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The Development of Motor Skills in 1-Year-Olds

author image April Sanders
April Sanders is a writer, teacher and the mother of three boys. Raised on an organic farm, she is an avid gardener and believes that good growth starts with a rich, supportive foundation -- a philosophy that serves her well in both gardening and teaching. Sanders has written for Nickelodeon, Warner Brothers, Smarted Balanced, PARCC and others.
The Development of Motor Skills in 1-Year-Olds
Toddler learning to run. Photo Credit Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

The time between a baby's first and second birthday is a time of great growth in developmental skills, including gross and fine motor skills. All babies develop differently, but, because motor skills build on each other -- a baby has to stand before she can walk -- it's important that they happen within a reasonable time frame. For this reason, pediatricians and other experts have established guidelines as to when a 1-year-old should be able to accomplish certain tasks.

12 to 18 Months: Gross Motor Skills

The first birthday is a milestone for many reasons -- one of which is that many babies learn to walk around this time. Those first, wobbly steps are just a preview of what's to come. Walking is the first step to running, which is followed by jumping. It's normal for a baby to start walking any time between 9 and 15 months of age, according to the University of Wisconsin Hospitals and Clinics Authority. If your child is not walking by 16 months of age, however, take her to see your pediatrician to rule out any issues. Other gross motor skills your baby should develop by 18 months of age include being able to sit down and stand back up and being able to roll a ball on the ground. Babies of this age can also usually climb into an adult-sized chair and sit in it and walk backward for at least five steps while pulling a toy.

12 to 18 Months: Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills allow your baby to manipulate objects, make gestures, feed herself and create art. A 1-year-old can usually point, wave and clap. He can stack two cubes and put three toys or other items in a container. By the time your baby has reached 15 months of age, he should be able to stack three cubes in a small tower -- by 18 months, that tower should be four to six cubes tall. A 15-month-old should be able to pull on a string, hold two objects in one hand and remove socks. An 18-month-old should be able to scribble with crayons or markers and use gestures while playing. Intent is also important. An 18-month-old should be manipulating objects with purpose -- the intent to move a toy car down the street, the intent to put a toy away in its proper place and the intent to move a spoon to his mouth. If your toddler does not seem to be manipulating items with purpose, discuss this with your pediatrician.

18 to 24 Months: Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills continue to develop at a rapid rate between the ages of 18 and 24 months. Your little one -- who might not have even been walking at her birthday party -- is now running around the house and getting into everything. She can climb up things and throw and kick a ball. By 21 months of age, most toddlers can climb up or down a flight of stairs if they hold onto the railing, and a 21-month-old can probably ride a wheeled toy without using the pedals. By 24 months of age, your toddler should be able to jump in place and from a bottom step. Your pediatrician might even ask your toddler jump in place at her 24-month well-child appointment. If she can't meet this and other gross motor milestones, your pediatrician might discuss options such as physical therapy with you -- which is sometimes necessary for children who have sensory issues -- or he might reassure you that your child is on track to develop all of her motor skills at a slightly slower pace than average.

18 to 24 Months: Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills also continue to develop during this time. That spoon that kept missing your baby's mouth might make it there with less mess now. By 21 months, your toddler should be able to draw a circle after you draw one, push a string through a 1-inch hole, turn a doorknob and hold a cup in one hand. By 24 months, most toddlers can wash their own hands, use safety scissors, pull their own pants down with a little help and wash their own hands -- just in time for potty training. By the time the second birthday rolls around, many toddlers are also using dolls and other toys to engage in imaginative play. If you are worried your toddler does not seem to be meeting some of these milestones, keep in mind that all children develop differently, but make an appointment with your pediatrician just in case.

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