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Motor Skill Development: The First 5 Years


It's thrilling to watch your baby grow, but it can be hard to know what to expect. This guide is intended to help you anticipate your child's next milestone in motor skills development. Remember that mini growth spurts are very common because children grow and develop at different rates, but on average babies grow 10 inches in height and three times their birth weight during their first year.

Help your baby grow and develop by providing a safe space for rolling, scooting and crawling. Encourage movement and crawling by playing games that require gentle leg and arm movement and by placing a favorite toy just out of reach.

Overall health is important, too; ensure that your child gets plenty of rest and a balanced diet. While your baby's progress should be generally consistent with the following timeline, remember that every baby develops at an individual pace.

Developmental milestones

For a full array of information on developmental milestones, please see Military OneSource’s Children, Youth and Teen’s webpage here.

Infants

Between birth and three months, babies will be able to clumsily move their body, raise their head when lying on their stomach and track toys close to their face. They will also begin to grip so they can reach for and grasp objects. As they mature, they go on to lift their heads and upper body, eventually sitting up and rolling over. As your baby's eyes continue to develop, their vision is three dimensional, making it easier to reach for, grasp, and pass toys between hands. At around 6- to 9-months of age, babies typically being to crawl and sit without support. They will continue to reach for things. Your baby's eyes can now focus on objects, making it easier to keep an eye on you. Your baby may also be learning to eat with a spoon and be able to pull up to a standing position using some form of leverage. By nine months, your baby can crawl and may even take their first step. Babies at this age can also use their thumb and forefinger to pick up or let go of small objects.

Toddler

By your baby’s first birthday, they will start to grow slower but develop quickly. Babies reaching this stage will most likely be able to stand up and sit down on their own and will walk more easily. Your baby may also turn the pages of a book or drink unassisted. By 18 months, let your baby play with pull toys to encourage walking. Between 18- to 24-months of age, busy toddlers are improving balance and coordination, which helps them increase their independence. They can now catch and kick balls, bend over to pick up objects and build with blocks. Children in this age group may start feeding themselves and putting on their own clothes. By 2- to 3-years, your child is now fine-tuning large motor skills. They can ride a tricycle, jump and balance on one foot, and throw a ball overhand. Give your child time to practice new skills and offer encouragement in moments of frustration.

Preschooler

Preschoolers are bundles of energy. They are becoming very social and love to play with others. By 3- to 4- years, your child should be able to run and skip well and play simple ball games. Within the year, your child’s balance will continue to improve as they grow. Your child may experience growing pains, which are usually caused by jumping, climbing and other activities. Ease your child’s pains by massaging, stretching and applying a warm compress.

If you ever have concerns about your child's development, make sure to talk with your pediatrician. She can help you decide if an evaluation is necessary. For more information on an early intervention program in your area, visit the National Dissemination Center for Children with Disabilities.

Learn more about your baby’s milestones by visiting the "Ages and Stages" section of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ website or Military OneSource’s Infant/Toddler/Preschool page.


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