While the baby books will tell you that infants generally stand up, unsupported, from around nine months of age, a new study suggests bubs can master this important skill a whole lot earlier.
"With some training, children can stand much sooner than that, even before they're four months old," says lead author Professor Hermundur Sigmundsson, of Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
As part of the research, published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology, 13 babies (with a mean age of 97 days) participated in a water-based program in Iceland. The swimming sessions lasted one hour for 12 weeks, and ran twice weekly.
Why the pool setting? According to the authors, it was considered "a safe and joyful context for the infant and their parents to study this specific motor behavior."
Along with one of their parents, babies engaged in a number of gross and fine motor activities including "performing somersaults on a thin mattress floating on the water", diving under water, and picking rings up from the water.
The main event, however, and the focus of the research, was the "independent standing task", during which the instructor lifted the babies, one-by-one, for a maximum of 15 seconds. Bubs practiced the standing task either on a corkboard or in the instructor's hands.
The babies' gross motor development was assessed before sessions began, in order to track their progress.
By the end of the study, 11 of the babies were able to stand, independently, for more than 15 seconds, while the 12th baby managed more than eight. (One bub had to withdraw from the study as he "kept falling asleep during the initial sessions".)
"On average, the children were 4.3 months old when they learned to stand without support. The youngest was only 3.6 months old," Sigmundssonssaid in a statement. "Children can do more than we think."
The authors noted, "Three- to five-month-old infants are capable of demonstrating signs of motor learning in task-specific independent standing." The results, they write, "appear remarkable" when you compare them to the expected age required for other forms of independent standing. "Previous data indicate that the emergence of independent standing occurs between the age of nine and 16 months, while standing up alone when holding on to furniture takes place at the age of six to 12 months."
Sigmundsson says the research, while limited by the small number of babies taking part, has important implications.
"The results show that by forming neural connections at an earlier age babies can do things earlier than we previously thought," he told Iceland Monitor. "The big question is: Does this apply to other things too? That's the question we're seeking further answers to."
Take a look at the babies in action here - but maybe don't try this one at home ...