Supporting Physical Growth and Development in Young Children (page 3)

By — North Dakota State University Extension Service
Updated on Mar 10, 2011

Checklist B

Fine-motor Skills in Early Childhood

0 to 3 Months

[ ] Grasps and holds an object, such as a baby ring or rattle

[ ] Hands are held in open, relaxed position

[ ] Clings to parent or adult with hands while being held

3 to 6 Months

[ ] Reaches for dangling objects or toys

[ ] Uses hands and fingers in play

[ ] Grasps object using palm and fingers

[ ] Passes a toy or object between hands

[ ] Puts objects in mouth to explore

6 to 12 Months

[ ] Uses a pincer grasp (thumb and finger) to hold food or object

[ ] Grasps and uses toys to play or keep attention

[ ] Reaches for objects, such as a spoon to feed self

[ ] Plays hand games (patty-cake, etc.)

12 to 18 Months

[ ] Scribbles on paper by grasping a pencil or crayon

[ ] Picks up, grasps and throws a ball

[ ] Stacks blocks together

[ ] Puts large puzzle pieces into slots on a puzzle

[ ] Holds objects and bangs them together

18 to 24 Months

[ ] Grasps and uses spoon or fork to feed self with support

[ ] Grasps and uses a cup or bottle for drinking

[ ] Uses a pencil or crayon to draw lines

[ ] Turns pages of a child's book with help

2 to 3 Years

[ ] Uses utensils to feed self

[ ] Brushes teeth with a toothbrush with help

[ ] Uses basic scissors for cutting

[ ] Holds and uses pencil or crayon for basic drawing

[ ] Snaps, buttons or zips with help

3 to 5 Years

[ ] Builds using blocks stacked on top of each other

[ ] Cuts paper in shapes

[ ] Draws with pencil, crayons, other implements

[ ] Turns pages of a book

[ ] Pours water from pitcher to cup

5 to 7 Years

[ ] Draws multiple shapes and figures with various implements

[ ] Strings beads for projects

[ ] Uses a comb, toothbrush, washcloth without support

[ ] Prints letters, numbers, etc.

[ ] Cuts shapes clearly, easily

Checklist C

Balance and Coordination Skills in Early Childhood

0 to 3 Months

[ ] Looks at and focuses on parent

[ ] Eyes follow parent

[ ] Eyes follow parent and baby also moves head

[ ] Kicks well and waves arms

[ ] Positions well for breast or bottle feeding

3 to 6 Months

[ ] Moves head or arms with some control and purpose

[ ] Reaches intentionally to grasp a toy

[ ] Eyes follow person or object that moves out of sight

[ ] Holds two objects and hits them together

6 to 12 Months

[ ] Turns head and eyes with control to respond

[ ] Reaches for and grasps object easily

[ ] Plays patty-cake with hands or claps

[ ] Stacks items on top of each other

[ ] Holds object with thumb and finger

12 to 18 Months

[ ] Climbs onto a chair or sofa

[ ] Pushes moveable toys about

[ ] Holds a pencil or crayon and scribbles

[ ] Plays peekaboo

[ ] Drinks from a cup

[ ] Grasps and uses a spoon

18 to 24 Months

[ ] Jumps up and down in one spot

[ ] Enjoys sensory activities with shapes, sizes, textures

[ ] Hand-eye coordination developing with catching, throwing

[ ] Takes off clothes

[ ] Assists with simple household tasks

2 to 3 Years

[ ] Jumps off a step without falling, maintains balance

[ ] Uses spoon and fork for eating

[ ] Participates in creative movement, such as dance, art, etc.

[ ] Draws lines, shapes

[ ] Builds structures with eight or more blocks

3 to 5 Years

[ ] Marches or dances in rhythm to music

[ ] Draws letters and numbers

[ ] Holds fork or pencil with three fingers and not a fist

[ ] Uses a toothbrush and floss alone

[ ] Puts on and changes own clothes with some help as needed

5 to 7 Years

[ ] Good balance and more smooth muscle coordination

[ ] Handedness (left or right) develops

[ ] Draws patterns and figures

[ ] Puts together puzzles and games

[ ] Ties shoes without help

[ ] Plays a musical instrument with practice

Enhancing Physical Growth and Development

Parents and caregivers have many ways to enrich a child's world and facilitate healthy physical development. Some key things a child needs for this type of development are:

  • Variety of activities
  • Useful and creative toys
  • Interaction with adults and peers

In physical development, children basically are learning how to control their bodies and move. Adults can help children by implementing the M-O-V-E formula for assisting kids with physical growth.

The M-O-V-E Formula for Physical Growth in Children

The principles of the M-O-V-E formula for assisting children with physical growth and development are as follows:

  • Motivation
  • Opportunity
  • Variety
  • Equipment, encouragement and enthusiasm

To best follow these principles, parents and other adults need to ask simple questions about what they are doing to provide an environment that will assist physical growth and development.


Children need some reason to be engaged in activities that will spur physical development. Often, the best motivation is simply to be with and play with a parent or other adult. Do you actively engage with children as they pursue physical play? Do you make physical activities fun for them?


Children need room to explore and materials they can interact with physically. Do you have a place for children to be physically active or sit and draw pictures? Are materials such as paper, crayons, scissors or modeling clay available and easily accessible to them? Do you have a bin with some balls and other physical toys with which children can play? Make certain you are providing the opportunity, including time, space and materials, for children to be physically engaged with their environment.


Children are naturally curious, so they need a variety of materials and physical activities available to them. Children also need a variety in what you offer them because different children may have differing interests. One child will want to play tag outside while another may wish to build a block tower. Children need to develop all aspects of their physical abilities, so engage them in a variety of activities that will help them use all of their muscles and skills.

Equipment, Encouragement and Enthusiasm

Equipment of different kinds is critical for helping young children develop physically. They need things to climb on, push, pull and use in other ways that challenge and stretch their large- and small-muscle skills. If you do not have outside equipment, take your children to facilities such as a local park or the YMCA to find opportunities to be active on child play equipment.

Encouragement and enthusiasm also are important building blocks for supporting a child's physical growth and development. Show children you enjoy interacting with them, and encourage them through praise and enthusiasm. For example, children engaged in physical sports, such as soccer or gymnastics, are more likely to continue if parents make time to give their attention and express their excitement at steps in a child's abilities. Give your children the encouragement and enthusiasm they need, and you will find enjoyment as you see them learn to use and develop their physical abilities in a variety of ways.

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