For most, we use our gross motor functions daily with ease and might not think much of it.gross-motor-skills-definition

For instance, sitting up to get out of bed in the morning is a gross motor function that we do daily.

However, many children today are experiencing delays in developing their gross motor skill’s which is affecting their ability to move in some shape or form.

Throughout this post, we will break down the gross motor skill’s definition as well as what signs to look for in your little one should you be concerned of delays occurring in their development.

My intention in writing this article is to share knowledgeable information with you so your kiddo can live their best life possible.

What is Gross Motor Skills?


First, a motor skill is simply an action using your muscles.

Gross motor skill’s are the larger movements your body makes. It is your ability to create body movement in your arms, legs, and torso.

When your body uses the larger and stronger muscles of the body, you are developing your gross motor functions.

Another way to visually understand gross motor functions is when your body makes bigger movements such as sitting up, rolling over, walking, crawling, running, or jumping.

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What is Fine Motor Skills?


child-playing-gameFine motor skill’s are the smaller movements your body makes.

It is your ability to create body movement in your fingers, toes, wrists, lips, and tongue.

When your body uses the smaller muscles of the body, you are developing your fine gross motor functions.

To visually comprehend fine motor skill’s, picture yourself picking up a small object, wiggling your toes, holding a spoon, or using your lips or tongue to taste food.

Which Develops First, Fine or Gross Motor Skills?


In any area of your little one’s body while growing, their gross motor functions will develop before their fine motor functions.

For instance, your infant will be able to control their arms before their hands and control their hands before their fingers.

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After birth, your baby’s brain is not mature enough to develop skilled body movement. Development will first begin at the head and the move down the body.

The most noticeable movements will be in the face such as the mouth, lips, and tongue. Then, your baby will learn to control their neck before their shoulders and their shoulders before their back.

The rest of the movements will follow overtime.

Developmental Milestones


Developmental milestones are checkpoints to look for while your child is developing to determine what they are child-gross-motor-delayable to accomplish during that point in time during their growth and development.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides a ‘Milestone Checklist’ outlining what specific milestones a child should be doing at their age.

It is important to know that children develop at their own pace.

Temporary delays should cause no worry!

BUT if your child is experiencing delays that are ongoing and causing them to not meet certain developmental milestone checkpoints during their growth and development, then they could potentially face challenges down the road.

A child’s pediatrician or medical professional will help determine this.

Signs of Gross Motor Developmental Delays by Age


If your child is showing signs that they are unable to do some or all of the following the areas, it may mean your child has delays in their ability to develop their gross motor skill’s or may experience difficulty in making larger movements.

Again, if you’re concerned, it is recommended to seek guidance from a medical professional or your child’s pediatrician.

The following are movement milestones to keep in mind by year:

1 Year Old

  • Being able to crawl forward on the belly by using the arms to pull and push with the legs
  • Sitting up independently without assistance
  • Holding onto to furniture to push up and stand
  • Able to stand without support for short periods of time
  • Taking a few steps independently or walking
  • Can go from sitting to crawling without support
  • Drink from a cup or eat from a spoon
  • Pulls toys while walking
  • Points at objects

2 Years Old

3 Years Old

  • Able to dress and undress self
  • Carries on a conversation in a couple sentences
  • Shows a range of emotions; affection towards others and concern when someone is crying
  • Follow instructions
  • Can name most familiar things
  • Understands “his”, “hers”, “mine”
  • Playing make-believe with toys
  • Turn pages in a book
  • May get agitated with major changes in routine

4 Year Old

  • Count to 10 or more objects
  • Shows interest in make believe or games
  • Cooperates with other children
  • Can walk forwards and backwards
  • Speaks clearly
  • Can jump in place
  • Pedal a tricycle easily
  • Stand on one foot for longer than 9 seconds
  • Walks up and down stairs independently

5 Year Old

  • Jumping forward ten times without falling
  • Kicking a ball
  • Hop or skip
  • Is aware of gender
  • Can tell what is make-believe and what is real
  • Can print some letters or numbers
  • Knows about things used daily such as money or food
  • Can use the toilet independently
  • Swings and climbs

What Types of Conditions have Motor Delays?


Motor delays which impact muscle movement can result from conditions (or disorders) that affect the muscles such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy as well as genetic conditions such as down syndrome or achondroplasic (which causes shortening of the limbs).

A great resource to reference if your child specifically has cerebral palsy is the book ‘Treatment of Cerebral Palsy and Motor Delay”.  Its an easy read that provides a thorough overview of motor delays, cerebral palsy, and its treatment.

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If You’re Concerned


Should you be concerned of your child having motor delays it is best to follow up with your pediatrician.

Your child’s pediatrician may recommend exercises or physical therapy to develop coordination and strengthen their muscles.

If there is another problem or underlying condition causing the motor delay, your pediatrician will most likely refer your child to see a specialist such as a pediatric neurologist.


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