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Child Physical Development:
The Stages And Sequence
From Birth To 7 Years

This page represents an introduction to child physical development, followed by detailed descriptions of the average physical achievements to be expected at various ages from birth to 7 years.

Child physical development means the way in which children's body increases in skill involving movement.

Developmental norms are patterns of growth that a child is expected to follow when growing.

It is dangerous to assume that children are abnormal if they do not all progress in exactly the same manner.

Variations will always exist, since each child is an individual developing in their own unique way.

A likely expectation is that babies will be mobile (rolling, crawling, creeping, bottom-shuffling or walking) by the time they reach their first birthday.

However, a baby may have been concentrating on acquiring fine motor skills, social skills or language skills and may have advanced beyond the average in one or more of these developmental areas.

In the development of gross motor skills, they may not have progressed beyond sitting, but have been absorbing huge amounts of information from the world around them.

Gross Motor Skills

child physical development
This is the ability of children to use two legs and walk and involves their whole body.

The whole-body movements are described as gross motor.

Sometimes they are referred to as posture and large movements.

These terms have the same meaning and cover the stages a child goes through in developing control of the body...

child physical development
  • learning to support the head
  • rolling over
  • sitting
  • crawling
  • pulling to stand
  • walking
  • running
  • climbing stairs
  • hopping
  • playing football
  • skipping
  • riding a tricycle and a bicycle
  • standing on one leg
  • swimming
  • climbing etc.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills is the use of the hands in co-ordination with the eyes. This allows children to perform very delicate procedures with their fingers, with the eyes influencing the precise movements of the fingers.

Child Physical Development Chart:
From Birth To 7 Years

Child Physical Development: From Birth To 12 Months
Gross Motor Skills
  • 'Cruise' along using furniture as support
  • Crawl on hands and knees, bottom-shuffle or 'bear-walk' rapidly about the floor
  • Stand alone for a few moments
  • Rise to standing without help from people or furniture
  • Rise to a sitting position from lying down.
Fine Motor Skills
  • Point with index finger at objects of interest
  • Show a preference for one hand over the other, but use either
  • Pick up small objects with a fine pincer grasp, between thumb and tip of index finger
  • Hold a crayon in palmar grasp and turn several pages of a book at once
  • Drop and throw toys deliberately - and look to see where they have fallen.
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Provide stacking toys and bricks
  • Read picture books with simple rhymes
  • Provide a wheeled push-and-pull toy to promote confidence in walking
  • Provide an interesting, varied environment which contains pictures, books, music and food which all stimulate the senses.

Child Physical Development: 15 Months
Gross Motor Skills
  • Kneel without support
  • Seat themselves in a small chair
  • Crawl upstairs safely and may come down stairs backwards
  • Are generally able to walk alone.
Fine Motor Skills
  • May build a tower of two cubes after demonstration
  • Can put small objects into a bottle
  • Hold and drink from a cup using both hands
  • Grasp a crayon with either hand in a palmar grasp and imitates to and fro scribble
  • Turn several pages of a picture book at once.
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Encourage creative skills by providing thick crayons and paint brushes and large sheets of paper e.g. wall lining paper
  • Arrange a corner of the home for messy play, involving the use of water, play dough or paint
  • Attend a mother and toddler group with your child.

Child Physical Development: 18 Months
Gross Motor Skills
  • Kneel upright without support
  • Move from squatting position to standing without support
  • Climb forward into an adult chair and then turn round and sit
  • Walk steadily and stop safely, without sitting down suddenly
  • Run steadily but are unable to avoid obstacles in their path
  • Crawl backwards... on their stomachs... down stairs alone
  • Climb up stairs and down stairs with hand held or using rail for balance; puts two feet on each step before moving on to next step.
Fine Motor Skills
  • Build a tower of three or more bricks
  • Point to known objects
  • Thread large beads on a string
  • Control wrist movement to manipulate objects e.g. turn door knobs and handles
  • Use a delicnate pincer grasp to pick up very small objects
  • Hold a pencil in whole hand or between thumb and the first two fingers
  • Use a spoon when feeding themselves.
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Provide low stable furniture to climb on
  • Encourage play with messy materials e.g. sand, water, play dough etc.
  • Continue to provide walker trucks, pull-along animals etc.
  • Use action rhymes, singing games and other children to promote conversation and confidence
  • Provide balls to roll, kick or throw
  • Pop-up toys, stacking toys and peg or shape bashing toys are useful for hand-eye coordination skill development.

Child Physical Development: 2 Years
Gross Motor Skills
  • Push and pull large wheeled toys
  • Kick a large ball, but gently and lopsidedly
  • Jump with both feet together from a low step
  • Walk up and down stairs, usually putting two feet on each step
  • Can run safely, avoiding obstacles and are very mobile
  • Can throw a ball over hand but cannot yet catch it
  • Can climb up onto furniture
  • Stand on tiptoe when shown.
Fine Motor Skills
  • Build a tower of six or more blocks with a longer concentration span
  • Draw circles, lines and dots using preferred hand
  • Enjoy picture books and turn pages singly
  • Copy a vertical line and sometimes a 'V' shape
  • Pick up tiny objects using a fine pincer grasp.
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Encourage use of safe climbing frames
  • Take them outings to the park to encourage them to learn about the natural world
  • Provide toys to ride on and space to run and play
  • Provide bricks, hammer and peg toys and jigsaw puzzles to improve coordination and motor skills
  • Encourage ball play... throwing and catching... to promote coordination skills.

