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The Whole Child
Physical Development
abc's of child development
for parents
for early care providers

From the start, babies want to explore their world. They are eager to move their eyes, their mouths, and their bodies toward the people and objects that comfort and interest them. They practice skills that let them not only move closer to desired objects, but also move desired objects closer to themselves. As they grow, children's determination to master movement, balance, and fine-motor skills remains intense.

Age Milestones

The first year

A baby begins learning the basics of self-movement and begins to master the skills needed for hand-to-mouth coordination and holding objects.
birth
to
3 months

Most infants begin to:
  • Raise head slightly when lying on stomach
  • Hold head up for a few seconds, when supported
  • Hold hand in a fist
  • Lift head and chest, while lying on stomach
  • Use sucking, grasping, and rooting (holding tongue to the roof of the mouth) reflexes
  • Touch, pull, and tug own hands with fascination
  • Repeat body movements, and enjoy doing so
  • 3 months
    to
    6 months

    Babies are quickly becoming stronger and more agile. Most begin to:
  • Roll over
  • Push body forward and pull body up by grabbing the edge of a crib
  • Reach for and touch objects
  • Reach, grasp, and put objects in mouth
  • Make discoveries with objects (for example, a rattle makes noise when it is moved)

  • 6 months
    to
    9 months

    "Child-proofing" becomes important as babies get more mobile. During this time most begin to:
  • Crawl
  • Grasp and pull things toward self
  • Transfer objects between hands

  • 9 months
    to
    12 months

    By this time, most babies can:
  • Sit without support
  • Stand unaided
  • Walk with aid
  • Roll a ball
  • Throw objects
  • Pick things up with thumb and one finger
  • Drop and pick up toys

  • 1 year
    to
    2 years

    Walking and self-initiated movement become easier. Most children can:
  • Walk alone
  • Walk backwards
  • Pick up toys from a standing position
  • Push and pull objects
  • Seat self in a child's chair
  • Walk up and down stairs with aid
  • Move to music
  • Paint with whole arm movement


  • Balance improves and eye-hand coordination becomes more precise. Most children can:
  • Put rings on a peg
  • Turn two or three pages at a time
  • Scribble
  • Turn knobs
  • Grasp and hold a small ball; can use in combination with large motor skills to throw the ball
  • Shift marker or any drawing or painting tool from hand to hand and draw strokes

  • 2 years
    to
    3 years

    Children become more comfortable with motion, increasing speed, and coordination. Most begin to:
  • Run forward
  • Jump in place with both feet together
  • Stand on one foot, with aid
  • Walk on tiptoe
  • Kick ball forward


  • Children are able to manipulate small objects with increased control. Most can:
  • String large beads
  • Turn pages one by one
  • Hold crayon with thumb and fingers instead of fist
  • Draw a circle
  • Paint with wrist action, making dots and lines
  • Roll, pound, squeeze, and pull clay

  • 3 years
    to
    4 years

    Movement and balance improve. Most children can:
  • Run around obstacles
  • Walk on a line
  • Balance on one foot
  • Push, pull, and steer toys
  • Ride a tricycle
  • Use a slide without help
  • Throw and catch a ball


  • Children's precision of motion improves significantly. Most are able to:
  • Build a tall tower of blocks
  • Drive pegs into holes
  • Draw crosses and circles
  • Manipulate clay by making balls, snakes, etc.

  • 4 years
    to
    5 years

    Children are now more confident, and most are able to:
  • Walk backwards
  • Jump forward many times without falling
  • Jump on one foot
  • Walk up and down stairs without assistance, alternating feet
  • Turn somersaults


  • Children develop skills that will help them as they enter school and begin writing. Most can:
  • Use safety scissors
  • Cut on a line continuously
  • Copy squares and crosses
  • Print a few capital letters

  • For more in-depth information on these milestones, visit the following articles:

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