Gross motor skills enable humans to perform complex acts that require development of both muscles and the central nervous system. Gross motor skills require less precision than fine motor skills and are responsible for large movements such as walking, running and balancing. Within the first six years of life, children develop most of the gross motor skill needed for a lifetime, and parents and paediatricians track this development. Although severely delayed development of one or more skills may indicate a medical condition, doctors consider all aspects of the child's health and development before recommending testing or treatment.
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The first stage of gross motor skill development spans the time between birth and 3 months of age. During this stage, a baby begins to smile, raise his head and chest off a surface and control eye muscles in order to track objects. He uses his hands to grip or reach for objects.
The second stage of gross motor skill development occurs from 4 to 6 months. During this stage, a baby learns to sit up while being supported and should be able to roll from front to back and from back to front. Language is developing with laughter and babbling.
This stage happens between the ages of 7 and 9 months. The baby learns to creep and/or crawl, as well as sit up with no support. She begins to pull up to a standing position. She responds to her name and other words and can clap and play age-appropriate games.
During this stage, which spans ages 10 months to 1 year, most babies learn to take steps while holding on to an object for support. Some babies walk independently before the age of 1 year.
A 1-year-old develops independent walking. Before the second birthday, toddlers can typically run and negotiate stairs in a rudimentary fashion. Some children become expert climbers before the age of 2, and most can kick and throw a ball.
This stage occurs between the ages of 2 and 3. The 2-year-old toddler improves his posture, and during this year develops the ability to walk backward, hop, use playground equipment and stand on one foot. Running skills improve, including the ability to stop and change directions. At this age, children begin to ride a tricycle and develop more accuracy in throwing a ball.
Three-year-old children develop agility in walking and can manoeuvre around objects when running. The 3-year-old child can throw a ball overhead and catch a large ball. At this stage, children expertly climb stairs and ladders as well as easily ride a tricycle.
The 4-year-old child develops more controlled running as well as hopping, galloping and turning somersaults. Four-year-olds can easily throw and catch a ball. The child can now brush her teeth and comb her hair, and needs only occasional assistance when dressing.
This stage occurs during the sixth year of life. The 5-year-old runs competently and can walk on tiptoe and a balance on a beam, as well as skate and skipping rope.
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