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.
Over the next week, we will be taking a look at 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. Last week we looked at 2 1/2 to 3-year-old goals. Today, we’ll discuss 2 to 2 1/2.
There’s a massive difference between a newly 2-year-old and an almost 3-year-old. During this year, their brains rewire, in a way, to prepare them for childhood. Their bodies change from pudgy little clumsy things, into strong, long-limbed miniature children. They will not face a bigger change until puberty, and that is essentially why 2-year-olds are often seen as more difficult than other age groups.
So the differences between what to expect at 2 and what to expect at 3 are also broad. While the first two years of their life were marked by incremental steady change, a 2-year-old will often change, seemingly overnight. They may not be able to kick a ball one week, but the next, they’ll be dribbling a soccer ball with ease. They may only know the basic phrases necessary to have their needs met, and suddenly, within a month, they’ll be telling you long imaginative stories. They might be fine listening, and following directions one day, then suddenly they push back and want to try things their own way. They may get along with everyone, and then suddenly decide they have a best friend. It’s all normal, and every child is different. You should only worry if your child seems to fall backwards: if they lose words, if they start to disassociate, or if they show discomfort with physical activity. Still, a good pediatrician will happily listen to any of your concerns, and you have teachers who have seen pretty much everything who are happy to help.
In terms of gross-motor development, the things we look for from 2 to 2/12 are:
Stand on tiptoes
For this, practice being tall like a giraffe or a particularly tall family member. Go for family hike, and exaggerate how you stretch to look at the view and encourage your child to copy you. Depending on the height of your child, you could also place some toys on the kitchen counter, and let them practice standing on tiptoes to reach them.
Jump from bottom step
The goal here is for your child to jump off of something a few inches from the ground and land without falling forward. At first, use a safe place to land, like a pile of mulch or a large couch cushion, and a step stool. Once they’ve built up some confidence, let them jump down the last step as you descend the stairs. It’s silly, but it’s a great indicator of muscle control and core strength.
Begin to ride a tricycle, moving forward with feet on the floor
There are literally hundreds of toys like this on the market. They kind where they sit and propel them selves forward with their feet. Get one (you can usually find them second-hand for around $5) and let them use the living room or the back yard as their own race track.
Stand on balance beam with 2 feet and attempt to step forward
No one has a balance beam at home, and that’s okay. If someone in the family likes carpentry, you can take a long piece of wood and simply set it on the ground. The edges of curbs work well for this too, but keep your child within arms-reach for safety with this option. You can also use pool noodles in the grass, or simply draw a line with chalk on the driveway. If falling really scares you, set up an indoor obstacle course, use a wooden broom or a pool noodle as the beam, and have cushions and pillows along side to break their fall.
Catch a large ball with arms straight out
Learning to catch means getting hit in the face. It will happen! Just be sure you’re using something soft and light that will not cause injury such as a stuffed animal or a beach ball, at first. Celebrate the victories, and turn it into a game by mimicking your family’s favorite sport, or tossing the ball around to fun music. This can be done indoors or outside, and standing or sitting. The idea is that they’re learning to at least attempt to catch, like the girl in the photo above.
Again, these are just guidelines. If your child isn’t doing these things by 2-and-a-half, 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