Physical Developmental Milestones

There are many physical development milestones during childhood
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From the moment of birth, babies are inundated with sensory experiences that they are eager to explore. Babies watch their parents with the eyes, attempt to move toward the warm touch of caregivers, and move their mouths to touch and taste just about anything they can get in their mouths. As children grow, their abilities to control balance, movement, and fine-motor skills become increasingly advanced.

Developmental milestones are abilities that most children are able to perform by a certain age. During the first year of a child’s life, physical milestones are centered on the infant learning to master self-movement, hold objects, and hand-to-mouth coordination.

From Birth to 3 Months

At this age, most babies begin to:

  • Use rooting, sucking, and grasping reflexes
  • Slightly raise the head when lying on the stomach
  • Hold head up for a few seconds with support
  • Clench hands into fists
  • Tug and pull on their own hands
  • Repeat body movements

From 3 to 6 Months

At this age, babies begin to develop greater agility and strength. They also begin to:

  • Rollover
  • Pull their bodies forward
  • Pull themselves up by grasping the edge of the crib
  • Reach for and grasp object
  • Bring object they are holding to their mouths
  • Shake and play with objects

From 6 to 9 Months

During this time, children become increasingly mobile. They usually begin to:

  • Crawl
  • Grasp and pull object toward their own body
  • Transfer toys and objects from one hand to the other

From 9 to 12 Months

In addition to the major milestones such as standing up and walking, children also begin to develop more advanced fine motor skills. In this window of development, most babies are able to:

  • Sit up unaided
  • Stand without assistance
  • Walk without help
  • Pick up and throw objects
  • Roll a ball
  • Pick up objects between their thumb and one finger

From 1 to 2 Years

Children become increasingly independent and this age and tasks requiring balance and hand-eye coordination begin to emerge. During this stage of development, most children are able to:

  • Pick things up while standing up
  • Walk backwards
  • Walk up and down stair without assistance
  • Move and sway to music
  • Color or paint by moving the entire arm
  • Scribble with markers or crayons
  • Turn knobs and handles

From 2 to 3 Years

Building on earlier skills, children become increasingly adept at activities that require coordination and speed. From one to three years of age, most kids begin to:

  • Run in a forward direction
  • Jump in one place
  • Kick a ball
  • Stand on one foot
  • Turn pages of a book
  • Draw a circle
  • Hold a crayon between the thumb and fingers

From 3 to 4 Years

Physical abilities become more advanced as children develop better movement and balance skills. From age three to four, most kids begin to:

  • Ride a tricycle
  • Go down a slide without help
  • Throw and catch a ball
  • Pull and steer toys
  • Walk in a straight line
  • Build a tall towers with toy blocks
  • Manipulate clay into shapes

From 4 to 5 Years

During this period of development, children become increasingly confident in their abilities. Most children begin to:

  • Jump on one foot
  • Walk backwards
  • Do somersaults
  • Cut paper with safety scissors
  • Print some letters
  • Copy shapes including squares and crosses

Help Kids Reach Their Milestones

During early childhood, the progression of physical development can be an astounding thing to observe. One of the best ways parents can ensure that their kids achieve key physical developmental milestones is to create an environment that encourages kids to safely explore the world. For infants, this means giving your baby plenty of room to roll, crawl, and play. Parents should also ensure that their infant has plenty of safe objects nearby to practice grasping, shaking, and placing in the mouth.

In order to encourage large motor skill development, it is essential to give kids plenty of opportunities to practice their newly emerging abilities. Giving kids the time, space and resources they need to roll balls, run, jump, and balance. Offer kids the chance to engage in play, but do not pressure them to be experts at every single thing. Remember, kids need to be able to explore their abilities and build confidence in their skills.

Parents can help their kids develop fine-motor skills in much the same way. Give children play experiences involving drawing, putting together puzzles, or stringing beads to help them build better fine-motor movements and improved hand-eye coordination.

Remember that safety is essential. As infants and children become increasingly mobile and more physically active, it is important to have some basic safety precautions in place. Stairway gaits, electrical outlet covers, and parental observation are all ways to minimize risks while still giving kids the freedom they need to explore and play.

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Article Sources
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2016). Developmental Milestones. Retrieved from
  • Meggitt, C. (2006). Child Development: An Illustrated Guide. London: Heinemann Educational Publishers.