Motor or physical development includes the growth and strengthening of a child’s muscles, which improves coordination and the ability to move and touch his or her surroundings. A child’s motor development falls into two categories—fine motor and gross motor. Fine motor skills refer to small movements in the hands, wrists, fingers, feet, toes, lips, and tongue. Gross motor skills involve the development of muscles that enable babies to hold up their heads, sit and crawl, and eventually walk, run, jump, and skip.
Parents and caregivers can encourage a child’s motor skills at all ages, and it’s important to remember that each child develops differently. Here are a few ideas to encourage motor development by age.
- Birth: Practice tummy time for a few minutes when your baby is awake, by placing the baby on his tummy on your lap. Increase the time slowly as muscles get stronger.
- 3 months old: Place toys nearby so your baby can move and reach for them. Hold your baby upright with her feet on the floor.
- 6 months old: Help your baby sit up or support him with pillows so he can look around while balancing.
- 9 months old: Give your baby a large, safe space to move around. Help your baby safely use furniture to pull herself up to stand. Be sure to child-proof your home first!
- 12 months old: Let your baby turn the pages of a book when you read with him or her. Provide push toys to encourage walking and movement.
- 18 months old: Blow bubbles and let your toddler chase and pop them. Encourage your child to drink from a cup and use a spoon.
- 2 years old: Play games and sing songs with movements that your child can imitate. Help your toddler to explore things by visiting parks and playgrounds. Kick a ball back and forth.
- 3 years old: Hold your child’s hand going up and down stairs. Encourage him to use the railing.
- 4 years old: Teach your child outdoor games, such as tag and Follow the Leader.
- 5 years old: Play with toys that encourage your child to put things together. Provide riding toys, such as a bike with training wheels.
For more information about how to encourage and support a child’s motor development, visit helpmegrowmn.org.
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