Gross Motor Skills

Large Muscles

Gross motor skills involve the ability to control the large muscles of the body. These are associated with arms, legs, and torso.


Marcus is sit ting in his bouncy seat while Mom gets dinner together. Marcus is cooing and making all kinds of noises while sit ting in the seat; in fact, he is so loud that it causes Mom to pause for a moment and just watch. On Marcus’s seat he has a bar with several toys dangling down from it. As Mom watches her son, she begins see him thrust his hand forward almost as though he is throwing his hands at the toys on the bar. Mom watches, trying to figure out what Marcus is doing. Sometimes he will reach the toy and other times he misses it. When he is able to reach the toy, he tries to open up his little fingers. This is when Mom realizes Marcus is trying to grasp the toys and he cannot do it just yet.


Marcus is demonstrating what is called ballistic reaching skills; this is when your baby gets his hands into the vicinity of the object reached for, but corrections need to be made to have a smooth grasp of the object. Marcus is still learning to gain control over his reaching and grasping skills. As he matures these skills will improve and thus support better hand-eye coordination.

Your baby’s gross motor skills will develop before her fine motor skills, because gross motor development is from head to toe. The first gross motor skill your baby develops is her ability to gain control of her head. Control of the head is vital for your infant to direct her attention.

At birth, your infant’s head was so heavy she did not have the neck muscles to lift her head; however, from around four weeks up to five months, you observed your baby develop her first large muscle skill (controlling her head).

Another major large muscle skill that develops in your infant is reaching. At birth, your baby reached without intention. She reached with no coordination between reaching and grasping, resulting in your infant reaching for objects but not accomplishing the goal of getting them.

Reaching develops in a timeline for your baby; between three and five months, you will see intentional reaching take place. Between five and seven months, your baby uses guided reaching techniques. Her ability to coordinate her vision and control of her reaching has improved. As a result, she becomes more accurate and deliberate when reaching for an object.

By 11 months, you will see success; your baby can now use both hands equally for reaching and grasping. Even though you see both hands engaged in this process at this time, between nine and 13 months you will also see your infant having a preference for one hand over the other.

Now we have come to one of the best parts of gross motor development in your infant: WALKING!

On average, it takes babies about 12 months to learn how to walk because they have so many other behaviors to learn beforehand. As we discussed above, they must first learn how to reach. This is necessary in order for them to grab onto an object and pull themselves to a standing position or to maintain balance. Even before this, your baby has to learn to sit up without support, which occurs between six and eight months.

Practice will develop your child’s gross motor skills. If she doesn’t practice, she won’t learn. So give yourself a break and put the little one down; let her learn to spread her wings and walk.

Runway for crawlers—Gather a towel and a small baby blanket. Lay them out in a line. Si t at one end and encourage your baby to crawl by cheering her on (you could say, “Come on, Tyler, crawl to Mommy. You can do it.”).

Grab and go for walkers—Put one of your baby’s favorite objects just out of reach on the front end of the couch. Encourage your baby to grab it and then bring it to you. This will encourage muscle coordination, motor planning, and problem-solving skills.

You must consistently support your baby’s gross motor development through simple activities that are not based on the purchase of a product. The development of your infant’s gross motor abilities will be determined by the interaction she has with you.