In case you did not already know, there are specific gross-motor milestones teachers and pediatricians look for when caring for children. These go beyond the sitting, crawling and walking milestones from their first year, and get into more detail as the toddlers grow.
Today, we will continue reviewing these milestones, and offering suggestions for ways you can develop these skills specifically, with your child at home.
A note: It’s important to let your child take the lead at the beginning. They need to be comfortable, and they need to feel like it’s a game, not a test with the pressure to please. Getting a real, honest, understanding of where they are so you can help them grow is really the only place to begin. Also, don’t feel disappointed or worried if your child isn’t on-track. These are guidelines, and they aren’t set in stone. Your child will catch up eventually, and as long as they are moving comfortably, there’s probably nothing to worry about. However, if you do have a concern, talking to your pediatrician as soon as possible will make any necessary corrections easier in the long run.
We’re going to start with older toddlers and work backwards.
The last two blogs looked at age 2. Now we’ll talk about 18 months to 2 years. During this time a toddler should learn to:
Walk up and down the stairs while holding your hand
Stairs are scary. We get that, especially when carpeted stairs aren’t an option. Still, learning to climb them is a great indicator of leg strength, core strength and balance. Though it may be easier, and it’s certainly faster, to carry your little one, try to let them go up the stairs, with their own power, but your help, at least once each day.
Run fairly well
They will face-plant, especially at first, so try to make sure you’re letting them run in a grassy yard, or on a mulched playground. Let them use push-toys to practice, too. They should not be running with perfect form, and their limbs probably aren’t long enough to do that anyway, but their little feet should be moving quickly, and with some confidence.
Jumping, feet together, off the floor
Both feet should leave the floor together, and the child should be able to land without falling the majority of the time. Hopping around like bunnies and kangaroos is a fun way to practice. Dancing is another great way to learn this skill as well.
Once your little one is comfortable jumping in-place, they should start trying to figure out how to jump forwards. To practice this, play hopscotch! If falling on hard-tops worries you, lay pool rings, hoola-hoops or anything else relatively flat in the grass to create a similar game with a softer landing. Inside, jumping between pillows and cushions during family games of “The Floor is Lava” is another fun way to practice this skill.
Squat to play
Squatting without tipping forward is a good sign of balance for this top-heavy age group. Set small toys on the floor, or give them some chalk, or layout an art project on the floor. No matter how you choose to do it, you want them engaging with something on the ground that will hold their attention.
Stand on tiptoe with support
Standing on tiptoe requires leg-strength and balance. Your toddler should have the leg strength, but the balance isn’t necessarily expected before age 2. To build this skill, place toys on the kitchen table or counter, depending on your child’s height. You could also help them move around the room like a monkey, holding their arms up to support them as they practice walking on tip-toe.
Start to use ride-on toys
Ride-on toys, sit-and-scoots, whatever you want to call them, are a common toy for toddlers. There are literally hundreds of them on the market, and they are relatively inexpensive. At this age, climbing on and off of one, and starting to push forward is the goal. Look for a small slope in your neighborhood, or create one using things in your home, and let your child push off from the top. That cause-and-effect will encourage them to try again, and again, building the coordination and balance needed to operate the toy. (And carrying up the hill will wear their little bodies out like nothing else!)
Throw a ball into a box
This one is fairly straight-forward, but you can get creative with ways to practice. They could toss toys into bins while cleaning up, or toss their lovies into laundry baskets. Try turning it into a game, simply by cheering them on.
Kick a ball forwards
Again, this one is fairly obvious. Show them how it’s done, then let them play. You can also turn this one into a game, and use laundry baskets, or large cardboard boxes, as the goals for a simplified soccer game.
Again, these are just guidelines. If your child isn’t doing these things by their second birthday, don’t worry, just keep practicing and playing and encouraging, and they will get it within a few months. The age isn’t the worry, but do look out for any signs of discomfort or limited motion and speak to your pediatrician about your concerns.
Have fun and stay healthy!
Ms. Bri and Ms. Ashley