Developmental phases of gross motor skills: from baby to teenager [+ play tips per phase]

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 29, 2021

A play theme in your mailbox every month?

Fun play tips, activity books and more, with the first email being our free mini-guide "educational toys"

We will only use your email address for this newsletter and respect you privacy

I enjoy writing these articles for my readers, you guys. I don't accept payment for writing reviews, my opinion on products is my own, but if you find my recommendations helpful and you end up buying something through one of the links I may be able to receive a commission on that. More information

From a small baby to a tough teenager; What developmental stages do our children go through when it comes to gross motor skills?

In my article I try to describe the milestones within different age groups as best as possible.

In terms of motor skills, a lot happens in childhood. I will not only discuss milestones with you, but also give you exercises and games to stimulate the development of gross motor skills in your child.

These exercises and games can all be done at home or outside with your child.

Your child will benefit from this in the development of his gross motor skills – ie the large movements that a child learns such as rolling, crawling, walking, running, cycling or jumping.

I therefore encourage you - especially in the early years - to get started with these exercises!

The difference between gross and fine motor skills

We distinguish gross motor skills from fine motor skills.

x
Toy reviews & comparisons video

Below the gross motor development This includes learning to crawl, walk, jump, but also to follow movements.

Gross motor skills are about the larger movements, but there is also such a thing as the fine motor skills; the smaller movements and also the hand motor skills required for write, drawing and crafting.

These smaller movements are generally learned later than the gross motor movements.

Fine motor skills are usually only discussed if your child can muster sufficient attention and concentration, and that can sometimes be difficult for little ones.

That is why real attention is only paid to at primary school age the development of fine motor skills.

The development of gross and fine motor skills differs per child, so don't worry if your child is a little behind.

What milestones does the development of gross motor skills have in the first year of life?

A good motor start in the baby phase is extremely important for later motor development. There is so much going on in gross motor skills this year!

The development of motor skills starts immediately after birth. The three known milestones in our baby's gross motor skills are:

Your baby learns to roll on its side around four to five months.

A month later, the independent rolling over from stomach to back and then from back to stomach follows, the first milestone in his first year of life!

Between the ages of five and eight months, your baby begins to make forward sliding movements – on its tummy – and in the following months your baby will start to crawl.

Most babies are then between seven and eleven months. A world opens up for them and it is the next milestone in baby's first year of life.

Pay attention; There are also children who skip the entire crawling phase and start walking immediately.

Less and less baby and more and more toddlers, your child will take the first steps by hand, often between eight and fifteen months.

The age at which a child starts to walk independently can vary quite a bit, it may well be after 18 months, but also before his first birthday.

Walking is the third and perhaps most important milestone for your child.

Which games are appropriate for this phase?

The rollover game

Your little one lies on his stomach on a rug or on a soft surface, put a toy next to his head, which he just can't reach. He wants to grab it and will probably roll towards the toy.

If he has trouble with it, you can help him by gently turning his lower body in the right direction.

If he is on his side, you can lift his head off the ground. You will see that his upper body turns automatically.

the bike game

Make cycling movements with his legs, these strengthen his legs and stomach. This game is good in preparation for sitting, crawling and walking.

Front to back, back to front game

If your baby can hold his head up on his own – often by four months – you can place your little one on his stomach on a rug or blanket.

Move the rug or blanket back and forth, not too quickly. This movement prepares him for crawling and develops his sense of balance.

Bubble Blowing Game

Your baby loves to reach for objects. Take your little one on your lap and blow bubbles. Good for his hand-eye coordination, because he wants to grab them!

What milestones does the development of gross motor skills have in the second year of life?

Now there is real work to be done for you as a parent or caregiver! You have to keep an eye on your little one all day long.

He walks - or still crawls - but will quickly move everywhere and want to discover everything in the house. Your little one will soon develop many more gross motor skills.

Your child learns to move better and better around the house, walks by your hand, with help or alone. Your little one may already be able to kick a ball and therefore stand on one leg for a while.

