Knowing what to expect and when to expect it
One of the most exciting experiences as a parent is to watch your child develop, learn and discover the world by reaching their milestones. Knowing when each of these milestones are expected gives you an upper hand of when and with what to support your child with in order for them to reach their full potential.
In this guideline, we will explore the essential developmental milestones, from infancy to early childhood.
Infancy Milestones 0-12 Months:
- Lifting their head: In the first couple of months your baby’s movements are prominently reflexive but by the end of the first month your baby can typically lift their head for a short period during tummy time.
- Head and Neck control: From 3-4 months on you will notice that your baby is gaining better control of their head and neck.
- Rolling over: By 6 months, most babies can sit with support, and some may even start to roll over independently, front to back and back to front.
- Crawling: Around 7-12 months your baby will start to crawl on their hands and knees as well as begin to pull to stand. These skills develops and strengthens their balance system, problem solving skills and coordination. It is also a gateway to further exploring the world around them.
- Pull to stand: In this time period the infant begins to pull to stand using furniture.
- Rolling a ball: From 8 months, a baby is able to roll a ball to a person. This requires intention, motor planning and coordination.
- Cruising: Cruising typically occurs between 8 to 12 months, which means moving around while holding onto furniture for support. This will begin to strengthen their muscles for walking and further improve their balance skills.
- Walking: Typically, babies start to walk between 10-18 months, starting by taking a few steps at a time. This marks one the most significant milestones in their gross motor development.
Preschool Milestones 2-3 Years:
- Picks up objects off the floor: 2 year olds are able to pick objects off the floor without losing their balance as they have begun to learn how to shift their weight backwards when leaning forwards. This skill requires motor planning, strength, balance and control.
- Walking pattern improved: At the age of 2 years, children typically start walking with their feet hip-width apart, feet pointing forward while holding a toy.
- Running: At their 2 year age mark they begin to run which shows improvement in their overall stability, motor planning and balance.
- Climbing furniture: At 2 years of age they are able to climb up and down furniture successfully. This requires increased strength, agility and motor planning.
- Walking up the stairs: At this age, they also begin to be able to walk up and down stairs while holding onto a rail or handrail. From the age of 3 years, they should be able to climb up and down stairs without support using an alternate foot on each step. Showing further increase in both strength, balance and stability.
- Walking in all directions: By the age of 3 years, children typically demonstrate improved agility and motor planning skills. They can walk forward, backward, and sideways, demonstrating their growing confidence in their walking ability.
- Climbing jungle gyms: At 3 years of age toddlers begin to climb jungle gyms and ladders. They are stronger, more agile and have now developed more strategies in climbing and problem solving.
- Standing on one leg: Around 3 years old, children begin to develop the skills to stand on one leg for about 3-5 seconds, this shows their improvement in hip and trunk balance and stability.
- Walking on a line: Still within the 3 year mark, children start to be able to walk forward on their toes on a line.
- Walking up the stairs: From 3 years of age, children often develop the ability to walk up the stairs with alternating steps, one foot per stair.
- Jumping 2 feet together: Children begin to be able to jump forward 5 times with their feet together. As it is a new skill, they may still stop to readjust and their jumps may be low.
- Catching a Ball: In this age group they begin to catch a ball in their forearms or against their body with their elbows bent for extra assistance. Hand-eye coordination is an important skill that benefits social interaction, visual tracking and helps integrate fine motor skills.
- Kick a ball: Toddlers begin to learn to kick a ball and throw a ball overarm.
- Climbing Jungle Gyms: Around 3 years of age children are often able to effectively climb up jungle gyms and other playground equipment independently.
Early Childhood Milestones 4 years:
- At the 4 year age mark a child continues to refine and improve his motor skills.
- Catching a ball: From 4 years of age, they should be catching a ball that is bounced to them with their hands. This skill requires observation, timing and hand-eye coordination.
- Walking on a line: They can now walk flat footed on a line while moving forward and maintaining their balance and control.
- Jumping over an object: 4 year olds can jump over objects on the floor and land on both feet. Showing increased strength, agility and motor planning.
Early Childhood Milestones 5-6 Years:
- At the age of 5-6 years there is a big jump in your children’s gross motor ability.
- Running and Turning: Here, the children can run and turn quickly, running lightly on their toes, showing improved balance reactions, coordination and agility in their movements.
- Standing on One Foot: They can now stand on one foot for about 8-10 seconds on either leg, indicating improved balance and stability.
- Hopping with Ease: Children can hop 10 times or more on the same spot with either leg.
- Jumping 2 feet together: They can now jump forward 5 jumps with feet together with continuous and controlled movement, showing improved stability and motor planning.
- Catching a Ball with One Hand: At 6 years of age, many children can catch a small ball in their hands with accurate grasp and some can even catch a ball with one hand, showing improved hand-eye coordination and motor planning skills.
- Throwing: They can now throw a beanbag at a 30cm target 1,8 metres away, showing an improvement in their accuracy and control.
- Skipping: Children at this age can skip with alternating feet as well as skip with a skipping rope, which is a complex motor skill that involves motor planning and rhythm.
Childhood Milestones 7-10 Years:
- Walking tandem: At about 7 years a child can walk heel to toe on a line without adjustments or stepping off the line.
- Catching a ball: In this age group children can now throw a ball against a wall 2 metres away. A 7-8 year old they can catch the ball after one bounce and 9-10 years old should be able to catch the ball straight off the wall.
- Static Balance: The child will be able to keep their balance on one leg on a narrow balance board as wide as their foot, showing refined balance skills.
Teenage Milestones 11-16 Years:
- Catching a ball: After throwing the ball against the wall 2 metres away, the child can catch the ball with one hand showing sophisticated hand-eye coordination.
- Throwing a ball: The child is able to throw a ball at a 30cm target placed on a wall 2 metres away.
- Static Balance: From 11 years a child will be able to stand heel to toe on a surface narrower than the width of their foot.
- Dynamic balance over a line: A child should be able to hop one foot continuously over a line from left to right while also hopping forward to the end of the line, showing good balance, stability and control.
- Tandem walking: In this age group the child will be able to walk heel to toe backwards over a line with good control and balance. This is a complex balance skill that requires concentration, balance and body awareness.
Every child is unique, and it is important to remember that developmental milestones may be reached at slightly different timelines.
This milestone guideline aims to assist parents to be more confident in supporting and encouraging their child’s gross motor development. Encouraging physical activities and play can help children further improve their gross motor skills, and overall gross motor development.
If you have queries or come across any concerns with your child’s gross motor development, don’t hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician for assistance or you can consider booking a physiotherapy consultation to address any specific needs or challenges your child may be facing. Your child’s well-being and development are top priorities, and receiving professional advice can provide valuable information and support.
I hope that this guideline is a valuable resource for you as a parent, and that it assists you in understanding and celebrating your child’s developmental milestones.