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How do gross motor skills develop? Come; let’s have a look at its usual progress. But before that, let’s spend a minute to understand what it is and why do we need to talk about Fine and Gross motor skills.

Fine & Gross Motor Skills Development

Why are Gross Motor Skills Important?

Is it for physical fitness and sports? Not just, Gross motor skills (or GMS) are important to the overall development of any child. Partly, because both the order and sequence of GMS development influence the build-up of newer skills, which are successively built upon the previously acquired ones. It also influences the development of newer, smaller muscles after the large ones have developed. Balancing and twisting skills across the

body midlineGMS also influences the development of newer, smaller muscles after the large ones have developed. Balancing and twisting skills across the midline (an imaginary vertical line that divides the right and left sides of the body) is necessary for a lot of reasons, not just to stand up and read or write fluidly on a blackboard.

Understanding Fine & Gross Motor Skills

That’s how it’s supposed to be, much against what the greater part of the society thinks. However, despite this difference, the development is predictable, for it follows a set pattern.

Development of gross motor skills typically occurs in the large muscles first. These are the muscles of the arms, the legs and the trunk. This is why kids master walking first. Fine Motor Skills (e.g. control and dexterity of the hands and fingers) develop much later; just take it as a progression that originates from the core (centre of the body) and spreads outward (toward the extremities i.e. feet, hands and fingers).

That’s one part of the development. The other part is vertical by nature in its development and starts from the head; first and finally, at the lower legs. It occurs from the top of the body and moves downwards. That’s why a baby first learns to lift its head and then pushes the body up with his arms, followed by sitting up and learning how to crawl upon hands and knees. Finally, the baby learns to walk.

Watch this video to understand what Fine and Gross Motor Skills are all about:

Types of Gross Motor Skills

  • Locomotor skills: With these, a person moves his/her body from one place to another. Examples are walking and running.
  • Manipulative skills: These help a person move/use object(s).
  • Stability skills: These help to balance and transfer weight. Examples are balancing, dodging and ducking.

Developmental Stages of Fine & Gross Motor Skills – Age Timeline

Since the time for development in every child is different, any age guideline on this aspect is primarily indicative in nature. If your child’s gross motor skills development concerns you, take advice from a qualified, practicing pediatric physician first.

Gross motor skills develop through various stages and build upon each other. A baby should be able to pull him/herself up first to stand. This must occur before he obtains balance and walk. The next stages are as follows:

  • 3 months: A baby should raise its head and chest while on his/her belly.
  • 6 months: A baby must be able to roll both ways (stomach back).
  • 9 months: A baby sits without support and may start to crawl.
  • 12 to 18 months: Baby becomes a toddler!
  • 24 months: Baby runs; jumps and can throw a ball.
  • 36 months: The baby must now be able to tiptoe; climb, jump/gallop, kick and stand on one leg.
  • 48 months: The baby must now be able to pedal a tricycle.
  • 60 months: Leap, skip and jump sideways.

Watch this video to understand how fine and gross motor skills develop in a child over time.

Fine and Gross Motor Skills Checklist – Ages and Stages

Click on the below images to get a printable version:


Comparison of Gross Motor Skills Vs Fine Motor Skills

NOTE: Every child develops at varying pace. Therefore the development stages may vary slightly from one child to another.

At the Age of 2 Years

Gross Motor Skills

  • Swings arms when excited
  • Runs well avoiding obstacles
  • Runs up and down the stairs holding the rails
  • Jumps of steps, 1 foot leading
  • Tries to stand on one foot
  • Stands on toes momentarily
  • Can bring chair and manages to sit by herself
  • Propels a ride on toy with feet on floor

Fine Motor Skills

  • Towers 8 one inch blocks
  • Initiates a train of 2-4 blocks
  • Holds thick crayons in the palm
  • Imitates and copies a vertical line
  • Immitates a horizental line
  • Hand preference usually obvious
  • Able to do 3 piece pzzles of something familiar
  • Undresses fairly independently
  • Can unbutton large buttons
  • Can turn single pages at a time
  • Opens a door by turning door knob
  • Screws and un-screws a jar lid
  • Threads shoelace through large holes

