From the almost immobile newborn to the teetering toddler and on to the sports-minded child, your little one will go through a series of gross-motor stages. Developmentally, gross-motor refers to the skills and abilities that children build using their large muscle groups such as strength, agility and balance. Although not every motor mark is set in stone, most children make a typical progression.
During the first three months of life, the gross-motor milestones to look for are the basics of later movements. For example, the American Academy of Pediatrics Healthy Children website notes that by 3 months an infant can raise his head and chest when he is placed on his stomach and stretch his legs and kick. By 7 months, your infant can roll from back to front and front to back and sit without your help. As the first year comes to a close, most infants can crawl and pull up to a standing position. Some infants might have the gross-motor skills to cruise around while holding on to furniture or even walk unassisted.
The child development experts at the Healthy Children website note that the toddler years are a time of energetic movement, where your child should be running and jumping. Your checklist for gross motor development during the toddler time should include a growing ability to move in a more coordinated way. For example, as a young toddler your child is up and walking, but possibly not in a steady fashion. As she moves further into this period, she will begin to walk with ease, then run, hop and even stand on one leg. Additionally, your child can start to learn the basics of sports such as kicking or throwing a ball.
Although your preschooler isn't always the picture of grace, he is developing more sophisticated gross-motor skills. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, starting at age 3, most children can move forward and backward with ease. Preschoolers can also walk up and down steps themselves using alternating feet. Additionally, preschoolers are able to engage in more complex physical games and activities such as riding a tricycle, playing Pee Wee soccer or hitting a T-ball.
As your child moves into the grade school years, she is further refining her gross-motor skills. During the early elementary years, your child might still share the same occasionally immature motor abilities of a preschooler. The child development professionals at North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension note that as kids move into middle childhood and the later grade school years, they have much more adult-like gross-motor skills. Look for your child to walk and run with agility and coordination, and play sports with a fair amount of ease. Although not every child is a natural athlete, most grade-schoolers can kick, throw and catch a ball during team sports play.