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Understanding and Managing Gross Motor Delay in Children

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Gross motor delay is a developmental delay that can occur in children. It is characterized by a delay in the development of gross motor skills.

Gross motor delay can cause problems with a child’s ability to walk and run. It can also cause problems with balance and coordination. Gross motor delay can be mild, moderate, or severe. It can also be temporary or permanent.

What is Developmental Delay?

Developmental delay is when a child does not reach developmental milestones within the expected timeframe. Developmental delays can be mild, moderate, or severe. A child with a developmental delay may have difficulties with gross motor skills, fine motor skills, social skills, cognitive skills, and/or communication skills.

Most children will eventually catch up to their peers, but some may continue to struggle. Early intervention is important for children with developmental delays. Children who receive timely intervention are more likely to overcome developmental challenges and achieve their developmental milestones.

What are gross motor skills?

Gross motor skills are the abilities necessary to control large muscles in the body. These skills involve the movement of the arms, legs, and trunk of the body. A child’s gross motor development is extremely important for their overall growth. So, it is essential to monitor a child’s gross motor skills.

How is Gross Motor Delay Diagnosed?

Gross motor delay is usually diagnosed by a developmental pediatrician or other developmental specialists. A developmental assessment can help to identify developmental delays. Developmental assessments are typically done at regular well-child visits with a pediatrician.

Reasons For Gross Motor Delays

There is no single cause of delays in gross motor development. It can be caused by a variety of factors, including birth defects, premature birth, and injuries. Some of the factors are discussed below:

Birth defects

Examples of birth defects that can cause gross motor delay include cerebral palsy, spina bifida, and muscular dystrophy.

Genetic disorders

Some genetic disorders, such as down syndrome and fragile x syndrome, can cause delays in gross motor development.

Premature birth

Babies who are born prematurely may have delays in gross motor development because they have not had as much time to develop in the womb.


Injuries, particularly those that impact the brain or nervous system, can influence a child’s gross motor development. Outcomes from traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a stroke can result in gross motor delay.

It’s important to note that while a physical injury such as a broken bone can temporarily hinder a child’s motor abilities due to the need for healing and recovery, it typically does not result in a long-term gross motor delay unless it leads to a lasting impairment.


Certain illnesses, such as meningitis or polio, can potentially affect a child’s gross motor development. The impact on motor skills can vary greatly depending on the severity of the illness and how it affects the child’s nervous system.

While some children may experience a temporary disruption in their gross motor development during the illness, others may face more long-term challenges if the illness results in permanent neurological damage.

Therefore, it’s important to promptly seek medical care if your child falls ill and to follow up with their healthcare provider if you notice any changes or delays in their motor skill development.

Examples of Developmental Delays in Gross Motor Skills

There are a number of different examples of delayed gross motor skills. Some common ones include:

Gross Motor Delay in Infants

Infants with gross motor delay face difficulty in sitting up on their own by the age of 6 months. They also have problems rolling over, creeping, or crawling. Though some infants who have delayed gross motor skills may respond slowly to treatments, it is better to consult your pediatric therapist as soon as you notice any unusual behavior.

Gross Motor Delay in 1-Year-Olds

One-year-olds are expected to achieve several gross motor milestones, such as pulling to standing, cruising, and taking steps. However, some children may have a developmental delay that prevents them from reaching these milestones on time. In such cases, a prompt intervention can be beneficial for your child to improve and achieve these developmental milestones.

Gross Motor Delay in 2-year-olds

2-years-old children are expected to be able to sit, walk, or run on their own. However, kids with gross motor delay may face problems with sitting, walking, running, jumping, climbing stairs, riding a bike, and so on. If you notice that your 2-year-old toddler has trouble sitting or walking independently, consider consulting your child’s pediatrician.

Gross Motor Delay in 3-year-olds

Generally, by the age of 3 years, children develop the skills to hop, run and walk backward. They also can climb on and off furniture, use pedals on tricycles or scooters, and so on. They are likely to achieve the skills to balance on one foot.

However, a 3-years old toddler with gross motor delay may face issues with developmental milestones such as sitting up, crawling, and walking. While gross motor delay can be concerning for parents, it is important to remember that every child develops at their own pace. If you are worried about your child’s development, please speak to your pediatrician.