At the Age of 3 Years

Gross Motor Skills

  • Walks with rhytymical arm swings
  • Can tiptoe 6+ steps
  • Runs up and down the stairs without holding the rails
  • Stands on 1 foot for about 5 seconds
  • Jumps from 18 inch height with one foot leading
  • Hops on one foot, 2+ times
  • Climbs in/out and under/over objects easily
  • Climbs jungle gym with agility
  • Enjoys swings
  • Appreciates body size and space in relation to surrounding when playing
  • Throws small ball, 7+ feet overhand
  • Catches large balls with straight arms
  • Kicks a ball forcibly

Fine Motor Skills

  • Towers 9 one inch blocks
  • Grasps marker with Thumb, Index and Middle fingers
  • Copies horizontal line and circles
  • Colors picture in general area
  • Draws simple design with some recognizable features
  • Completes 4 to 5 piece puzzles
  • Dresses self including medium sized buttons
  • Cuts paper in half
  • Strings 12 small beads easily
  • Finds objects in sand without looking too hard
  • Opens a door by turning door knob
  • Enjoys finger prints, paly-doh, etc
  • Does play while singing little songs, rhymes

At the Age of 4 Years

Gross Motor Skills

  • Walks up and down the stairs without rail, alternating feet
  • Walks forward on elevated balance
  • Stands one one foot for 5-8 seconds
  • Jumps off 2 steps, both feet together
  • Hops on each foot, 4-6 times
  • Climbs ladders, trees and high playground equipment
  • Somersaults
  • Rides tricycle quickly and turns sharp corners
  • Catches large and small balls with flexed elbows
  • Throws large ball well enough t be caught by another person
  • Begins to bounce ball and use a bat

Fine Motor Skills

  • Towers 10 one inch blocks
  • Builds various 5-6 block structures
  • Holds a pencil in adult fashion i.r. dynamic tripod grasp
  • Copies a ladder
  • Colors within 1/4 inch of the line
  • Draws a recognizable person (head, hands, etc)
  • Completes larger puzzle with logical division (e.g. person, animals)
  • Manages fasteners with occasional help (large buttons, snaps, rippers)
  • Cuts within 1/4th inch of a large circle
  • Imatates movements in hand games
  • Pours milk from small jug
  • Thread small beads with a needle
  • Traces own hand

At the Age of 5+ Years

Gross Motor Skills

  • Stands on one foot with eyes closed
  • Walks on a balanced beam
  • Skips or gallops
  • Rides a bicycle
  • Jumps ove a 8 inch high rope
  • Imitates complex body movement
  • Catches baby bean bags with one hand
  • Properly throws the tennis ball to the other side of the court
  • Dribbles a ball
  • Kicks a rolling ball
  • Uses skates or scooters well

Fine Motor Skills

  • Towers 13one inch blocks
  • Copies Triangle and Asteriks
  • Wants to write
  • Prints own name, numbers to 5 and some words
  • Large variable sized letters
  • May write right to left
  • Basic awareness or control over spacing
  • Draws a person with 6 parts
  • Imitates 6 block designs
  • Completes 6 to 12 piece puzzles
  • Manages clothing fasteners with ease
  • Cuts well scissors
  • Manipulate paper with fingers and wrist to create basic shapes


The following items could be downloaded from our Resources Section:

Child Developmental Milestones Chart
Pathways © Sensory Motor Checklist

Encourage Fine and Gross Motor Skills Development

Nothing helps them to develop better than active play! That’s the best way to help a child develop gross motor skills, for which, you need to give him/her lots of time and space and opportunities to the muscles. Additionally, you can get him/her into movement classes, like dancing. But not at the expense of a few hours of free play. Besides, take advantage of toys and skill-building activities that provide development through a ton of fun and physical fitness.

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