The Stages and Sequences of Physical Development from Birth to 7 Years Old

There are 2 main areas of physical development; gross and fine motor skills. The former uses a combination of large body muscles e.g. for walking and jumping, and the later for smaller more precise movements e.g. drawing and sewing.

Physical development is dependent on the growth of the spine and this happens in three stages.

1. The primary curve – At birth a newborn baby’s spine is a total curve (kyphotic), as when in the womb. This is why a baby’s head is very floppy.

2. Secondary curve-1 – Within the first 6-8 weeks the lower cervical curve of the spine occurs enabling the babies to extend their necks and begin to have more control over their heads.

3. Secondary curve-2 – The secondary lumbar curve develops with standing enabling the spine to straighten. These curves affect the position of the centre of gravity. In an infant it is around the 12th thoracic vertebra and in adult it has dropped to the 5th lumbar vertebra. This makes walking very unstable for infants.


At Birth


Gross Motor Skills








Fine Motor Skills



When on back keeps head to one side, arm and legs flexed with knees apart, soles of feet facing inwards (supine)

When placed on front head turns to the side (prone)

When pulled to a sitting position, the head lags

When held under chest (ventral suspension), the head stays in the same plane as the back

Kicks legs alternatively with large jerky movements


Stares at a bright light

Drawn to human faces

Hands closed with thumbs turned in, opening when active– may open during feeding

Take fists to mouth to suck on


1-4 months


Gross Motor Skills














By 3 months







Fine Motor Skills




By 3 months










In ventral suspension there is less head lag, limbs are more controlled

When lying on back (supine) the head is held in midline. Movements are smoother, and more systematic

Kicks vigorously using alternate legs and sometimes together

When lying on back (supine) puts feet together and rolls to front and back again

Arms wave move more rhythmically. Hands becoming more relaxed.

On tummy lifts head and chest up well whilst supported by extending arms

Hands often outstretched scratching at surface and legs flexing in pre-crawl movements

When held in sitting position the head is held steady for a short time before dropping forward


There is little or no head lag

The spine is straight except in the lumbar region 

When pulled to sit or stand there is little or no head lag

In a standing position the knees sag with the weight of the body

Can kick legs alternatively

Wave arms over body


Opens hands to grab adult finger

Shows excitement in facial expressions

Will stare at high contrast objects


Reaches out to grasp toy and takes it to the mouth

Moves head when following adult

Watch and plays with hands and fingers

Holds rattle when placed in hand, but not used purposefully, often accidently hitting their head or chin

Starting to clasp and unclasp fists; also pressing palms of hands together


4-6 months


Gross Motor Skills
















Fine Motor Skills




Can remain sitting by self only needing a little support

The spine is now straighter .The neck holding the head firm, with little or no lag 

Turns head from side to side to look around, but if followed too far will lose balance. Only stabilizing with help, arms or grabbing something close

When held in ventral suspension, the head is held above the bodyline

When lying on the back (supine) the head is keep in a central position The feet are brought together and are swung from side to side

Lying on the stomach (prone) the head and chest can be lifted with the support of the arms

Bears own weight on feet with straight spine

Will bounce up and down with deep knee bends

When pulled to sitting position the shoulders brace in readiness

Digs in with both feet to stand


Grasps feet

Uses crude palmer grasp to grab and hold object 

Become skilful with eye-hand coordination

Can pass an object from one hand to another –palmar grasp

Explores everything by putting it in her mouth (mouthing)

Moves head and eyes in every direction to hear and visually take in what is going on

Follows the activities of people or other children across a room with curiosity and interest

Both eyes now work together (binocularity or ‘two-eyed’ vision) enabling strong depth perception. Can distinguish between bold colours and starting to distinguish subtle pastel colours


6-9 months


Gross Motor Skills




















Fine Motor Skills







Can sit unsupported for longer periods of time

The spine is straight, leaving hands free to explore

Pivots from waist to angle of the body to look at what has taken interest

Stretch out to reach for toys without losing balance

Lunges forward from sitting onto hands and knees to crawl position

Tries to crawl by rocking forward and backward

Builds strength doing ‘push-ups’