Child Physical Development: 3 Years
Gross Motor Skills
  • Can throw a ball overhead and can catch a large ball with arms outstretched
  • Use their whole body to kick a ball with force
  • Can jump from a low step
  • Climb stairs with one foot on each step... downwards with two feet to each step
  • Can stand and walk on tiptoe and stand on one foot
  • Ride a tricycle using pedals.
Fine Motor Skills
  • Can cut paper with scissors
  • Can eat using a fork or spoon and enjoy taking part in family mealtimes
  • Control a pencil using thumb and first two fingers... the dynamic tripod grip
  • Draw a person with head, and sometimes with legs and arms coming out from the head
  • Can thread large beads onto a lace.
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Encourage play with other children
  • Provide a wide variety of playthings... balls for throwing and catching, sand, jigsaw puzzles etc.
  • Promote independence by teaching them how to look after and put away their own clothes and toys
  • Provide a variety of art and craft activities... thick crayons, stubby paint brushes, paper, paint, dough for modelling or play cooking
  • Encourage swimming, and trips to the park.

Child Physical Development: 4 Years
Gross Motor Skills
  • Bend at the waist to pick up objects from the floor
  • Develop a good sense of balance and may be able to walk along a line
  • Ride a tricycle with skill and can make sharp turns easily
  • Catch, kick, throw and bounce a ball
  • Stand, walk and run on tiptoe.
Fine Motor Skills
  • Are able to thread small beads on a lace
  • Can build a tower of ten or more cubes
  • Hold and use a pencil in adult fashion
  • Copy a model of three steps using 6 cubes.
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Provide art and craft materials for painting, printing and glueing and sticking activities
  • Encourage independence when going to the toilet
  • Encourage sand and water play and play with dough or modelling clay
  • Encourage play with small construction toys, jigsaw puzzles and board games
  • Provide plenty of opportunity for exercise... use rope swings and climbing frames
  • Play lotto and other matching games e.g. pairs. Teach them how to dress and undress themselves to prepare for school games lessons.

Child Physical Development: 5 Years
Gross Motor Skills
  • Show good coordination, playing ball games and dancing rhythmatically to music
  • Have increased agility... they can run and dodge, run lightly on their toes, climb and skip
  • Use a variety of play equipment... slides, swings, climbing frames etc.
  • Can bend and touch their toes without bending at the knees.
Fine Motor Skills
  • Have good control over pencils and paintbrushes
  • May be able to thread a large-eyed needle and sew with large stitches
  • Do puzzles with interlocking pieces
  • Draw a person with head, body, legs, nose, mouth and eyes
  • Count the fingers on one hand using the index finger on the other.
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Teach them to ride a two-wheeled bicycle
  • Encourage the use of models, jigsaws, sewing kits and craft activities as well as drawing and painting
  • Provide plenty of outdoor activities
  • Encourage non-stereotypical activities e.g. boys using skipping ropes and girls playing football.

Child Physical Development: 6 Years
Gross Motor Skills
  • Catch and throw balls with accuracy
  • Skip in time to music, alternating feet
  • Run and jump and kick a football up to six metres away
  • Are gaining in both strength and agility; they can jump off apparatus at school with confidence
  • Ride a two-wheeled bike, usually using stabilisers at first.
Fine Motor Skills
  • Are able to write a number of letters of similar size
  • Build a tower of cubes which is virtually straight
  • Hold a pencil in a similar hold to an adult
  • Write their last name as well as their first name
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Allow children to try a new activity or sport e.g. football, dancing, judo or gymnastics
  • Encourage writing skills by providing lots of examples of things written for different purposes e.g. shopping lists, recipes, letters etc.
  • Provide opportunity for vigorous exercise.

Child Physical Development: 7 Years
Gross Motor Skills
  • Are able to control their speed when running and swerve to avoid collision
  • May be expert at riding a two-wheeled bike or using roller skates
  • Are skillful in ball catching and throwing, using one hand only
  • Have increased stamina, shown in activities such as swimming, skating, gymnastics and martial arts.
Fine Motor Skills
  • Draw people with heads, bodies, hands, hair, fingers and clothes
  • Can build tall straight towers with cubes
  • Use a large needle to sew with thread
  • Are more competent in their writing skills - individual letters are more clearly differentiated now and capital and small letters are in proportion.
Your Role In Promoting Development
  • Arrange an obstacle course for children to navigate bikes around
  • Encourage vigorous outdoor play - on swings, climbing frames and skipping and hopping games such as hopscotch
  • Provide a range of of drawing and craft materials, such as charcoal, paint, clay and materials for collage
  • Take children swimmimg, skating, riding or to a dancing or martial arts class.

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