Everything You Want to Know About Your Child’s Gross Motor Skills
Whether you are a first-time mom or this is baby number four, there is never a bad time to refresh or learn new information about childhood development. This is especially true when talking about your child’s gross motor skills and where they should roughly be at a certain age.
Gross motor skills are very different from fine motor skills but it is easy to get the two of these things mixed up. Here we are just going to discuss some of the gross motor skills that a parent should be expecting and on the lookout for.
First, let’s talk about what they are!
What Are Gross Motor Skills?
Gross motor skills are all about the body using its large muscles to work on movement, reaction, balance, and more. These are the developed skills a baby will really start to utilize and learn in the early years of life.
Gross motor skills are some of the most important developed aspects as they allow a baby to learn to feed themselves, walk, crawl, and more. Typically you will find that at certain ages babies develop certain gross motor skills.
It’s not always the same child to child but likely they will follow similar patterns of development.
Importance of Gross Motor Skills
There are so many important things that come with your child developing their gross motor skills. Let’s talk about some of the main important factors that a child will benefit from as they develop their gross motor skills.
Babies will learn to feed themselves, signal what they want, crawl, walk, play, and more when they learn these skills. This develops the self-sufficiency they need to enhance their minds and creative thinking.
From developing self-sufficiency and being able to move on their own they develop confidence in their body to continue learning these behaviors.
Risk Decision Making
Something important for kids to learn is how to gauge their own safety. They can only do this by experimenting with their body and learning what passes and “fails”.
This one may seem obvious but exercise is certainly a benefit. When learning how to control their gross motor skills they are exercising both their bodies and their brains.
Gross Motor Skills Development
Understanding what gross motor skills development looks like is important. How you can encourage them is even better. The first thing most doctors and childcare professionals will encourage is to allow your baby to have tummy time when they are ready.
Tummy time allows them to try and sit up a little, squirm, and engage all those muscles. You can also have your baby lay on their back and have dangly toys above ahead. This allows them to reach for things. You may notice that your baby may start grabbing at your fingers which is another great reason to offer them your hand.
As they get older, you can advance the setup to encourage more development of gross motor skills “appropriate” for their age.
Gross Motor Skills at Different Ages
So what is considered to be “normal” and a sign that there is a delay? Let’s first dive into the development at different peak ages so that we can follow along with our baby's journey as they start kicking, climbing, and more!
- Eyes begin to focus on objects about a foot away.
- Ability to raise head when on the tummy.
- Start to smile!
- Awareness of their hands moving.
- Ability to be startled.
- Recognition of someone familiar and ability to show this through hands and legs.
- Ability to roll over.
- Starts to reach for people.
- Recognition of voices and turn attention to them.
- Able to hold the head.
- Ability to push up with their arms on their stomach.
- Assisted sitting up straight.
- Unassisted ability to sit up straight.
- Assisted ability to stand up.
- Bouncing or bobbing while holding hands.
- Grabbing at hands and feet while playing.
- Pick up small food and put it in their mouth.
- Ability to move around while possibly holding on to objects like the furniture to assist.
- Walking alone with some bumps and falls.
- Ability to crawl while dragging a toy.
- Pass toys from one hand to the other.
- Using furniture to stand up.
- Ability to run with some falls.
- Ability to climb on objects.
- Ability to jump.
- Can squat down to play.
- Throw a ball in a specific direction/in a box.
- Can walk up and downstairs while holding hands or railing.
Gross Motor Skill Delays
While all the above is typically what you can expect with your little one there are some complications that can really affect your baby’s ability to accomplish some of these milestones with their gross motor skills.
These are often referred to as gross motor skill delays and can be a result of a number of things. It may be a neurological or just a developmental delay. A gross motor delay is sort of the general diagnosis where a further diagnosis may be needed by a doctor.
What Causes a Motor Skill Delay?
It’s not always possible to find an explanation for why a child may reach some of these milestones a little later than other kids but other times we are able to pinpoint the cause behind something or a general theme.
