Your child's movement skills refer to their control or their head, limbs and body, sitting, crawling, walking, running, jumping and hopping.

The typical sequence of developing these skills as as follows with average ages:

  • Newborn - even posture when lying down, with arms and legs slightly bent at elbows and knees, their heads will back a little when pulling to sitting from lying. The head should come up within about 10 seconds of being pulled to sitting.  
  • 6-8 weeks - raises head and looks up when placed on their front, turns head from side to side, when placed on their back waves arms and legs around.

  • 4-6 months – sits with support, able to hold head up without support when sitting, when on their front, raises head and looks around, starts to roll, usually from back to front first, gets into a crawling position

  • 6-9 months - sits without support, rolls in both directions, crawling on all fours, pulls up to stand and takes weight on their legs, can sit themselves up from lying down. 
  • 9-12 months - stands up and walks around holding onto furniture (cruising), crawls, bottoms shuffles, commando crawls, stands independently.
  • 12-18 months - walks independently, initially unsteadily with their legs apart and arms out, but increasingly more confidently. 
  • 2 years old – tries to kick a ball, runs, jumps up with both feet up off the floor. 
  • 3 years old – walks on tip-toes when shown, walks upstairs with alternte feet, but downstairs with both feet on each step, climbs walls, pedals a tricycle. 
  • 4 years old – walks up and down the stairs using alternate feet, cycles on tricycle confidently, hops and stands on one foot, kicks a ball 
  • 5 years old – hops, dances, swings and climbs, slides down a slide, can balance and stand on one foot for about 10sec. 

Note: there is a range of normal ages at which children may acquire these skills. Please see following section on when you should be concerned.

The pattern of movement development from being immobile to walking may also vary. Most children achieve walking via crawling (80%), others bottom-shuffle and others commando crawl (with their tummy on the floor), some just stand up and walk.

Bottom shuffling children tend to walk later than those who crawl on all fours.

For your baby:

  • Lay your baby on their tummy for short periods daily when they are awake (NOT asleep) and put some toys near them. This helps develop their head, neck and upper body strength.
  • As your baby's muscle strength increases, support them to sit up and use toys to encourage them to roll and reach.
  • Provide lots of safe space for your baby to move and explore under supervision.
  • Support your baby in an upright position on their feet and put them close to things that will encourage them to pull themselves up on safely.

For your toddler/child who is close to or able to walk:

  • Provide lots of space for your child to move and explore under supervision.
  • Provide toys that your child can push or pull safely and balls for them to kick, roll and throw.
  • Encourage your child to run and explore in a safe space - as your child gets older and their confidence grows, this may include supporting them to climb up and down stairs safely, climb on play equipment or ride a bike.
  • Note - baby bouncers and walkers do not help your baby learn to balance or walk.

If your child is losing skills they have already gained you MUST seek help urgently as this is very concerning.  

  • Delay in learning skills at certain ages e.g. poor head control (not holding their head up) at 4 months; not sitting unsupported by 9 months and/or not walking a few steps independently beyond 18 months old, or not learning new skills at all, e.g. not learning to roll or sit, (arrest of development)  
  • Appears very stiff, with tight muscles.
  • Appears very floppy, like a rag doll.
  • Moves asymmetrically (unevenly) - one side of their body or arms or legs moves differently or appears weaker than the other side; particularly if your child is showing hand-preference (right or left handedness) under the age of 3 years, and especially if below 18 months old.
  • Repetitive jerking, twitching or writhing movements of their body or limbs.
  • Walking suddenly becomes very unsteady (having previously been steady), or remains very unsteady within 6 months of learning to walk.
  • Only walk on tip toes

If you have concerns about your child's movements, speak with your health visitor or GP.

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