Developmental Milestone: Sitting

Posted by

Alicia Amsberry, PT, DPT

Time to read

3 minutes

Learning to sit is a vital skill for babies to learn. It provides them the opportunity to explore their surroundings and interact with others. Today we are going to go over a few tips and tricks of how to encourage your baby to sit independently. 



Core strength plays an important role in a child’s development, specifically with sitting. 

Here are a couple ways to help build your baby’s core strength:

  • Playing with Their Feet: a sign your baby is showing improved core strength is by the ability to play with their feet. This development skill typically develops around 4-5 months. It’s an activity that allows your baby to explore their surroundings due to the many tactile receptors located in the mouth, provides body awareness, encourages hamstring stretching, and helps with rolling. 
  • Pulling to Sit: focuses on head control and core strength. When performing pull to sit with your baby, look for a chin tuck and the use of the core muscles to help with activity. If your baby needs more support place hands at shoulder blades. Another option would be to start in sitting and slowly lower your baby down to their back. 



To support your child in sitting, place your hands at their trunk. To provide more support, place your hands higher up on their trunk. To provide less support, place your hands lower towards their hips. Initially, when your baby is learning to sit, providing more support is needed. However, providing less support will encourage your baby to activate and strengthen their core muscles and stability in sitting. 

Other ways to support your baby in sitting:

  • Boppy Pillow (in front): position your baby in a sitting position with the boppy pillow in front, wrapped around their waist. Have your baby prop forward with outstretched arms to support themselves. Encourage them with their favorite toys in front of them.
  • Boppy Pillow (in back): position your baby in a sitting position with the boppy pillow in back, wrapped around their waist. The boppy will provide support to assist your baby from falling backward. Place toys in front of your baby to promote reaching and engaging with their surroundings. 
  • Laundry Basket: Place your baby in a laundry basket, this provides support on all four sides. If your baby needs a little extra support place pillows on either side of them.









Sitting balance is another key to achieving the skill of independent sitting. Prerequisites to sitting independently require us to learn righting responses and protective reactions. 

  • Righting Response: the ability of our body to move back to midline to keep our balance
    • Help to regain our balance after we trip
    • Maintain balance while on a moving bus or boat
  • Protective Response: a reaction that prevents injury from happening if our body is unable to restore our balance
    • Blinking when something flies towards our eye
    • Raising an arm if a ball is thrown our way

To sit independently, babies need to learn righting responses and protective reactions. Establishing righting reactions babies first must develop head control. Next is developing trunk control. Once head and trunk control is established babies become stronger and faster at reacting to outside stimuli that may cause them to become off balance. 

In sitting, protective reactions include reaching out an arm or hand to support themselves from falling over. These protective reactions prevent falling forward, side to side, and/or backwards.



  • Perch Play: sitting on the edge of a table or chair with feet hanging off 
    • Encourages strengthening trunk and core muscles
  • Plank Play: placing weight through forearms or hands to aid in stretching hip flexors 
    • Position your baby on their tummy, on a boppy pillow or regular pillow, with hands on the floor
    • Position baby to sit at a vertical surface while reaching up to interact with toys 


If you have concerns about you baby’s sitting development please reach out. We are happy to help in any way. 


Photos: Unsplash, Pixabay, Alicia Amsberry

Sources: Starfish Therapies