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Typical development

Why children develop at different rates, and how you can help

It’s entirely normal for children to develop at different rates. You only need to be concerned if there’s a significant delay in a child reaching an expected milestone.

Children’s development is affected by many factors. We can influence some of these, but others are out of our control, for example:

• A child’s temperament will affect their development. Some children are very keen to explore and move around and may therefore develop their physical skills quickly. Others prefer to sit and play, and may develop their speech and play skills more quickly

• A child’s general health will affect their development. Children who’ve been unwell or in hospital for a significant amount of time during the first years of their life may be delayed in their development

• Premature babies are likely to develop differently from babies born at full term

• A child’s play experiences, for example the opportunities they have to play, may affect the development of their physical skills


Fine motor skills

By 9-10 months babies begin or are able to: 

  • Explore objects with their mouth, often picking up an object and holding it to their mouth 
  • Pick up a small toy using only one hand 
  • Pass toys from one hand to another 
  • Grasp tightly two toys and ‘bash’ them together (e.g. blocks) 
  • Use their thumb and all their fingers in a raking motion to pick up a small cube of food 
  • Use the tip of their thumb and fingers to pick up a small toy or food item 
  • Use a pincer grasp (thumb and index finger) to pick up a piece of string/spaghetti 
  • Put a small toy down, without dropping it, and then take their hand off the toy 
  • Move their fingers/toes during sensory play to feel and explore (e.g. damp sand, cornflour, paint) 

Gross motor skills

By 9-10 months babies begin or are able to: 

  • Move from their tummy to a sitting position 
  • Sit unaided  
  • Stretch out and move to pick up small toys 
  • Push up with great strength when placed on their stomach, supporting themselves with their forearms 
  • Roll continuously to move around, begin crawling and/or bottom shuffling
  • Use the support of furniture to pull themselves to stand 
  • Use the support of furniture to‘cruise’ (holding on with one or both hands) lifting one foot and stepping sideways 
  • Use the support of furniture to squat down and pick up a toy from the floor and return to a standing position 
  • Use the support of furniture to lower themselves with control to the floor (not ‘flopping’ or falling down) 
  • Walk with the support of an adult (holding one or both of their hands) 

Promoting Gross Motor activity

  • Have well-planned areas that allow your baby maximum space to move, roll, stretch and explore in safety indoors and outdoors
  • Offer opportunities for you baby to be physically active, such as bouncing, rolling, rocking and splashing, both indoors and outdoors
  • Think about the child’s environment: First babies may be slower to roll and crawl as they receive a lot of one-on-one attention. Avoid having the TV on all day, as this may distract them from playing with toys, vocalising and moving around
  • Offer low-level equipment so your baby can pull up to a standing position, shuffle or walk, ensuring that they are safe at all times, while not restricting their explorations
  • Help them experience different positions: Placing a newborn baby in a variety of positions is essential for their physical development. Babies should spend most of their day where they can explore and play on their tummy and their back. Avoid leaving them in car seats and pushchairs for long periods of time
  • Limit the use of equipment: Avoid using baby walkers, standing baby activity gyms, door bouncers and Bumbo style seats, or use them only for very short periods. These support the child in a position they’re not yet ready for, and prevent them developing their own physical skills
  • Help them interact with others: Babies thrive on praise and interactive play with other children and adults. Young children often learn by copying, so having other children around them can be motivating and interesting

 Promoting Fine Motor skills

  • Encourage babies to use resources they can grasp, squeeze and throw
  • Use routine activities such as, feeding, changing and bath time to share ‘finger’ action songs, such as ‘Round and Round the Garden’, ‘tommy finger’ etc 
  • Show babies different ways to make marks in dough or paint by swirling, poking or patting it
  • Play with novel and interesting toys: You don’t have to clear out the local toy shop! Toys that haven’t been played with for a while will seem as new to a little one and provoke their interest. Household objects such as wooden spoons, colanders and saucepans can make great musical instruments

Gross Motor skills

At 2 years your child is an established walker, developing skills in climbing, jumping and running. They are learning to refine their balance and co-ordination, making connections between their movements and the marks they make.  

2 year olds can confidently lower themselves with steadiness to rest or play with an object on the ground, and rise to their feet without using their hands. Although they can often swing and kick a large ball unsupported, tasks such as walking down stairs will likely need some support from you for some time. 

They will likely come downstairs backwards, crawling on their knees. At 2 years a child can run (on whole foot) and is practising starting/stopping themselves and keeping their balance to not fall. 

When it comes to jumping with both feet off the ground, this is quite a tricky skill to master. You will likely see this develop over the course of 12 months from the age of 2. 

Fine Motor skills

At 2 years your toddler's ability to manipulate objects is being mastered. By this age they are often able to build a small tower of blocks, showing control in holding and using jugs to pour, turning door knobs, wind-up toys and screwing lids on and off jars. They are also able to turns pages in a book, sometimes several at once. 

Hand control is developing well and by this age you may notice a definite preference for using their right or left hand. Toddlers begin to use three fingers (tripod grip) to hold writing tools and manipulate them to mark make. They may be able to draw lines and circles at this point too. 

When eating, your child will be good at practising using his spoon correctly (taking to mouth the right side up so that the food usually doesn’t spill). 


  • Think about the child’s environment: children need space and a range of different environments to explore every day to develop physical skills like running, jumping and climbing. Soft play and play parks provide multiple opportunities for children to be challenged and develop new skills
  • Help them experience different positions: Avoid long periods in car seats and pushchairs, and let the child walk as much as possible. Using reins can help keep them safe. Playing computer games and watching TV encourages a sedentary lifestyle, so limit this to short periods
  • Use equipment: Learning to ride a tricycle or a scooter is excellent for the development of balance, strength and stamina. Trampolines and space hoppers also help to build these skills
  • Help them learn from others: Children learn by example, so take part in activities as a family. Good opportunities for this include playing games in the garden or park and eating meals together
  • Give them opportunities to explore: Getting outdoors, messy play and activities that involve movement will all encourage little ones to want to explore
  • Practice makes perfect: Children master new skills by doing something again and again. Encourage them if they get stuck, and reassure them they can come back and try again later
  • Activities such as threading are great for refining fine motor skills. You can purchase a threading activity online or simply gather some string or a shoelace and make jewellery using pasta or beads (always supervise this activity if using small beads).