Motor Development 8 months - 3 years

Developing Motor Skills: 8 months – 3 years

Last week I wrote about the development of motor skills from birth to 8 months old. Let’s look at how they next develop…. 

During 8 – 14 months babies learn to pull to standing, walk along furniture, and may walk alone. There are known as Gross Motor (GM) skills. They can stand and then lower themselves to the floor (not drop down), and they begin to go up and down stairs, usually by climbing. They now use the  pincer hold – they pick up objects using their fingers (instead of the palm of their hand), and are beginning to stack blocks. These are known as Fine Motor skills (FM).


You can help your toddler by: Once the baby is able to pull to standing, you can encourage the next level of movement, by placing an interesting object just a few steps along the sofa or whatever they are resting against. Finger food is great once they start using the pincer hold – give them small piece of appropriate food, whilst supervising in case of any choking hazards.


From 14 – 24 months toddlers walk more smoothly, can walk backwards, and walk up stairs using the rail. They climb (everything!), run, and are able to straddle a ‘bike’ toy, and to push themselves along on it. They can scribble (FM) and build towers with about 6 blocks/ cubes.

You can help your toddler by: Toddlers of this age are active, so give them plenty of opportunity to move, both inside and outside. Always supervise, as they can often climb up, but aren’t always sure how to get back down. Set them up at a small table, with thick crayons or pencils to practise scribbling. These help the small muscles in their hands to develop, more than using textas or pens, which slide too easily. Show them how to stack objects like plastic containers, cubes or blocks.


Between their 2nd and 3rd birthdays, children learn to (GM) catch a ball, jump and land with both feet and balance on one foot. They can walk up and down stairs using alternate feet. With FM they can string beads, and draw lines & circles, and are learning to use scissors (around 3y.o). They hold a pencil correctly.

You can help your toddler by: Children are highly active at this stage, so lots of space to move – it’s not a time for lots of screen based play, but more about being active – in the backyard, the park , oval or playground centres. Show your toddler how to string beads or pasta shapes onto thread or to use ‘sewing’ cards. Teach them how to use scissors, cutting into firm paper or light cardboard, or even sandpaper for practise. You can also get them to roll thin play-dough sausages and cut into them – lots of fun! You can help them to strengthen these muscles, by having the child use tongs to pick up objects, or by using clothes pegs where they have to squeeze the peg open.


These are just a few suggestion to assist your child’s motor development, and remember that all children develop at their own pace. Our role as parents is to support them, and to show them the next thing they can do.


Happy Parenting!


Remember all babies develop at their own pace. The above is a gudeline. If you have any concerns regarding their motor development, please see your Dr or health professional.


Image by Lars Plougmann via Flickr