Begins to move about by any means, e.g. crawling, rolling, shuffling

Lifts legs into vertical position, can grasp one or both feet and bring to mouth

Can roll over from back to front and front to back

When placed on tummy, lifts head and chest up well, whilst supporting self on extended arms with now flattened palms

May try to take a step when hands are held

Can raise head to look at feet when lying on back

Pull up to stand holding onto furniture, but falls backwards and down with a bump

Pulls to a standing position by going onto knees


Still takes everything to mouth

Uses hands well to reach and grasp 

Pokes at small objects with index finger

Picks up small objects using thumb and forefinger – primitive pincer grasp

Manipulates toy by passing from one hand to another

Cannot voluntarily let go of a toy, but can release it from the grasp

Visually very interested in everything and everyone around


9-12 months


Gross Motor Skills











Fine Motor Skills





Sits unsupported for long periods of time very happily

Starts to crawl up and attempts to climb down stairs

Can stand alone for a very short time

Becoming very mobile. ‘Bear walks’ using hands and feet, ‘bottom shuffles’ or crawls to move rapidly

Can stoop, kneel and squat

Can rise to a standing position on own

Pulls self up onto furniture and cruises around by lifting one foot and side-stepping

May walk a few steps with feet wide apart and arms raised


Is learning to pass an object from one hand to another

Uses tripod grasp to hold objects

Shows interest in pictures and turns pages of book several at a time

Can point with index finger to something of interest

Visual memory is improving

Watches movement of people, animals, vehicles and TV for long periods

Recognises and responds to familiar people, sounds and own name


12-18 months


Gross Motor Skills


















Fine Motor Skills





Can climb up the stairs unaided putting 2 feet on each step before moving onto the next step 

Can walk up and down the stairs when hands are held, by taking alternative steps

Can get to a standing position on own

Can also squat down and pick up an object from the floor

Can walk independently and steadily with feet and arms only out slightly to balance

Can stop without dropping to the floor

Runs with head erect in midline, eyes fixed on the floor. Sometimes finds obstacles hard to negotiate. Bumps and falls are common

Loves to dance to music. Shows building confidence in ability to balance

Pushes and pulls toys and wheeled objects along the floor. Not really predicting where it is going

Can use forward and backward movement to rock self

Compared to body size, can lift and carry heavy weights


Grasps pencil or crayon using both palmer and inferior pincer grasp

Uses either hand

Marks paper using to and fro motion 

Can build a tower of 2 or 3 blocks

Less taken to mouth to explore

Hand-eye co-ordination improving

Uses neat pincer grasp with either hand

Foot-eye co-ordination improving

Watches what is happening for several minutes and points with interest

Recognises familiar people at a distance


18 months-2 years


Gross Motor Skills



















Fine Motor Skills




Can walk upstairs more confidently in a 2-step action (2 feet to a step) whilst holding onto rail 

Still needs help coming down, but can find own ways e.g. crawl backwards or bottom shift 

Enjoys climbing on furniture

Climbs to get and bring down a desired object

Can climb forward onto a chair, turn around, sit, and then get off

Beginning to show an understanding of size of self in relationship to size and position of objects 

Now very mobile

Walks and runs more steadily and accurately, stopping and starting with ease

More able to avoid objects

Arms and hands carried by the side with gait less pronounced

Can get on and sit on a tricycle or large wheel toy and move it using both feet

Cannot yet use pedals

Can cross legs


Can put key in door

Turns door handle and use switches

Holds a pencil firmly down towards the point, using thumb and first 2 fingers

Starting to show preferred hand

Draws circles, lines and dots 

Building good hand-eye coordination

Manipulative skills improving. Becoming more accurate picking up and placing down neatly objects even if small

