4.4 Gross Motor Skills

Voluntary movements involve the use of large muscle groups and are typically large movements of the arms, legs, head, and torso. They are referred to as gross motor skills (or large motor skills). These skills begin to develop first. Examples include moving to bring the chin up when lying on the stomach, moving the chest up, rocking back and forth on hands and knees, and then crawling. But it also includes exploring an object with one’s feet as many babies do as early as 8 weeks of age if seated in a carrier or other device that frees the hips. This may be easier than reaching for an object with the hands, which requires much more practice (Berk, 2007). And sometimes an infant will try to move toward an object while crawling and surprisingly move backward because of the greater amount of strength in the arms than in the legs! This also tends to lead infants to pulling up on furniture, usually with the goal of reaching a desired object. Usually this will also lead to taking steps and eventually walking.159

4.4.1 Physical Gross Motor Milestones

As stated above, children grow very quickly and meet physical milestones rapidly in the first few years of life. The following is a table of the major milestones (behaviors or physical skills seen in infants and children as they grow and develop that typically occur within normal range) that occur in children during those first formative years.160

Table 4.1: Gross Motor Milestones161
Typical Age What Most Children Do By This Age
2 months Can hold head up and begins to push up when lying on tummy
2 months Makes smoother movements with arms and legs
4 months Holds head steady, unsupported
4 months Pushes down on legs when feet are on a hard surface
4 months May be able to roll over from tummy to back
4 months Brings hands to mouth
4 months When lying on stomach, pushes up to elbows
6 months Rolls over in both directions (front to back, back to front)
6 months Begins to sit without support
6 months When standing, supports weight on legs and might bounce
6 months Rocks back and forth, sometimes crawling backward before moving forward
9 months Stands, holding on
9 months Can get into sitting position
9 months Sits without support
9 months Pulls to stand
9 months Crawls
1 year Gets to a sitting position without help
1 year Pulls up to stand, walks holding on to furniture (“cruising”)
1 year May take a few steps without holding on
1 year May stand alone
18 months Walks alone
18 months May walk up steps and run
18 months Pulls toys while walking
18 months Can help undress self
2 years Stands on tiptoe
2 years Kicks a ball
2 years Begins to run
2 years Climbs onto and down from furniture without help
2 years Walks up and down stairs holding on
2 years Throws ball overhand
An infant playing in the sand.^[ Image by Andres and Antoinette Ricardo used with permission]

Figure 4.13: An infant playing in the sand.162

  1. Children’s Development by Ana R. Leon is licensed under CC BY 4.0↩︎

  2. Developmental milestones record by the U.S. National Library of Medicine is in the public domain↩︎

  3. Developmental Milestones by the CDC is in the public domain↩︎

  4. Image by Andres and Antoinette Ricardo used with permission↩︎