Developmental Milestones - Fine and Gross motor skills

By Dr Megan Yap - PaediatricianGeneralBabies11 Sep 2017

Parents are often ask the question, “When should I expect little-Johnny to… [insert: walk/talk/eat solids/hop/jump/climb etc]”

Motor skills are probably one of the most externally visible domains of childhood development, as we are always looking at what a child is doing – even if they are not speaking to us yet.

All developmental skills have a RANGE OF NORMAL and no one point of developing a skills is directly applicable to another child.   In other words, you shouldn’t be worried if your 13 month old child is not walking yet because the next-door-neighbour’s 11 month old IS.  Just sit back, enjoy your cup of tea whilst they are still not mobile and you don’t have to chase them around the house to stop them mortally wounding themselves.

My daughter barely crawled, and first walked at 14 months of age.  My son was up and cruising along furniture at 11 months, and walking independently at just over 12 months.  My mum told me that I never crawled, and only first got up to walk at 18 months of age.  Apparently my paediatrician told her that I was “…just lazy.”  Ha ha  – that sounds about right!!

The age at which early developmental motor milestones are reached CAN be related to a child’s later motor abilities (eg an early walker might mean a better runner), but also MIGHT NOT. Although I walked late, I danced ballet (fairly well I’d like to think) from 4 years until about 15 years of age, was a fast runner and played representative netball, basketball and volleyball at various times during my school years.  I guess what I am saying is, don’t stress about late-normal motor milestones, they may mean little or nothing at all.

Anyhoo, on this thread, I thought a general list of motor milestones might be a good point of reference for parents of young children out there.  Remembering too that abilities also rely strongly on EXPOSURE – ie you can’t expect your child to be able to “pedal a tricycle” if you have never let her try to ride one!

Here goes…

FINE MOTOR MILESTONES:  These are the “small actions” we do with our hands and fingers –> writing, sewing, drawing, cutting.

  • Grasp object (eg rattle)…4-5 months
  • Reaches….5 months
  • Transfers cube….6 months
  • Holds cube in each hand….6 months
  • Bangs two cubes together….8-9 months
  • Grasp
    • Raking….6-7 months
    • Neat pincer….12 months
  • Tower
    • 2 cubes….15 months
    • 3-4 cubes….18 months
    • 6-7 cubes….2 years
    • 8 cubes….2 ½ years
  • Pencil skills
    • Marks paper….15 months
    • Scribbles….15 months
    • Copies
      • vertical line….2 -3 years
      • circle & cross….3 years
      • square….4 years
      • triangle….5 years
  • Draw person
    • head +/- some other features…3 years
    • 3 body segments….5 years

Fine motor/social skills

  • Feeds self (fingers)….5-6 months
  • Waves ….9-12 months
  • Drinks from cup ….15 months
  • Uses spoon ….15-18 months
  • Feeds doll….18 months
  • Removes garment….18 months
  • Brush teeth with help….2 years
  • Puts on some clothes….2 years
  • Dresses without help….3-4 years
  • Cleans teeth by self….4 years

Gross motor milestones

  • Lift head….from birth
  • Head up to 90 degrees….2- 4 months
  • Pull to sit without head lag….3-5 months
  • Some weight bearing….3-5 months
  • Chest up – arms support….3-5 months
  • Rolls….3-5 months
  • Sit supported….6 months
  • Stands holding on….7-9 months
  • Pulls to stand….9-10 months
  • Stands alone….12 months
  • Walks well….12-15 months
  • Walks up stairs (rail/ hand)..15-18 months
  • Runs….by 18 months
  • Kicks ball….18 months – 2 years
  • Throws overhand….by 2 years
  • Balances on one foot
    • 2 secs….3 years
    • 5 secs….4 years
    • Hops….4-5 yrs


If you are worried about your child’s motor development, as usual your GP is your best first port of call, OR an assessment by a qualified Paediatric Physiotherapist and/or Occupational Therapist could be useful.

Note these RED FLAGS of motor development – which are absolute indications for further assessment and evaluation of your child’s motor skills:


  • Strong parent (or teacher) concerns
  • Significant delay in milestones in one or more domains
  • Regression (significant loss of skills)
  • Asymmetry of strength/ movement/ tone
  • High or low tone (ie is your child unusually stiff or floppy)
  • Any parental concern about vision or hearing
  • Unusual behaviours
    • Eg – repetitive/ obsessive; self injury

6 months

  • Not rolling/ sitting/ holding head & shoulders up
  • Hands persistently clenched

12 months

  • Not crawling / standing holding on
  • No multi-syllable babbling
  • No back and forth gestures (pointing, showing, waving)
  • No back and forth sharing of enjoyment (eye contact, facial expression, interactive games eg peekaboo)…esp parent-initiated

18 months – 2 years

  • Not walking

3 years

  • Not running well
  • Not interested in pretend play or other children
  • No interest in self-care skills (feeding, dressing)

4 years

  • Can’t walk up & down stairs easily or pedal a tricycle
  • Not drawing simple pictures
  • Not toilet trained by day

5 years

  • Poor balance / very clumsy
  • Can’t copy simple shapes
  • Not independent with self cares (dressing, eating, toileting)


I hope that this post has helped to clear up for you what you should or should not be expecting from your child at various ages.

As always, this is only a BLOG post and a general guideline.  If you have concerns about your child’s development, then you should consult your local GP who will be able to make a quick assessment and then point you in the right direction (sometimes to a paediatrician).

Please leave me a comment, a like OR SHARE this post on Facebook if you have any friends who you think might find it useful.

Until next time – keep playing with your kids!!!!


xx Dr Megs

For more articles from Dr Megan Yap visit her blog – “Dr Megs – Paeds & Feeds” at


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