Father Encouraging Smiling Baby Daughter To Take First Steps And Walk At Home

Gross Motor Developmental Milestones in Infants & Toddlers

Gross motor developmental milestones are movements and skills that infants, toddlers, and children typically acquire as they age. Gross motor milestones differ from fine motor milestones in that “gross motor” refers to the large muscle groups in the upper body, lower body, and trunk. These larger muscles are responsible for movements such as rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, walking, running, kicking, and so on. Gross motor milestones are important for child development. Each gross motor skill and developmental milestone can also be an indication of any present developmental delay.

Why are gross motor skills important in a child’s development?  

Infants and toddlers learn by exploring their environment. Gross motor skills are a major way that children are able to explore. Infants start in limited positions with limited skills. They are mainly lying on their backs or bellies or being held or propped up. They’re moving against gravity in different ways, which allows for the development of strength through their trunk, shoulders, and hips. As infants develop their core muscles, that’s when they can start to develop additional skills like rolling and sitting. Each set of milestones is important for gross motor skill development so that the child can then build on that current set of skills. They go on to crawl, pull to stand, cruise, then stand alone and walk alone.  

Gross motor milestones are also a way for kids to develop a sense of movement, confidence in their bodies, and an understanding of how they work. With time and practice, children master these developmental skills and become experts in moving their bodies. Developmental milestones are imperative at each stage of a child’s life.    

What are the major milestones of gross motor development in early childhood?  

Before discussing actual milestones, it’s important to mention that not all children will hit milestones by a specific age. There truly is an age range where children are expected to acquire certain gross motor skills.   

In early childhood, it’s important for infants and toddlers not to skip milestones. Gross motor milestones are just that; milestones. And each milestone serves a purpose. Major milestones in the first year of life include propping on arms during tummy time, rolling, sitting, crawling, standing, and walking.  

What are gross motor skills for each age?  

Every developmental milestone is important to note and here are what some milestones can look like in early childhood development:

0-3 months:  

  • Tummy time: pick head up, turn head to each side, and prop on their elbows 
  • Supine (lying on back): bring hands to midline, grasp for toy 
  • Visually track faces, lights, toys 

3-6 months:  

  • Tummy time: push up to hands, reach for toys while propping, pivot to different toys 
  • Supine (lying on back): find their feet, bring feet to mouth 
  • Rolling: starting to roll back to belly and belly to back 
  • Sitting: prop sitting with hands supporting on floor 

6-9 months:  

  • Tummy time: push up from belly to sitting position 
  • Rolling: can roll back to belly and belly to back without difficulty and without a side preference 
  • Sitting: independent sitting and playing with toys 
  • Hands and knees: move from belly to hands and knees, rock on hands and knees, and start to crawl 

9-12 months:  

  • Hands and knees: crawling over objects 
  • Standing: pull to stand on furniture, lowering to sitting from supported stand position, and eventually letting go of support to stand alone 
  • Moving: cruising along furniture, walking with hands held, eventually releasing support and taking independent steps 

1 year:  

  • Walking: vary speeds, start to run 
  • Stairs: crawl safely up and down, walk up and down stairs with assistance 
  • Ball skills: kick and throw from standing position without falling 

2 years:  

  • Start to jump: clear the floor when jumping on the ground, jump down from short distance, jump forward with two-footed take-off and landing 
  • Stairs: balance is improving, can safely walk up and down stairs without help 
  • Ball skills: throwing and kicking pattern start to mature, see a more coordinated motion for each, start to catch ball 

3 years:  

  • Balance: start to balance on one foot for up to 3 seconds without falling 
  • Stairs: can go up and down without help, uses 1 foot per step  
  • Running: runs with arm swinging, can stop quickly without losing balance 
  • Jumping: jump forward 24 inches, jump down higher heights without falling 
  • Ball skills: starts to throw ball to target with more accuracy 

4 years:  

  • Hopping: start to hop on one foot, both up and down as well as forward without falling 
  • Balance: balance is improving, stand on each foot for 5 seconds 
  • Jumping: can jump forward up to 36 inches 
  • Ball skills: catch, kick, and throw with mature pattern and accuracy to target 

5 years:  

  • Ride a bike! 
  • Coordinated jumps: jump rope, hopscotch, jumping jacks, gallop and skip 
  • Balance: can balance on each foot 10 seconds 
  • Sit ups: can do several sit-ups without difficulty 
  • Ball skills: throwing and kicking to target accurately, catching a small ball with both hands 

How Ivy Rehab for Kids can Help 

If you are concerned that your child is not meeting gross motor developmental milestones at the right time or is skipping milestones, a pediatric physical therapist can help! Ivy Rehab for Kids offers pediatric physical therapy programs designed by our highly-trained pediatric experts in gross motor development and developmental delays. Don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Click here to find a location near you.


Article By: Jill Owen, PT, DPT 

Jill began her PT career 9 years ago. Jill loves working with the pediatric population and believes in the importance of providing quality treatment and education to patients and their families. She currently specializes in movement disorders, serial casting, torticollis, and developmental delay. Jill enjoys working with kids of all ages and abilities to reach their full potential and live their best lives! She currently treats patients at Ivy Rehab for Kids in Tecumseh, MI. 

The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

Share this article!

Relevant Conditions & Treatments