Gross motor skills involve the body’s large muscles and facilitate actions such as walking, sitting, and throwing. As young children age, they grow stronger and develop greater muscle control, and over time they will begin to move more purposefully, learn to balance, hold on to toys and other objects, and become mobile. With these skills in place, they will be better able to explore their environment and learn from their experiences. A delay in gross motor development may indicate certain health conditions, including cerebral palsy, mental retardations, autism spectrum disorders, visual impairments, developmental coordination disorder, and Down syndrome.
Below are some of the prominent milestones and possible signs of delay that are related to gross motor functioning. It’s important to keep in mind that milestones of this variety may be related or intertwined with milestones of other types, and that no two children will reach the same milestones in the same way or amount of time. If your child is behind on one milestone, it’s important to look for other potential delays. Only when a child falls drastically behind or misses several milestones does a parent need to worry about contacting a pediatrician.
Gross Motor Milestones:
3 months - The child raises head and chest while lying on stomach, uses arms to support upper body while lying on stomach, stretches or kicks legs while lying on stomach or back, moves hands to mouth, pushes down on legs when feet are on a firm surface.
7 months - The child can roll front to back and back to front, sits with or without using hands for support, supports entire weight on legs, reaches with just one hand.
1 year - The child can get into a sitting position without help, crawls forward on belly by pulling with arms and pushing with legs, gets into a hands-and-knees position, moves forward while supporting body on hands and knees, can transition from a sitting position to a crawling or prone (lying on stomach) position, stands up, stands for a brief moment without support, walks while holding onto furniture, may be able to walk two or three steps without support.
2 years - The child can walk alone, walks while pulling toys, carries a large toy while walking, is starting to run, can stand on tiptoe, kicks a ball, climbs onto furniture and gets down without assistance, walks up and down stairs with support.
3 years - The child is good at climbing, walks up and down stairs while alternating feet (one foot per step), kicks a ball, runs without difficulty, rides a tricycle, can bend over without falling down.
4 years - The child can hop and stand on one foot for as long as five seconds, walks upstairs and downstairs without help, kicks a ball forward, throws a ball overhand, can usually catch a bounced ball, moves forward and backward easily.
5 years - The child can stand on one foot for at least 10 seconds, hops and can swing or climb, might be able to skip.
Possible Signs of Gross Motor Delays:
3 months - The child cannot easily support his head, does not move objects to mouth by 4 months, does not push down on legs when feet are on a firm surface, does not roll over front to back or back to front by 5 months, cannot sit even with help by 6 months, does not actively reach for objects by 6 or 7 months.
7 months - The child is very stiff and has tense muscles or is very floppy like a rag doll, the child’s head flops back when the body is pulled into a sitting position, only uses one hand when reaching, still has difficulty bringing objects to mouth.
1 year - The child cannot crawl, drags one side of the body while crawling (for longer than one month), cannot stand even when supported, does not walk by 18 months, has not developed a mature heel-toe walking pattern after several months of walking or walks only on toes.
2 year - The child cannot push or wheel a toy.
3 years - The child frequently falls down or has difficulty with stairs.
4 years— The child cannot throw a ball overhand, cannot jump in place, cannot ride a tricycle.