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Gross motor skills in infants refers to the skills that allow your child to use their large muscles groups. These are the skills that enable them to undertake activities such as crawling and walking and as they grow older, skipping, running, balancing, throwing, kicking and so on.
Gross motor skills in infants develop naturally in children as they grow older and strengthen their muscles. Your child increasingly engages in physical activity with time, and all these activities help them to strengthen their muscles.
Gross motor skills development in infants
Developmental milestones refer to what your child is expected to be able to achieve at a certain moment in their development. This does not mean that ALL children will be able to do ALL the things that they are “expected to be able to do”.
In reality, developmental milestones are simply a guide because every child develops at their own pace. In other words, although parents often worry when their babies do not display certain behavior that they are “expected to”, most developmental delays are just that: delays! Most babies catch up on their delays.
That said, having a rough idea of what babies can do (or are about to start doing) depending on their developmental level is often helpful for many parents. Also, knowing what to expect can guide the activities aimed at developing gross motor skills in infants.
Here are a few gross motor developmental milestones.
Gross motor skills in infants (at 2 months)
- Your child can hold their head erect
- They can lift up their head and chest
- They can sit in an infant seat or sit when supported
Gross motor skills in infants between 3 and 6 months
- Your child can lift their head while lying on their back
- They can turn their head to both sides
- They can roll over. By 6 months old, your baby has mastered rolling from belly to back and from back to belly
Gross motor skills in infants (between 6 and 12 months)
- Your baby can sit independently
- He/she begins to creep on their stomach
- He/she begins to crawl (from about 7 months)
- He/she can stand while holding onto a chair (from about 8 months)
- He/she can move around a room while holding onto furniture (from about 8 months)
- He/she can stand alone by about 12 months
- He/she can walk with one hand held (from about 12 months)
Gross motor skill skills between 12 and 18 months
- Your child starts walking independently (normally from about 15 months)
- He/she can choose and pull toys
- He/she starts running
Gross motor skill activities for toddlers at age two
- Your child can run
- He/she can walk up and down stairs with support
- He/she starts climbing
- He/she starts kicking balls
- He/she can tiptoe
Activities that promote gross motor skills in infants
Although children learn quite naturally to strengthen their gross motor skills, a few activities can strengthen babies’ large muscles group and make it easier for them to master movements such as crawling, walking, and so on.
Here are a few things that you can do to promote their development.
- Ensure that your baby gets as much tummy time as possible. Tummy times helps babies strengthen their arm, neck and back muscles, and this encourages the development of gross motor skills in infants that eventually enable them to lift their heads, sit up, crawl, and so on.
It is important for babies to get up to five minutes of tummy time at a go, repeated at least thrice a day. You can increase each “tummy time session” as your baby grows older. Remember that infants should never be left alone during tummy time.
- Holding objects or toys out of your baby’s reach will encourage the development of gross motor skills in infants because it will encourage them to reach for them. Choosing toys that your child is already attracted to will increase the chances that they attempt to reach out to them.
- Surround your baby with their favorite toys (place them slightly out of reach) to pique their interest and encourage them to crawl to them.
- Put obstacles such as pillows and blankets in your baby’s path and let them climb over them. Watch them to reduce risks, but also to ensure that they go over the obstacles and not around them!
- Providing objects on which to pull on encourages the development of gross motor skills in infants. For example, placing your baby next to babyproofed furniture provides them with a support on which to pull themselves up to stand (usually between seven to 12 months).
- If you have stairs in your home, allow your baby to climb them, always under your supervision.
- Encouraging crawling is great for the development of gross motor skills in infants. For the youngest ones, a transparent tunnel will allow you to see what they are up to!
- Make a cardboard tunnel by grabbing your biggest and sturdiest box and opening it up. Your baby will love crawling through their tunnel under your supervision.
- Give your baby a medium-sized or large ball and watch them as they roll and follow it.
- Participating in baby and parent swim classes is also an easy way to promote the development of gross motor skills in infants AND it also helps strengthen the parent/child bond.
Toys that promote the development of gross motor skills in infants
While simple activities such as tummy time are sufficient to help babies develop their gross motor skills, as they grow older, certain toys can help strengthen their large muscles group.
Here are a few toys that are great for developing gross motor skills in infants.
From six months, your baby will love this walker and musical learning toy that will help strengthen both their gross motor and fine motor skills. I love that it proposes two different ways to play: your baby can either sit & play or stand & walk!
It also proposes hands-on activities that will help develop different skills such as visual discrimination skills and hand/eye coordination.
The Ikkle foldable triangle is an open-ended toy that your baby can use for a very long time, starting when they are just three months old, because it can be transformed into different shapes, and the height can also be adjusted.
This foldable triangle can help them to develop their balance and to improve their gross motor skills. I love that your baby can use it in different ways as they grow older.
From nine months, your baby will love this ride-on and walker toy that is great for the development of gross motor skills in infants. It will help them practice pushing, balancing and walking all day long. This walker toy also has knobs, levers, rollers and spinners that will help them develop their fine motor skills!
Your 9-month-old baby will enjoy pushing this walker which will help them strengthen their leg muscles as well as their stability. We love that this walker also proposes activities to develop additional skills such as your baby’s fine motor skills, visual discrimination skills and hand/eye coordination.
Your nine month old baby will enjoy crawling and climbing on this corner climber! It takes up little space, it has a non-slip bottom to reduce danger, and it’s a great activity for developing gross motor skills in infants on those rainy days!
From around 12 months, the Step2 Sports-Tastic Activity Center Playset will help your child strengthen their muscles as they enjoy themselves. It proposes different features to ensure that your baby gets the best gross motor experience.
Your one year old will love developing their gross motor skills with this cute balance bike. Its non-slip wheels will keep them safe both indoors and outdoors.
Both you and your baby will love this award winning Hape Walk-A-Long Snail. Your baby will want to take it everywhere, and this will help them develop their gross motor skills. It also has an integrated shape sorter which will help your baby develop their fine motor and their visual discrimination skills.
Gross motor skills in infants: when should you worry?
Although children with developmental delays may appear to struggle to reach gross motor milestones, most of them eventually catch up and are able to perform tasks and activities that require them to use their large muscles group.
However, your child’s gross motor skill development may be impaired for a number of reasons including genetic disorders, cerebral palsy, specific neurological conditions, injuries or illness, and so on.
Impaired gross motor skills may be reflected in behavior such as difficult, slow or awkward movements.
Although very few children suffer from impaired gross motor skills, please follow your instincts if you think that your child has a developmental delay. Even talking with your pediatrician will offer you invaluable peace of mind when it comes to the development of gross motor skills in infants.