An age-by-age look at children's gross-motor development - and how you can help them learn, grow, and master movement.

Gross-Motor Skills: 0 to 2

•    By 5 months, infants can roll over, lift their head and chest, and sit with adult support. •    At about 8 months, they're crawling and walking while holding on to something; between 10 and 16 months, they can walk on their own.
•    Between 7 and 12 months, babies can grasp and hold objects.
•    By 20 months, toddlers are walking up and down steps, throwing objects, and standing on one foot.
•    By the age of 2, they can kick and catch large balls, climb steps, go down low slides, and run without falling.
•    Twos are able to jump, climb, roll, and even do somersaults!

Activities

Children can:

•    crawl toward interesting noises made by rattles and balls.
•    stack foam blocks.
•    roll backward and forward.
•    play with sand and water.
•    kick balls.
•    walk along tape or chalk lines.
•    use age-appropriate swings.
•    climb low stairs.
•    use slides and tunnels.

Materials

0 to 6 months:
•    clutch and textured balls

7 to 12 months:
•    cars and animals on wheels to push infant-sized swings with backs, sides, and front closings padded platforms

1-year-olds:
•    tunnels to crawl through low toddler stairs with handrails
•    swings with curved seats and front closings
•    foot-propelled bikes (without steering wheels or pedals)
•    pull toys with rods

2-year-olds:
•    tunnels
•    low climbers and slides
•    balls of all shapes and sizes
•    swings with curved seats
•    foot-propelled bikes (without pedals)

Your Role

•    Encourage children to try new tasks and take risks.
•    Praise children's attempts to do new things.
•    Engage infants in using stimulating materials in active ways.
•    Model ways to use new materials.
•    Watch children as they use climbers, tunnels, and swings.

Gross-Motor Skills: 3 to 4

•    By the age of 3, children can walk in a straight line, walk backward, and control their movements as they run.
•    Threes can learn to pedal a tricycle.
•    Preschoolers can throw balls overhand, jump in place, and balance themselves on one foot.
•    Threes and fours can climb stairs and jungle gyms.

Activities

Children can:
•    play creative-movement games.
•    throw and catch balls and beanbags.
•    build and explore obstacle courses.

Materials

•    All of the above, plus:
•    tricycles
•    3- and 4-wheeled pedal toys
•    balls of all shapes and sizes
•    lightweight balls and large lightweight bats
•    small wagons
•    climbing equipment
•    slides (with side rails and ladders)
•    ropes and chains, hanging bars, and rings

Your Role

•    Change the available materials on a regular basis.
•    Set up games and activities that have an educational purpose (exploring cooperation, shadows, sizes, and so on).
•    Become involved in children's play without directing it.
•    Observe children to ensure their safety.
•    Help children find solutions to problems as they arise.

Gross-Motor Skills: 5 to 6

•    By age 5, children can run, jump, climb, and balance with assurance.
•    Fives and sixes have the motor and thinking skills to engage in games with simple rules.
•    Kindergartners are testing the limits of their physical abilities.

Activities  

Children can:

•    kick, throw, and catch balls.
•    play in creative-movement activities. skip rope.
•    engage in hand-clapping chants.

Materials

•    All of the above, plus:
•    jump ropes
•    low-slung tricycles
•    swinging bridges
•    balance beams

Your Role

•    Encourage children to create and organize collaborative, noncompetitive games.
•    Guide children in establishing and following their own rules.
•    Reassure children as they test themselves and try new tasks.

 

This article originally appeared in the April, 1998 issue of Early Childhood Today