Toddler Milestones: Gross Motor Skills 2 - 4 years

By the age of 2 your child will be very mobile and getting into all sorts of mischief. As she transitions between toddler and preschooler she will refine her skills, and develop new more advanced ones, such as skipping and hopping. As with other areas of development there is a great deal of variation in the age at which your little one can reach these milestones.

Physical or Gross Motor Milestones

By the age of 2 most toddlers can walk confidently, run with increasing ease (occasional falls are normal), jump with both feet together, stand on tiptoe, climb onto low surfaces, kick a ball and throw over arm.

As your child transitions between toddler and preschooler she will refine her skills, and develop new more advanced ones, such as skipping and hopping.
2 to 3 years

Between her second and third birthday your child will hone her skills in walking and running. Parents it’s time to get fit, or you won’t be able to keep up. She will learn to stand from a squat and jump up. She may start to climb out of her crib, at which stage you may want to move her into a bed. She will master standing on one leg and walking on tiptoes. She will become more confident on the stairs advancing from holding onto the rail and climbing up 2 feet per step, to one foot per step. She will enjoy propelling herself on a ride-on toy and may even start to pedal a small tricycle.

3 to 4 years

Between the age of 3 and 4, her balancing skills will improve and she will learn to hop around. She will start to climb the ladder on the slide at the play park and run to kick a ball. Her stair climbing will transform to an adult pattern. Her upper body is also becoming stronger and more agile, and she may start to enjoy bouncing and catching a ball. She may now be attending nursery, preschool or kindergarten, where he should have plenty of opportunity to play on a variety of outdoor toys, which will challenge her and help her skills develop.

Please note

All children reach their milestones at different rates, so don’t drive yourself crazy comparing your child to others. Children born prematurely or with developmental disorders may reach their milestones later. If you would like further information theCDC has a good summary of all developmental milestones.


Helping Your Toddler Develop Gross Motor Skills

Safety: Your child will be able to move fast, explore and climb, so it is important that you are very safety conscious.  Safety near water is a particular concern at this age, as he can move very fast and has little common sense. You will need to be very careful with him when out for walks, as he may bolt at the sight of a cute cat or a ball on the road.

Social play: Arrange opportunities for your child to play with other children: they learn best from modelling kids of a similar age, and running around chasing a friend is a great way to develop social and physical skills.

Explore: At the park or indoor play area you will find activities that help them develop new skills, such as balance beams, slides, swings and climbing frames. Walks around your neighborhood, to the grocery store or on a special trip to the zoo help build stamina and provide opportunities to develop language and cognitive skills.

Make it fun: At this age activities should be fun. If you are busy and don’t have much time with your child, turn everyday activities like sweeping the floor or doing grocery shopping into a fun game. It makes time pass more quickly too.  If your child is playing in the garden, use everyday or inexpensive items to make the environment more fun, such as  drawing a hopscotch game on the drive with chalk. Playing with bubbles, balloons or balls are a great way to improve upper body strength and hand eye coordination. Dance around with your baby and show her your moves, she’ll think you’re wonderful no matter how uncoordinated you are!

Red flags: When to call your doctor

 The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests developmental checks at: 9 months, 18 months and 24 or 30 months. Children who were premature or have developmental delay may be screened more frequently. If you are worried you can request an assessment at any time.

If you think your child is showing unusual signs: don’t panic! There may be a very simple reason and every child is different. Signs to report to your doctor include:

  • Delay in reaching milestones,

  • Muscles that are unusually stiff or loose,

  • Feet are turned in or legs that are excessively bowed,

  • Unusual movements or twitches,

  • Excessive clumsiness,

  • Sits on floor with legs in a W shape,

  • Walks on toes most of the time,

  • Asymmetry of posture or gait,

  • Loss of skills previously gained (regression).

It is recommended that you keep a record of your child’s development: if you are concerned it may help reassure you that your child is, in fact, progressing and if the need arises it will provide useful information for your doctor.




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