Recognises familiar people and objects when in the distance

Recognises familiar adults in photographs but not yet self

Enjoys fine detail in favourite picture books


2-3 years


Gross Motor Skills














Fine Motor Skills




Confidently walks up and down stairs alone whilst holding rail, 2 feet to a step

Loves to jump off the bottom step with 2 feet together 

Climbs suitable nursery equipment

Locomotion skills improving rapidly

Stands on one leg 

Pedals tricycle steering it around wide corners 

Pushes and pulls objects but may have difficulties when steering them around objects

Walks into before kicking a large ball gently but lopsidedly

Throws large ball in stiff upper body movement 

Shows increasing understanding of size of self in relation to objects – including their space and position within the environment


Attempts to tie a knot

Threads buttons, fastens and unfastens them 

Uses zippers

Can turn the pages of a book one at a time and flicks through them

Good hand eye co ordination

Enjoys standing in front of an easel and painting with large brush

Paints freely with up and down, and to and fro movements

Uses pencil firmly with first two fingers and thumb with control and using preferred hand

Draws spontaneous circles, dots, sometimes vertical and ‘v’ shapes

Uses writing and drawing skills in and on different media

Tries to cuts with toy scissors 

Rolls and throws small ball underarm

Beginning to put thumb to index finger

 Beginning to be able to blow in a more controlled way


3-4 years


Gross Motor Skills












Fine Motor Skills





Can confidently run, and hop on one foot

Can jump over a low object

Walks straight and sideways along an object in a straight line using arms to balance

Walks on narrow line

Can sit with legs crossed at ankles

Attempts to use a skipping rope

Gripes strongly with either hand

Progressing with ball game

Catches ball with arms outstretched

Can bounce ball


Dexterity improving enabling e.g. sewing, plaiting, building

Able to thread a large eyed needle and sew 

Tries to do shoe laces but may have difficulties

Paints person with head, legs, and arms coming from head

Names drawing 

Beginning to experiment with thumbs and finger dexterity

May show a particular preference for a craft activity

Can cut out rough shapes using scissors, but won’t be until 5 when they can use them accurately

More self-control. Can stop an activity when they know they can return to it


4-5 years


Gross Motor Skills














Fine Motor Skills





Walk up and down stairs as adult, using alternate feet

Can carry large toy and without holding onto the banister

Uses a variety of play equipment including swings

Hops from on foot to another 

Can bend from waist to touch toes without bending at the knees

Can stand from a sitting position 

Can sit crossed legged and cross-armed

Can walk on tip toes

Enjoys dancing rhythmically to music

Bounces ball with more control

Can use bat and ball

Play’s a variety of games and may show preference for a particular sport


Can close fist and wriggle thumbs 

Can spread hand and bring thumb into opposition with each finger in turn

Can connect a coat zip together and pull up

Draws detail pictures of e.g. a house with door, windows, roof, chimney and garden

Reflects ideas and observations of the environment

Draws person with trunk etc fingers 

Copies letters, writes a few spontaneously 

Can imitate letters with circular and horizontal movements

Traces shapes

Interested in writing

Recognises name when written and attempts to write it

Copies square and after 5years a triangle

Has good control with pencils and brushes

Can colour in pictures not always at 4 but will be able by 5

Can trace within lines


5-7 years


Gross Motor Skills










Fine Motor Skills




Gaining strength, agility, muscle coordination and balance

Jumps with confidence onto and off apparatus

Hops with good balance

Can throw and catch a ball accurately and by 7 one handed

Can ride a two-wheeled bike and use roller skates.

Can skip with alternate feet 

Walk along a thin line whilst balancing with arms

Have increased stamina enabling activities e.g. swimming and skiing 

Able to control speed and swerve to avoid obstructions


Can build a tower of over 10 building bricks and other constructions

Can hold pencil as adult in dynamic tripod grasp

Can write letters and numbers of similar size

Thread a large eyed needle with thread and sew

Draw people with more fine detail and use more appropriate colours



The Children's Project Ltd
Changing the World - one baby at a time
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