Skip to main content
Social Sci LibreTexts

1.4.4: Gross Motor Skills

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)\(\newcommand{\AA}{\unicode[.8,0]{x212B}}\)

    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 pull up on furniture, usually with the goal of reaching a desired object. Usually, this will also lead to taking steps and eventually walking. 22

    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. 23

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

    Contributors and Attributions

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

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

    This page titled 1.4.4: Gross Motor Skills is shared under a CC BY license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Paris, Ricardo, Raymond, & Johnson (College of the Canyons) .

    • Was this article helpful?