View the here 7 best ball games for toddlers: good for motor development

Gross motor skills are the basis for movements that we use in everyday life. Children who become skilled in exercise now will also exercise more and better at a later age.

So encourage them to exercise outside, in the playground, with a balance bike or on a tricycle, frolic together at home and play with a ball.

The continuous repetition of movements and varied movement stimulates the motor development of children enormously.

From the age of 2 your child can probably already:

Which games are appropriate for this phase?

Jonas game

For this game you need a blanket or towel and some stuffed animals. Lay the blanket on the floor and place a cuddly toy in the middle of the blanket.

Then have your toddler grab two ends of the blanket, just like you do. Can Jonassen manage without the cuddly toy falling to the floor?

Build a cabin

Children of this age find it fun and exciting to build their 'own' hut. Some chairs and a few sheets is often enough.

Read also: The 12 best play tents rated for indoor, outdoor & all ages

Hitting a balloon

Your toddler loves a balloon. Hit the balloon over and over again together.

It is also possible with the foot, it does not hurt!

A disadvantage is of course that the balloon can burst, do not leave your child alone with a balloon.

Skittles in the garden

With a ball and a number of plastic bottles you can make a skittle alley.

Fill the bottles with water if necessary, place the bottles next to each other on the floor and put a number of balls in a basket.

Determine the distance from which to throw. It is clear to your child when you see the place where he is allowed to throw/roll today.

Who can knock down the most pins?

This is a nice set from Melissa and Doug for this game, can be used both indoors and outdoors.

(view more images)

clay

Show your toddler that you can knead and squeeze clay. Make something beautiful together!

Roll into balls or roll a thick hose. It is good for fine and gross motor skills.

Look here for a large pack of clay of make clay yourself with these two recipes for home.

(view more images)

Also useful: this is how you make clay malleable and moist again

Create a track

Cut out cardboard hands and feet for this game and plot a course with it. Your child must follow the cut out hands and feet on all fours!

Look here for more fun games with your toddler at important milestones: 12 to 24 months

What milestones does the development of gross motor skills have in the third year of life?

Once your child walks quickly and climbs the stairs, many more and more difficult movements follow.

Your little toddler will feel more and more confident and move more smoothly and faster. Gross motor skills are now well developed.

Throwing a ball is no longer an effort, cycling, 'swimming', stepping, jumping, turning or hopscotch are skills that children repeat over and over again at this age.

Can your child already jump with two feet at once and walk on tiptoe?

Wash hands and brush teeth - brushing is a must! – your child can probably do it on his own now. Your little one may already be able to dress or undress himself.

However, no little one is the same and every child develops at their own pace.

From the age of 3 your toddler can:

Which games are appropriate for this phase?

Hopscotch games

Draw a small hopscotch and hop together – with tossing and picking up a pebble – with your little one, enjoying the outdoors!

move songs

Dance to your heart's content and grab strips of fabric or dance ribbons.

For example, in a song like "I Walk Like a Bear," you have to take turns walking like the animals in the song. Take a look if you don't know this happy song:

Also this music mat is a nice idea for your toddler!

(view more images)

professional background

Set out a course with chairs, the ottoman, a table and mats. Also let them crawl under something. A crawl tunnel is also nice.

Tricycle course

Make a course for the tricycle with some turns, which can be done in the garden or on a playground. Toddlers really enjoy cycling.

View a cool tricycle here which can be walked or cycled.

For the younger kids, you can put this unique XJD bike in three-wheel mode. But your 2-3 year old is probably using the two-wheel balance bike mode.

You can easily make a rear wheel from the two rear wheels, fold them together and you get a single wide rear wheel. What an invention and what a beautiful bike!

Compared to other tricycles, the handlebar and saddle can even be adjusted in height on the XJD tricycle.

(view more images)

block tower

Have your toddler build a tall block tower and knock it over with a ball.

The soft foam blocks that are on sale today are great for that.

'Schipper can I sail over' game

Play the famous old Dutch game and always name a new way of moving to sail to the ferry: running, walking backwards, jumping or sliding on your buttocks. Or even with a skippy ball?

