If you've been poised, video camera in hand, to capture your little one's first roll, crawl or steps, you understand the importance of identifying the sequential development of gross motor skills. By the time that your child reaches the 1-year mark, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' Healthy Children website, she will have moved through sitting to crawling to cruising and possibly even walking. As your child progresses into the toddler, preschool and school age years, you will witness an astounding array of gross, or large, motor changes that allow her to move with ease and participate in more complex activities such as playing soccer or baseball.
Create a list of gross motor milestones along with the corresponding age ranges. Keep in mind that every child is unique and that "milestones" are merely general guidelines. Include an acceptable, or pediatrician-accepted, range for each milestone. For example, most babies will crawl anywhere between 8 and 12 months. Write the name of each milestone -- such as sitting up unassisted, rolling from front to back, rolling from back to front, crawling, standing, cruising, walking, running, jumping, walking up and down stairs and kicking a ball -- on the left hand side of your list. Add the acceptable age range next to each milestone.
Consult your pediatrician or an expert source such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, an educational or healthcare institution or a child development organization such as Zero to Three for age-graded expectations.
Observe your child daily. Watch what your child is doing during play times or as she moves around the house. Write down what you notice in a log or a notebook. Review your notes every week to see how she is progressing. Look for highlights or milestone markers to check off your list. Identifying sequential development means observing notable milestones such as rolling both ways -- from front to back and back to front -- by 7 months, sitting unassisted by 7 months, crawling or walking by 12 months, running and kicking a ball by 2 years, throwing and catching a ball between 3 and 4 years, riding a bike with training wheels between 5 and 6 years and skipping well by the start of the grade school years.
Talk to your child's teacher. If your child is in school or goes to daycare, you will need to know what happens when you aren't around. While her teacher most likely won't have the time to take detailed notes every day, she can give you a general picture of how your child moves during the school day. For example, your child's kindergarten teacher can tell you if she is able to kick the ball during recess or jump through the playground's hopscotch board. Ask the teacher to send you emails every month to keep you up to date on your child's school-related motor development or talk to her during parent-teacher conferences.
Look for anything that seems out of place. Take out your list and look at where the check marks are. If you are missing marks, review your observations or take a more in-depth look at what your child is really doing. Go back to specific movement milestones, checking to see if your child's lack of motor skills is or isn't actually out of sequence. For example, by 2 years old your child should have the ability to not only walk, but also run. Noting that your 3-year-old is struggling to run may indicate an issue or a bump in her sequential motor development that requires professional attention.
- If your child seems like she is falling behind or is completely missing motor milestone marks -- such as not sitting unassisted by 12 months -- call your child's pediatrician or another health professional. Bring your notes, whether written or mental, to the meeting with the doctor for references.
- Make a poster-sized chart and display it in a prominent spot such as on your kitchen wall. This will give you a visual reminder of how your child is progressing and will let her see what a fantastic job she is doing with new tasks.
- Keep in mind that some kids may skip steps in their motor development sequence. For example, your child may go from crawling to walking without ever cruising -- walking while holding on to furniture or other stationary objects -- in a perfectly normal way.
- Don't jump to conclusions before you consult a professional. For example, if your 14-month-old still isn't walking, that doesn't necessarily mean that she has a motor problem. Remind yourself that there is an acceptable age range for development, and that just because your BFF's daughter walked at exactly 1 year doesn't mean that your child will too.
- Don't substitute your opinion, or a friend's, for professional help. If you are in doubt, ask the pediatrician.
- HealthyChildren.org: Developmental Milestones: 12 Months
- University of Michigan Health System: Developmental Milestones
- HealthyChildren.org: Developmental Milestones: 7 Months
- HealthyChildren.org: Developmental Milestones: 2 Year Olds
- HealthyChildren.org: Developmental Milestones: 3 to 4 Year Olds
- PBS Parents: Physical Health: 5 to 6
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images