Find out more about how a child's motor skills develop.

Gross motor skills involve movement of the big muscles in the arms, legs and torso. In contrast, fine motor skills are those developed through the smaller muscles in the hands and fingers.

Motor development progress

For motor skills to develop babies need plenty of time playing on the floor and outdoors to exercise both sides of their brain and body. Every child develops their own unique way to move around – some babies will crawl on all fours, others one-foot-one-knee, and some will move along on their bottoms (commonly known as ‘bum-shuffling’).

As their big muscles develop, they will progress from holding onto and walking around the furniture (cruising) to stooping, picking something up off the floor and standing up again to explore it. These actions all continue to strengthen the big muscles in their legs, abdomen and back.

By this stage ‘baby’ has become a toddler who is consolidating their motor skills and coordination. As movements are repeated over and over again, important connections between brain cells become stronger and eventually permanent.

Refining their movements

During this time, children are likely to spend much of their day exploring and practicing movements as they play. Parents will notice how their child’s movements become smoother and more efficient as a result of the many repetitions, which strengthens their muscles and brain connections.

Standing and walking

By 15 months, most toddlers can confidently standing on their own, and most will be walking independently.

Other big muscle skills that develop in this period are those used in climbing and being able to carry something while walking. They will be able to throw a ball while either sitting or standing.

Toddlers need their whānau to provide:

  • supervision
  • a safe environment
  • opportunities to be active indoors and outdoors.