Welcome to Toddlerhood: Gross Motor Skill Development 12 - 24 months

By her first birthday your child will have already reached many milestones on the way to walking: rolling, sitting, crawling, creeping, standing and maybe even cruising around the furniture or walking holding on with one hand. Her muscles have grown and become much stronger and she has become better coordinated. 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. All of these skills take a considerable time to practice and perfect, before mastery is achieved, and they move onto the next stage of development.

12 - 18 months

Your baby’s first steps are one the most memorable milestones for any parent, with many mishaps and tumbles along the way. This milestone is often met with cheers of excitement and celebration from any lucky bystander. Half of all babies take their first steps by the age of 12 months and 90% by 15 months. From walking with that adorable wide legged gait and lots of falls onto his bottom, he will gradually begin walking well, in a sturdier manner and narrower gait, sometimes while carrying or pulling a toy. 

Your baby’s first steps are one the most memorable milestones for any parent, with many mishaps and tumbles along the way.

18 - 24 months

Around the 18-month mark, he will learn to stoop, pick up a toy and recover to standing, and will also to begin to run. The next step is traveling up stairs, holding onto the rail, one foot a time. This is closely followed by, the more nerve-racking step for parents, of walking down stairs, holding onto the rail. Around the age of 24 months, give or take three months, your toddler will progress to jumping on two feet and running with confidence and excitement. Watch out puddles, you are going to get jumped in! Between 18 and 24 months he may also start to throw a ball overarm.

Please note

Children born prematurely will usually reach milestones based on their due date, rather than their birth date. All milestones have a broad range of ages at which they are achieved. If you would like further information theCDC has a good summary of all developmental milestones.

Helping Your Toddler Develop Gross Motor Skills

Environment: Providing a safe environment is the best place to start. Get down to her level and look for dangers. Cover sharp edges with padding or buy plastic corner protectors. Remove cords, tablecloths or wires, and objects that could cause injury or pose a choking risk: nothing is safe now! Allow her to crawl, shuffle and cruise around the furniture at leisure, ignoring mishaps and praising successes. Don’t carry her around too often or force her to try to walk, she will do it in her own time.

Baby walkers: The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents do not allow their toddler to use a sit-in baby walker as they increase the risk of falls, and other injuries. Instead they recommend stationary activity centers, where she can play, rotate and bounce, and playpens, which create a safe zone for your mobile child.

Toys: Provide a variety of age appropriate toys and play with your baby to model how to use new toys.

Shoes: Save hard bottomed shoes for outside walking; while inside she needs to learn to feel with her feet, so bare feet, socks or soft-soled shoes are perfect.

While it is tempting, don’t torture yourself by comparing your child to other children; they all have their own timetable for development.   

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, low birth weight or have other health problems 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; every child is different. Signs to report to your doctor include:

  • Not walking by 18 months,

  • A limp or uneven stride,

  • Muscles that are unusually stiff or loose,

  • Falls forward instead of onto bottom,

  • Walks on tiptoes most of the time,

  • Feet are turned in,

  • Legs are excessively bowed,

  • Loss of skills previously gained (regression),

  • Unusual movements or twitches.

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.