Gross Motor Delay in 4-year-olds and above

Kids at the age of 4 years generally develop balance and coordination skills. They can balance and stand on 1 foot for about 5 seconds. Kids can stand on tiptoes for about 3 seconds without moving their feet at this age. They also can alternate directions while running and stop without losing their balance, throw or kick a ball, jump sideways, and so on. However, kids with gross motor delays may have problems achieving these milestones.

If your child has a gross motor delay, there are many things that can be done to help improve their development. Physical therapy is one option that can help your child develop the strength, balance, and coordination they need to improve their gross motor skills. If you are concerned about your child’s development, please talk to your pediatrician.

Physical therapy & Other Treatments for Gross Motor Delays

Typically, treatment for gross motor delays involves sensory processing therapy, occupational therapy, and physiotherapy. Pediatricians may also refer your child to a pediatric neurologist if they anticipate the reasons for these delays involve any other medical disorder.

If your child got diagnosed with a developmental delay, the first thing you should do is consult with their doctor to develop an Individualized Family Service Plan.

This plan will help set developmental milestones for your child and put into place the services and supports necessary to help them reach these milestones.

Some of the most common types of therapy used to treat gross motor delays are as follows:

  • Physical therapy can help a child with gross motor delays improve their strength, flexibility, endurance, and motor control. Physical therapists work with children to help them improve their gross motor skills through activities and exercises that are designed specifically for each child.
  • Sensory integration therapy may be helpful for some children with gross motor delays, particularly if they also have difficulties processing sensory information. This type of therapy can help a child become more aware of their body and its movement in space, and learn to process environmental information more efficiently.
  • Occupational therapy can help children with gross motor delays improve their fine motor skills, visual-motor skills, and social skills. Occupational therapists work with children to help them improve their ability to perform everyday activities.
  • Physiotherapy can also be helpful for children with gross motor delays. Physiotherapists work with children to help them improve their strength, flexibility, and range of motion. Physiotherapy can also help children learn how to use their bodies in a more efficient way.

The above therapies are typically provided by developmental specialists or therapists who have experience working with children with gross motor delays. It is important to find a therapist who is experienced and qualified to work with your child.

Activities to Improve Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills are important for everyday activities like sitting up, crawling, walking, and running. If your child has a gross motor delay, they may be behind their peers in these milestones. But don’t worry, there are plenty of things you can do to help your child catch up.

You can help your child improve their gross motor skills by doing activities at home that are designed to improve strength, coordination, and balance. Below are some examples of activities that can be done at home to help a child with gross motor delays:

  • Encourage your child to be active every day. This can help improve their coordination and strength.
  • Make sure your child has plenty of time to practice gross motor skills. This could be through play, therapy, or other activities.
  • Encourage your child to keep trying. Developmental delays can make it difficult for children to learn new skills, but it’s important to encourage them to keep trying.
  • Have your child practice hopping on one foot, then the other. Doing so can improve balance and coordination.
  • Involve your child in playing Ball Games such as catch, soccer, or basketball. These activities can help improve gross motor skills.
  • Make an obstacle course for your child to play in. This could include crawling through tunnels, climbing over things, or balance beam walking.
  • Encourage your child to use their imagination while playing. This can help them develop creative thinking skills along with gross motor skills.


Every child is unique and so is their developmental rate. There are a number of developmental milestones that exhibit that your kid’s development is taking place as expected for their age. However, Some children experience a developmental delay. Thankfully, there are therapies that can help kids thrive.

If you suspect your child has a gross motor delay, talk to your child’s doctor to help them improve their skills and catch up to their peers.


Development Delay in Children: What It Is, Screening, Treatment. (2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from

Developmental Delay: Gross Motor Delay Causes Explained. (2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from

What are Gross Motor Developmental Delays – The Warren Center | Non-profit organization in Richardson, Texas. (2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from,sitting%20up%2C%20and%20begin%20crawling

Oss, L. (2022). Gross Motor Preschool Milestones 3 years to 5 years – North Shore Pediatric Therapy. Retrieved 3 June 2022, from

Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP) – PACER Center. (2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from

Games and Activities That Strengthen Gross Motor Skills. (2022). Retrieved 3 June 2022, from

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