The first few years of life are filled with significant physical and mental changes as children grow from infant to toddlerhood and beyond. In fact, there is no greater period of growth in human development. Because of the rapid growth that occurs during his period, age is generally defined in months or even weeks as opposed to years.
It is important to remember that each child is unique and will develop at their own pace. Typically, however, babies begin to pull themselves up to a stand and take their first steps somewhere around 12–14 months. This is a substantial feat when we consider that just a few short months ago they were not even able to lift their own head.
Fine Motor Skills vs. Gross Motor Skills
Small, precise, coordinated movements are known as fine motor skills. An example of these skills in action would be using your fingers to pick up a coin. Fine motor skills require the integration of muscular, skeletal, and neurological functions. Gross motor skills include larger movements such as running or jumping. These two skills often develop together during early childhood.
As a child transitions from baby to toddler, they typically experience great gains in both their fine as well as their gross motor skill development. Toddlers have better control over their fingers and hands than infants.
Their hand-eye coordination is also greatly improved, and you can see evidence of this as your toddler's activities and abilities begin to change. For example, pay close attention to your toddler as they color, and you will soon see random scribbles become intentional lines and circles. These are fine motor skills in action.
Gross motor skills become evident as you watch your child's first tentative and unsteady steps develop into more confident strides. Soon your toddler is running (and falling less), jumping, and climbing. As gross motor skills become more sophisticated, your toddler will be able to throw a ball with more and more accuracy. One day they will even be able to catch a ball tossed by you.
Child Development Chart
|12 Months||15 Months||18 Months||21 Months||24 Months|
Gross Motor Skills
Pulls to stand often using furniture by leading with leg, lowers self to sit on floor without falling, stands 3-5 seconds alone, walks along furniture, walks at least 4 steps with one hand aid, catches self when losing balance, throws small ball when standing, rolls ball forward in sitting
Stands alone well, may creep up 3 steps, stoops to pick up toy from floor and return to standing without losing balance, able to change direction while walking without losing balance
Walks backwards 5 steps while pulling string toy, climbs in adult chair and turns around to sit, pushes and pulls large toys, seats self in small chair, steps on or kicks at ball in an attempt to imitate kicking ball
Squats to play, walks up or down stairs with one hand assistance using step to gait (placing both feet on one step), kick ball 3 feet without falling, throws small ball overhead 3 feet while standing, moves ride on toy without pedals
Runs without falling, walks up 3 steps using step-to-gait (placing both feet on one step) without assist, walks down stairs 3 steps using rail using step-to-gait, throws small ball 3 feet underhanded while standing, throws small ball 3-5 feet in direction of target, jumps with boh feet, jumps from bottom step
Fine Motor Skills
Puts 3 or more objects in a container, stacks 2 blocks, claps hands toegher, points with index finger, uses pincer grasp (index finger and thumb) to pick up objects, Marks paper wih crayon, starts to bring spoon to mouth, Gives toy to familiar adult at request, shows toy preferences, Imitates clapping/waving
Pulls string toy behind while walking, grasps 2 objects in one hand, stack 3 blocks, places many objects in container, holds arms and legs our for dressing, feeds self with spoon, removes socks, hugs and kisses parents
Use boh hands with one holding object and other manipulating object, stacks 4-6 blocks, holds crayon towards paper with thumb and finger, removes untied shoes, puts away toys with assistance, manipulates toys with specific intent, uses gestures in play
Imitates circular scribble, strings a one-inch bead, turns knob to open door, holds small cup in one hand, helps with simple household tasks
Imitates 3 block train, snips with scissors, holds crayon with thumb and fingers, washes hands, pulls pants down without assistance, holds spoon in fingers
Tips for Improving Motor Skills Development in Young Children
You may not realize it, but your child’s motor skills are developing as they go through the childhood business of everyday play. If you would like to assist in this development, there are many activities that will keep your child engaged and provide the needed practice to strengthen these skills. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
- Craft projects: These are a great way to develop fine motor skills. Many craft projects require hand-eye coordination and allow a child to practice using the integral system comprised of neurological, skeletal, and muscular functions. Using scissors, squeezing bottles of glue, stringing beads, or macaroni all help to improve motor skills.
- Playing with putty: This may seem like a simple activity to us, but squeezing and stretching putty, play dough, etc., actually helps to strengthen the fingers and hands.
- Pincer grasp activities: These are activities that include the use of the thumb and forefinger to grasp things. For example, using pipe cleaners or even building blocks often involves the use of the pincer grasp.
- Finger painting and other messy activities: Finger painting and similar activities actually help small children develop an awareness of their fingers, how they work, and how to gain better control of them.
- Mealtime: For young children, serving diced food such as apples or carrots allows them to use their fingers more. They must coordinate to first pick the food up and then to get it to their mouths. At first, it may be easier for your child to practice these skills using spoons and forks with chunky handles.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
LQWILLIams (author) on November 06, 2015:
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MumdyJecobs on November 05, 2015:
Hey guys, I'm a new mother and I'm trying to get my five month son to sleep longer during night. Right now I am fortunate to get three hours sleep each night. Does anybody have any advice? Thanks