs.

9 months - “Transitional position II”

  • Trunk control in sitting well developed.
  • Often a transitional position as they explore their environment.
  • Can hold objects as they move freely in and out of sitting.
  • Variety of positions of legs.
  • May begin to move from sitting to kneeling.

10-12 months

10 months - Play position

  • Rarely sit still.
  • If sitting still, they are eating, or exploring toys, beginning to put things in and out of containers.
  • Beginning to mimic gestures in sitting, i.e. ‘Ta (thank you)’.
  • Constantly transitioning from ‘ring sit’, to long leg, to side sit, to ‘W-kneeling’, to kneeling.
  • They transition in and out of all sitting positions easily and do not use any one position persistently.




11 months - Mimicking daily activities

  • Assists with dressing while in sitting.
  • Two-handed play in sitting, with one hand holding and one hand moving.
  • Trunk rotation and reach outside of their base and remaining stable.
  • Brief periods of sit while transitioning to crawl.
  • Sitting in boxes, up on chairs/coffee table, etc.

12 months

  • Active and independent.
  • Moving in and out of sitting constantly.
  • Transitions easily from sit to crawl, to kneeling, to squat, and up to stand.
  • Increasing complexity of play.


The emergence of early head control at 4 months is the steppingstone to sitting by 8 months and up to stand by 12 months.

How to help your baby learn to sit up

Help them strengthen their back and tummy muscles through movement and play:

  • Help them roll.
  • Vary the position they are in.
  • Play “Row, row, row your boat” to do mini sit-ups.
  • Demonstrate mini push-ups on their tummies.
  • Put toys just out of reach when you prop your baby in sitting.
  • Put toys up on low cushions to help develop back strength.
  • Encourage them to reach up and play with their feet.
  • Put cushions in front of them to lean on.

Once your baby sits alone:

  • Place toys out of reach to encourage rotation and strengthen side tummy muscles for movement.
  • Encourage them to reach up.
  • Help your baby come forwards on their legs into side sit.
  • Give them 2 toys to play with and encourage bimanual play.
  • Sing songs with gestures.
  • Play movement songs in sit to encourage propping/movement.

What to do if your baby doesn't sit up

If they don’t hold their head up at 4 months, prop on their arms by 4-5 months, and can’t sit by 9 months, check with your doctor or a paediatric physiotherapist.

All babies are different in their learning styles. Some are quiet, while others are movers. Developing head control and trunk strength is key to sitting independently. Sitting is a key to moving in and out of crawling, kneeling, and standing.


Keep safe, happy, and well,



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