What Are Motor Skills Milestones?

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  • Written By: Alex Tree
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 03 October 2018
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Motor skills milestones, also known as developmental milestones, are certain tasks and skills that children develop as they grow older. They are well documented between one month and five years of age. Pediatricians and parents alike use motor skills milestones to determine how well a child is developing compared to the vast majority of children. Sometimes a child’s motor skills are delayed and may need extra help, but this does not necessarily mean anything is wrong with the child.

Having the ability to make jerky movements, ball hands into fists, and turn toward familiar sounds are just some motor skills for a one-month-old baby. These milestones are under the one-month mark of a child’s life. A baby who cannot make jerky arm movements might have a physical or mental health problem. Likewise, a five-year-old child who cannot stand on one foot, dress his or herself, or hop or do somersaults might also have delayed motor skills. On the other hand, these children might be stressed or fatigued and therefore unable to demonstrate abilities they normally can do without much effort.


These milestones are used by doctors and parents to determine how a child is developing compared to other children his or her age. For example, it can be helpful to know that most children walk without assistance at 14 months old when a patient is brought in who cannot walk at 20 months old. In this case, the doctor will investigate the problem and attempt to find the cause. The cause could be something as benign as having a very cautious child or as complicated as an undiagnosed disease. Sometimes diseases can be treated and cured, while other times they are a permanent obstacle that keeps the child behind on his or her motor skills milestones.

Motor skills milestones are only guidelines, not rules. Plenty of children do not meet a milestone at the expected time, and doctors often reassure parents that missing a single milestone is normal. For example, some babies can walk at the expected nine months, while others cannot do so until 15 months old. The opposite is also true; some babies begin to walk at eight months, which is a month earlier than the milestone guidelines. In general, experts say that missing one milestone by a little bit is not a big deal, while missing more than one or missing one for months or even years is usually cause for concern.



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