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Developmental Milestones: Gross Motor and Sensory
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Gross motor skills involve the ability to use large muscles for movements such as lifting the head, crawling, or walking. These skills begin to develop in infancy and early childhood.

Sensory skills, such as taste, touch, vision, hearing, and smell develop through movement and exploration. Infants explore with their mouths and progress to exploring with the hands. Sensory skills become more refined in early childhood.

What follows are typical milestones for gross motor and sensory development in young children, as well as warning signs of possible delays. There is a wide range of typical development. However, follow up with a pediatrician if your child shows signs of delays.

Birth to Three Months
  • Poor head control
  • Hand and and leg movements are still jerky
  • Movements dominated by infantile reflexes
  • While lying on stomach, can raises head to 45 degrees
  • Recognizes scent of mother’s breast milk
Three to Six Months
  • Improved head control at four months
  • Pushes up on arms when lying on stomach
  • Progresses to rolling from lying on stomach to back and from her back to lying on her stomach
  • Reaches hands to feet, lifting legs up when lying on the back
  • Stretches legs and kicks while lying on the stomach or back
  • Pushes down through the legs when the feet are placed on a firm surface
  • Sits with support at six months
  • Prefers more intense movements such as swinging and rocking
  • Begins to accept loud noises
Six to Twelve Months
By 9 months:
  • Sits independently without support for long periods of time
  • Sits in a highchair with a straight back
  • Catches self with arm when loses balance
  • Able to move from sitting to lying down
  • Crawls on belly
  • Assumes a hands-and-knees position and begins to rock forward and backward
By 12 months:
  • Progresses to crawling on hands and knees
  • Pulls to standing on furniture
  • Walks along furniture, holding on for support
  • Stands independently for a few moments
  • Bends down to pick up an object while holding on for support
  • Progress to taking two to three independent steps without support
  • Begins to walk at ten to eighteen months of age
  • Tolerates new and greater variety of food textures
  • Likes to explore the environment through mouthing objects, touching various textures, and moving
Twelve to Eighteen Months
By 15 months:
  • Stands independently
  • Squats down to pick up a toy
  • Walks independently
  • Pulls and carries toys while walking
By 18 months:
  • Climbs on and off chairs and furniture
  • Walks sideways and backwards
  • Steps up and down stairs with handheld support
  • Begins to run, but in an uncoordinated way
  • Explores mainly through vision and touch
  • Responds differently to loud and soft noises
Eighteen to Twenty-four Months
By 21 months:
  • Picks objects off the floor without losing balance
  • Walks, stops, and turns without losing balance
  • Carries large objects or pulls objects while walking
  • Runs with improved coordination
  • Kicks a ball forward with one foot
  • Stands on tip toes
  • Walks up stairs without hand support
  • Climbs furniture without assistance
By 24 months:
  • Jumps off a step
  • Goes down stairs with hand support on the railing
  • Throws a ball forward five feet
  • Climbs a slanted ladder
  • Goes down a slide
Two to Three Years
  • Climbs well
  • Kicks a ball without loss of balance
  • Jumps from the floor
  • Progresses to jumping off the second step
  • Balances briefly on one foot
  • Runs with good coordination
  • Begins to pedal a tricycle and propel ride–on toys
  • Walks up and down stairs, alternating feet on each step
  • Progresses to jumping forward four or more inches
  • Begins to hop on one foot
  • Jumps over a two-inch-high hurdle or obstacle
Three to Five Years
  • Hops, jumps, skips, climbs, swings, and does somersaults
  • Rides a tricycle and progresses to riding a two wheeled bike
  • Throws overhand with greater accuracy
  • Balances on one foot for many seconds without support
  • Catches a ball consistently
Signs of Possible Developmental Delays: Gross Motor and Sensory
Helpful article if you suspect your child may have developmental delays.

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