Expert Health Articles

Gross Motor Delay

Does your child lack typical skills for their age? Are they not keeping up with their peers? Gross motor delay is a broad term that describes a child who performs developmental skills later than usual. This could be crawling, standing, walking or even jumping. It could also be poor ball skills, poor running form or clumsy gait. Every child will learn skills at their own pace and on their own time, but some children have a more difficult time learning new skills and need a little help to progress their development. Below is a list of developmental milestones and the typical age range a child will master them.

Zero to three months: Brings hands to mouth, lifts head up when on their tummy for a few seconds (may have some bobbing), pushes up on elbows when on their tummy

Three to six months: Pushes on extended arms while on their tummy, brings feet to mouth, rolling, starting to sit with help, holds a toy

Six to nine months: Sitting independently, starting to pull to stand, crawling, bangs toys together

Nine to 12 months: Cruising (walking) along furniture, standing independently, walking with toy or holding onto your hand(s)

12 to 18 months: Walking independently, catch a rolled ball, crawling up stairs

18 months to two years old: Go up and down steps while holding your hand, jump up with two feet together, jump down and forward, throw a ball into a box, kick a ball forward

Three years old: Balance on one foot for a few seconds, rides a tricycle, catches a large ball

Four years old: Starting to skip, catches a ball regularly, somersaults, hops on one foot

Five years old: Skips with alternating feet, runs and climbs well, rides bike with or without training wheels

A child may master a milestone either before or after the typical age range, but if the child is struggling to perform a skillset or has not been able to master the skillset, they may have a developmental delay. If you have concerns, consult your child's provider. Your child's physician may refer your child to a pediatric physical therapist. In physical therapy, the therapist will use play and games to progress your child's gross motor skills. The physical therapist will also teach you ways to play with your child to help them master their milestones. Ideas to help each child improve their gross motor skills are below:

Tummy time, standing at a couch or tabletop toy, walking along the couch or while holding onto your hands, rolling the ball to them, playing catch, jumping off a curb step, jumping to pop bubbles, hopscotch and playing “Simon Says.” Items such as rattles, balls, stacking toys, blocks, yoga cards, stair steps, bike/tricycle, balloons and chalk are all great tools to use at home to keeps a child’s interest and progress their skills. Additionally, enrolling them in group and peer activities such as soccer, play groups and tumbling are also great options to improve their gross motor skills.

Ask your provider if physical therapy is right for your child.

Lisa Stewart
Physical Therapist
Julie A. Cole Rehab and Sports Medicine Clinic