Forgot how the song went again? Take a look with Miss Mindy:

What milestones does the development of gross motor skills have in the fourth and fifth year of life?

Your child's gross motor skills continue to develop.

Playing outside and being active

Playing outside is very important for your child at the moment, he really needs to be able to use his energy and often he has no patience for fine motor games.

Playing hide and seek with other children in the neighborhood, cycling, jumping rope, scootering, running, climbing and playing tag; That's what children of 4 and 5 years love to do!

They can compete against each other and measure themselves against each other.

It depends on the child of course, but your child is generally still quite easily distracted, so they prefer not to sit still.

Your child is increasingly daring, swinging higher, running faster, cycling without training wheels, jumping off a diving board and so on.

Which games are appropriate for this phase?

Your child likes to play with peers; all outdoor games, such as cycling, running and romping are great for him.

Maybe it's time for a serious bike!

Read also: This is how you determine the bicycle size of your child: buy the right children's bicycle

Some ideas for games for children of this age:

What milestones does the development of gross motor skills have between the sixth and ninth year of life?

Children from the age of six have developed their gross motor skills well.

They can also do fine from the age of six a 'large' musical instrument to play. Their limbs are now long enough for a drum, or a guitar.

After six years, your child has developed such good gross motor skills that it is now time for fine motor skills.

Crafts, painting, cutting and pasting are activities that stimulate fine motor skills.

All the patterns that a child has developed so far are relaxed and refined every year.

Your child is now at an age where he will practice more and more to master certain motor movements even better.

Your six-year-old makes simple figures and letters, ties his own shoelaces and now clearly has a preferred hand.

A six-year-old can catch a small bouncy ball and stand on one leg a little longer. When your child is seven years old, your child can walk on a beam without too many problems. Writing is also smoother.

It is time to choose a sport or hobby for your child.

Which games are appropriate for this phase?

Or how about a magic box? Find the 8 best children's magic sets for 3 to 8 years reviewed here.

What milestones does the development of gross motor skills have between the ninth and twelfth year of life?

Some are already very independent at this age, others are far from ready to go shopping or cycle to school alone.

Whether your child is the oldest, the middle, or the youngest in the family can sometimes also affect this.

Your child has well-developed muscles, enough coordination and stability, and that means that your child has sufficient skills to be able to move well.

In principle, around the eleventh year, your child fully masters his motor skills.

The stamina is great, so that you can really do sports. You will see that your child is mastering more and more different sports.

Your child is also ready to play a team sport. His fine motor skills are so good that he can do precise work with ease.

Your child will probably go to school independently and maybe also to the football or gymnastics club. Around the age of nine, your child can move for a long time, balance, throw overhand with his preferred hand and sprint.

This is also the age at which – you are almost a teenager – you get a good understanding of the game.

There may be a change in your child's interests and he may sometimes enter a period of uncertainty.

Encourage to keep moving at all times and restrict gaming and such.

Playing outside is still important for your child. Exercise and sports remain the right ways to gain self-confidence.

Good not only for physical development, but also for social development.

Read also: Hugging | Why it is necessary and good for your child

Which games are appropriate for this phase?

What to do if you have doubts about motor skills?

You may now have doubts about the development of your child's motor skills.

Always remember this: no child is the same and every child develops at his (or of course her) own pace.

My information about child development is based on averages. Your child may be slightly earlier or later than other children in certain motor skills.

If, after reading this article, you have any questions or doubts about the development of your child, always seek advice from an expert. They can tell you exactly what's wrong or simply reassure you!

My golden tip is: always keep moving a lot with your child or encourage him to do so!

Do you want more insight into your child's movement patterns? Then consider a smartwatch for them. I have the best kids smartwatches tested here for you.

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Speelkeuze.nl is a content marketer, father and loves trying out new toys. As a child, he came into contact with everything around games when his mother started the Tin Soldier in Ede. Since 2016, he and his team have been creating helpful blog articles to help loyal readers with fun play ideas.