These are some of the possible causes for a gross motor skill delay:
- Premature birth has been associated with delays in development because of lacking some of that extra time needed in the womb. Your premature age and your actual age are determined by how prematurely the baby was born and where they are at in their developmental stage.
- Genetic abnormalities such as Down Syndrome can be a possible cause of gross motor skill delays. Down Syndrome typically affects all areas of development in a child and adult.
- Nerve/Muscle Disorders that affect a child from using their gross motor muscles. This could be Cerebral Palsy or Muscle Dystrophy.
- Autism and other developmental possible disruptions have the ability to slow down gross motor delays.
- Hormonal abnormalities. Hormonal imbalances can have an effect on neurological development which plays a hand in gross motor skills development.
Are There Treatments for Gross Motor Skill Delays?
The treatment to assist with gross motor skill delays is completely dependent on what diagnosis your child has. They can be treated with occupational therapy, physical therapy, and sensory development.
The length of time is also to be determined by the type of diagnosis that you are dealing with. With more serious cases there may be a lifetime of treatment where other treatments may be more short-term.
Activities to Encourage Gross Motor Skills in Your Child
We briefly mentioned some things you can do to keep encouraging your baby to explore their gross motor skills development. Having said that, let's go into activities and specifics that you can do daily with your baby and toddler!
- There is no substitute for tummy time like we mentioned when they are 0-3 months old. The reason begins so that it is where they start to learn how to lift their head and engage their muscles.
- Once they get into the rolling onto their back moment you can start to let them reach for your hands. You can pull them up to a sitting position to encourage them to do this themselves.
- You can also encourage them to start sitting and engage their ab and back muscles. They will lean on your hands for balance and eventually start working to not need you at all.
- Place plenty of hanging toys and objects near so they can work on focusing and reaching for them when on their back and on their tummy around the floor.
Toddlers really start to use their muscles to move around but that doesn’t mean the engagement stops there!
- Take on the stairs together! At about 2 years old they could be able to go up and down stairs while holding your hand. This can be tiring for them so make sure to have a good hold in case they fall.
- As they start to embrace 3/4-years-old you can start trying to place things like hopscotch with them and jumping games!
- Going to the park and playing on play structures is also a great way for them to develop muscles by hanging and climbing.
- Once they reach 5-years-old jumping rope and games like this are a great activity to work on balance and coordination.
When to Contact a Doctor About Your Child’s Gross Motor Skills
There is nothing quite as exciting as when your baby starts to show interest in learning, moving, and other things to stay engaged. It can also be a little stressful for parents (especially new ones) if their baby seems to be lagging in some areas.
The truth is tons of babies have developed later than the standard for no apparent reason at all. This can be more frustrating for a parent because they are unsure if something is inhibiting their child from developing or not.
So the question becomes when is it appropriate to call a doctor?
You will have regular checkups after your baby is born. Take comfort in the fact that the doctor will always be on the lookout for these things, to begin with. Once the visits become infrequent and you notice your baby is rather behind, it doesn’t hurt to go in and see your pediatrician.
They may even refer you to a specialist to double-OK everything. As soon as you start to feel a little uneasy don’t hesitate to get answers. That doesn’t mean you need to panic as we mentioned tons of baby’s develop on their own schedule.
It is truly such a beautiful thing to watch your baby develop and grow. The gross motor skills are different from the fine motor skills in the way that the baby starts to use their large muscle groups to move around and become self-sufficient. The development of gross motor skills is so important for your baby’s curiosity, confidence, and exercise for the brain and mind.
There are definitely different ages and milestones that relate together that many parents will say their babies experienced around the same time. Having said that, we noted that not every baby is the same and the rate at which they develop could be completely different for no reason at all. There are however some triggers for this and should be assessed by a doctor.
Some reasons like autism, muscle dystrophy, among other developmental abnormalities can cause gross motor skill delays. Through occupational, physical, and other therapies they can be worked on. You can also encourage your baby through the activities mentioned above to work on them themselves.