Mastering Gross Motor Skills in Early Childhood

Motor skills involve the coordination between muscles and the nervous system to create movement. Motor skills are essential in completing everyday tasks and routines. Strengthening gross motor skills is important as they are the building blocks for the development of fine motor skills.

What are Gross Motor Skills?

Gross motor skills use the larger muscle groups in the arms, core, and legs to navigate and complete daily tasks. Gross motor skills provide a solid foundation for developing smaller muscles. Children use gross motor skills throughout all daily activities, such as running, climbing, jumping, or walking. These skills will also develop as children grow. 

Deficits in Gross Motor Skills

Deficits in gross motor skills may be noted as general clumsiness; decreased strength and balance; and delayed or disorganized coordination. Examples of these are observed while running, catching a ball, jumping, pulling or climbing on playground equipment, and more.


How Can Occupational Therapy Help Gross Motor Skills?

A pediatric occupational therapist assists in a child’s development of underlying skills needed to support a child’s gross motor skills. For example, an occupational therapist will provide activities to support balance and coordination; strength and endurance; sensory processing; body awareness; and motor planning.

Gross Motor Skill Milestones

At 2 months a child should be able to:

  • Hold their head up independently
  • Push themselves up when lying on their stomach
  • Begin to show more coordination when moving their arms and legs

At 4 months a child should be able to: 

  • Push their legs down when feet are planted on solid ground
  • Roll between their stomach to their back
  • Hold their hands to their mouth
  • Push up on their elbows when lying on their stomach

At 6 months a child should be able to:

  • Sit independently
  • Roll from their back to their stomach
  • Begin to stand and bounce with assistance

At 9 months a child should be able to:

  • Stand up while holding onto a chair or other support
  • Begin to pull themselves up to stand
  • Begin to crawl
  • Position themselves into a seated position

At 18 months a child should be able to:

  • Simultaneously walk and carry toys
  • Walk around independently
  • Begin climbing stairs
  • Begin to run

At 24 months a child should be able to:

  • Climb stairs independently using the railing
  • Be able to kick a ball
  • Stand on their tiptoes
  • Hop on and off furniture
  • Be able to throw a ball (overhand)

At 36 months a child should be able to:

  • Ride a tricycle without assistance
  • Climb stairs independently placing just one foot per step
  • Climb and run with ease

If you have concerns about your child’s gross motor skill development, speak with your child’s pediatrician about receiving a referral to a pediatric occupational therapist. For additional information please download Chicago Occupational Therapy’s book, Mastering Motor Skills in Early Childhood.

Contact Chicago Occupational Therapy or call (773) 980-0300 to learn more about our services and how we can help your child flourish and grow.



Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (n.d.). Developmental Milestones. Retrieved from: