Motor Skills in the Toddler Years

The toddler years of childhood, generally defined as 1 to 3 years of age, include an enormous amount of growth in motor skills. This is when children move from crawling to walking – with the wobbly walking between the two being called ‘toddling’, where the term toddler originates. Advancement in all fine and gross motor skills occurs in rapid succession, giving clear ways to visibly monitor a child’s progression through the toddler and into the pre-school years.

As with the rest of child development there are different ages at which we expect to see certain milestones – specific motor skills.

12 Months
By 1 year of age we expect a child to be standing without assistance and a portion of children are also walking, though most of them will still need some assistance.
Fine motor skills for this age are just beginning to develop with children learning to manipulate objects in their grip.

14 Months
Children are beginning to walk well and with more independence, including slow steps up stairs (still crawling the majority of them).
We also see them start stacking blocks, attempts to drink from a cup, feeding self with utensils (inaccurately), throwing objects and starting to undress.

18 Months
By now the majority of children will be able to walk backwards and sideways(even if slowly), walk up the stairs while full upright, and are climbing furniture.
An interest in drawing and coloring emerges about this time and they fist grip a crayon or pencil to scribble. They can also drink well from a cup and are becoming more coordinated with utensils. Children are usually able to maneuver zippers and large snaps as well as complete simple stages of dressing by themselves.

24 Months
Stairs are no longer difficult by 2 years and children are running on flat surfaces with ease, falling rarely. Jumping in place.
Utensil use has become more skilled by now, with the majority of the food making it into their mouths. Stacking of blocks becomes more complicated, usually being at least 5 blocks in height.

36 Months
By this point children are more balanced, jumping forwards, balancing on one foot, and riding a tricycle.
They are holding writing utensils in a more sophisticated grip, usually using only three fingers and tracing simple shapes such as circles, triangles, and squares.

These milestones are guidelines, not solid rules, and are meant to help parents and caregivers track development easily. It is recommended that if a milestone is missed by more than 3 months a parent consult with their pediatrician or other developmental specialist.