Gross motor development in early & middle childhood

Keeping an eye on your preemies development can help you determine when a little help might be necessary

It’s amazing how quickly babies grow and develop! The tables below highlight some important milestones. Although these tables give an average age at which milestones are achieved it is important to realize that even babies born at term achieve these milestones at varying ages. For preemies, you should always correct for their prematurity. 

Gross Motor Development in Early and Middle Childhood

Gross motor development refers to the major actions and muscles that help infants move around in the environment, such as crawling, standing, and walking. Have a look at the following information for typical development of these skills. You should talk to your pediatrician if you have any concerns about your preemie's development.

children born preterm and motor skills development

Age Gross Motor Skills
2 – 3 years
  • Walks with better rhythm: hurried walk changes to run
  • Jumps, hops, throws, and catches with stiff upper body
  • Pushes riding toys with their feet; not much steering of toys
3 – 4 years
  • Walks up stairs, alternating feet, and down stairs, leading with one foot
  • Jumps and hops, flexing their upper body
  • Throws and catches with some movement of upper body; still catches by trapping ball against their chest
  • Pedals and steers tricycle
4 – 5 years
  • Walks downstairs by alternating feet
  • Runs more smoothly
  • Gallops and skips with one foot
  • Throws ball with increased body rotation and transfer of weight on feet; catches ball with hands
  • Rides tricycle rapidly, steers smoothly
5 – 6 years
  • Increases running speed to 12 feet per second
  • Gallops more smoothly; engages in true skipping and sideways stepping
  • Displays mature, whole-body throwing and catching pattern; increases throwing speed
  • >Rides bicycle with training wheels
7 -12 years
  • Increases running speed to more than 18 feet per second
  • >Displays continuous, smooth skipping and sideways stepping
  • Increases vertical jump from 10 to 30 centimetres (4 to 12 inches) and broad jump from 1 to over 1.5 metres (3 to over 5 feet)
  • Accurately jumps and hops from square to square
  • Increases throwing and kicking accuracy, distance, and speed
  • Involves whole body in batting a ball; batting increases in speed and accuracy
  • Dribbling a ball changes from awkward slapping of the ball to more continuous, relaxed, and even stroking
These milestones represent overall age trends. There are individual differences in the exact age at which each milestone is attained.(Allen & Alexander, 1990; Berk, 2008; Bruininks & Bruininks, 1977; Cratty, Cratty, & Cornell, 1986; Platzer, 1976)


Need help?

Try Preemie Help ebooks


Want More Information?


AlbertEinstein_iconOne of the greatest minds in history, Albert Einstein was born preterm.

Help us help you!

help us help you! is here to provide preemie information, community and solutions to the people that need it most... you!
Preemie Help is also looking to provide a resource for any professionals that have contact with preterm babies and children in order to help them best understand the challenges that face a preemie. Get in contact to help us impact preemies.

Preemie, Premmie, or Prem?

Most babies spend between 38 and 42 weeks in their mother’s uterus. So, technically a preterm birth, preemie, premmie, or prem, is an infant who is born less than 37 completed gestational weeks. 

Read More: Defining Preterm birth



New Release - Preemie Development

All in one easy to read eguide

‘The complete preemie guide to: ‘Preemie development’ is the must have guide to the NICU for new preemie parents.

With an easy-to-read layout this comprehensive guide is over 130 pages of important information about the NICU and your preemie.

Using Adobe’s .pdf format makes the guide usable across a wide range of platforms from ipad to PC, smartphone to macbook.

Packed with extra features like progress charts, NICU checklists and plenty of others. ‘The preemie guide’ is a must for any new parents.