Written by Melissa Penman, Physiotherapist
If you are a parent, teacher, early childhood educator, or anyone who works closely with children, you may be familiar with the term motor milestones. My goal today is to break down these milestones to help you familiarize yourself with what to keep an eye on, and when it may be time to integrate pediatric physiotherapy into your child’s life!
What Are the Fundamental Motor Skills?
The fundamental motor skills are locomotor skills, postural skills, and object interaction skills. Locomotion skills involve movement and include walking, running, jumping, and skipping. Postural skills involve both stationary balance such as sitting and standing posture and moving balance such as climbing stairs or stepping over obstacles.
Object interaction skills involve movements with an object such as throwing, catching, and kicking a ball, carrying something while walking, and doing the monkey bars.
What Are the Six Motor Milestones of a Child?
- Walking and Running
- Walking Up and Down Stairs
- Skipping and Galloping
- Throwing and Catching
What Are the Physical Motor Development Milestones?
Here are some physical motor development milestones to watch for as your child grows. You will notice there is always a wide range as it is very normal for children to have some variance in these skill development timelines!
- Bringing both hands to the mouth
- Rotating head left to right
- Lifting head when on tummy
- Bringing feet to the mouth
- Pushing through palms with straight arms when on tummy
- Sitting independently
- Rolling tummy to back and back to tummy
- Pushes up on hands and knees from tummy
- Pulling to stand on objects
- Crawling on hands and knees
- Standing independently for a few seconds
- Walking independently
- Kicking a ball
- Rolling or tossing a ball
- Goes upstairs with help
- Mature running pattern
- Balance on one leg for 10 seconds
- Goes up and down stairs while alternating feet
How Do You Teach Pediatric Milestones?
Paediatric physiotherapists can help teach pediatric milestones through play including obstacle courses, positioning strategies and targeted skill practice with a focus on making things fun while building strength and endurance. It’s not just about learning the movement, it’s about symmetry and the quality of the movement as well!
A pediatric physiotherapist can help to make sure that your child can hop evenly on both feet, crawl on both hands and knees, and can walk up and down the stairs alternating their legs, and many other skills that are important for participation in everyday life activities.
What Are the Three Principles of Motor Learning?
The 3 principles of motor learning are acquisition, retention, and transfer. To best explain these, we’ll use the example of learning how to jump.
- Acquisition is learning a new skill. For jumping, this could look like breaking the movement down into its different pieces like bending and straightening the knees, swinging the arms for momentum, clearing the ground, and landing safely. It could mean physically assisting the movement or using tools and structures like a trampoline to help learn the movement.
- Retention is the ability to remember the skill. The key to retention is repetition. Once a child has acquired the skill, repetition of the movement helps build those motor patterns. To use our example, retention would mean that your child is jumping by bending and straightening their knees, using appropriate arm swinging for momentum, and clearing the ground consistently.
- Transfer is the ability to apply the skill to activities at school, home, and in the community like skipping rope, jumping into a swimming pool, or jumping over a puddle.
When it comes to motor milestones in children, keep in mind that it is normal to see variability from child to child! If you are wondering if your child is on the right track, if you have questions about motor milestones in children, or want some help facilitating the development of these skills, book in today for a discovery call with myself HERE.
Newell, K. M. (2020). What are Fundamental Motor Skills and What is Fundamental About Them?, Journal of Motor Learning and Development, 8(2), 280-314. Retrieved Mar 20, 2023, from https://doi.org/10.1123/jmld.2020-0013