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Home > Resources > Articles > Developmental Milestones: Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Developmental Milestones: Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Copyright BabyClassroom

Remember how helpless your baby seemed when you first brought her home? Well look at her now! After just a few short weeks and months, she holds up her head, shakes a rattle, and bears most of her weight on her legs as you hold her steady. If you're like most parents, you marvel at your baby's progress every day as she continues to develop control over her body.

Motor development falls into two categories, both of which begin to develop from birth:

  • Gross motor skills, such as sitting, standing, walking, and climbing, use larger muscle groups.
  • Fine motor skills use the hands and fingers to grasp and manipulate objects for activities like eating, writing, dressing, building and playing.

But how do you know if your baby is on track with her motor development? Is she making healthy progress, even if her progress doesn't match that of the baby next door? "There's so much variability in development," says Kristie P. Koenig, assistant professor of Occupational Therapy at Philadelphia's Temple University. Koenig cautions parents not to become overly concerned about a baby meeting every milestone precisely, "but," she says, "there are some general (milestones) that you should be thinking about."

Fine and Gross Motor Milestones

Within a few weeks after birth, your baby will exhibit strong reflex movements such as:

  • Moving his leg when you stimulate the bottom of his foot.
  • Moving his entire body when you let his head fall gently backward.
  • Grasping your finger when you place it in his hand.
  • Moving his head from side to side when lying on his stomach.

By the end of three months, your baby is likely to do most of the following:

  • Support his upper body with his arms when lying on his stomach.
  • Bear some weight on his legs while supported.
  • Reach for or bat at objects hanging above him.
  • Grasp and shake small objects.
  • Follow a moving object or person with his eyes. ("They have to look at an object to be able to reach out and grab it," explains Koenig, "so looking at objects and faces is actually a precursor to fine motor skills.")

By around six months, expect your baby to do many of the following:

  • Hold her head steady in a supported sitting position.
  • Move objects from one hand to another.
  • Sit with minimal support.
  • Roll over from tummy to back.

By one year, most babies will do the following:

  • Crawl forward (although a baby may have his own "style" of crawling).
  • Pull herself up to a standing position and stand for a few seconds without support.
  • "Walk" while holding on to furniture. (Some children will be taking a few steps at this age.)
  • Grasp small objects with index finger and thumb.
  • Put small objects in and take them out of a container.

Koenig reminds parents to allow for variation of at least two or three months with all major milestones. "I wouldn't be alarmed if a child is not sitting alone until around nine months," she says, "even though I expect it at around six months." She adds that with babies born prematurely, milestones should be calculated from the due date, not the birth date. A baby who was born three months early, she notes, is essentially a newborn in developmental terms by the time he's three months old.

Listen to Your Instincts
If you have concerns about your baby's development, says Koenig, trust your instincts. Talk to your pediatrician about your concerns and request a developmental screening. "Don't be looking for things (to be wrong)," Koenig says, "but if it seems like they're delayed in their development, trust your instincts. Parents are the experts."

If your gut tells you, for example, that your newborn isn't moving enough, your baby has a tremor, or your toddler drags one leg, she says, speak with your pediatrician and request a developmental screening.

"There used to be the mindset of wait until they're three and we'll see what happens," Koenig says. "With early intervention, we know we want those kids when they're a lot younger. It's much easier to work with a child who's experienced some delays at twelve months than when they're five years old and significantly more delayed. That's the whole purpose of early intervention."

Federally-funded early intervention services are available free of charge to any child between the ages of zero and three who demonstrates a need. If you have questions about accessing services in your community, speak with your pediatrician. "I've been practicing now for 17 years," says Koenig, "and parents typically are right about something going on with their kid."

Keep on eye on the milestones, but remember to allow for individual differences. And if you have concerns, speak up. After all, no one knows your baby better than you do!

For tips on fostering your little one's fine and gross motor skills, read Encouraging Healthy Motor Development from Baby Classroom.

At Baby Classroom, we have loads of colorful and engaging toys, blocks and books for your baby to reach for, grasp, play with and enjoy. These are a few of our favorites:







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Developmental Milestones: Fine and Gross Motor Skills