Development is a complex process that involves multiple interactions between many different areas of development. The table below describes what to look for in large muscle development and the developmental continuum, which is a predictable, but not rigid, sequence of developmental accomplishments. Typical ages are given for the first and last accomplishments as a general guide for assessment.

Examples of Things to Look For Development Curriculum

Walking: Placing one foot in front of the other while maintaining contact with floor.

Watch for: heel–toe progression; placement of arms as child walks (smoothly in opposition to feet); length of stride; balance.

Walking on a straight line is easier than on a curved line; forward is easier than walking backwards; spontaneous is easier than in rhythm to music or a drum beat.

Most Children:

  • Can walk in a heel–toe progression with arms in opposition; up and down steps with one foot leading, then with alternating feet. (3 yrs.)
  • Can walk backwards; a straight path (1" wide); up and down short stairs with alternating feet; a balance beam (2–3" high) with help.
  • Can walk on balance beam (2–3" high); up and down ten or more stairs alternating feet with hand rail; on a circle.
  • Can walk in time to music; across balance beam (2–3" high); up and down ten stairs alternating feet; use roller skates. (5–6 yrs.)

Running: Placing one foot in front of the other with a brief period of no contact with floor.

Watch for: placement of arms (should move smoothly in opposition to the feet, should not flail around, should not be stiff); balance; fluidity; speed; ability to start and stop with balance; ability to run and turn with balance.

Most Children

  • Can run (length of stride, balance, and smoothness begin to improve). (2–3 yrs.)
  • Can run more smoothly (even stride but may lack mature arm movements and form). A few children can turn, stop suddenly, or run around objects easily.
  • Can run with improved form, speed, and control (stopping, starting, and turning without falling).
  • Can run in an effective adult manner (arms across midline in rhythmic pattern, elbow bent at a right angle); combine run and jump.
  • Can run with longer stride; coordinate run with other motor skills (e.g., kicking); increased speed and agility. (6–8 yrs.)

Jumping: One or two foot takeoff, landing on both feet.

Watch for: takeoff and landing, including placement of the arms on takeoff, landing, and as the jump is being made (arms aid in jump and don’t flail around); bending of knees (should not be stiff); balance and fluidity. Jumps increase in distance and height. Jumping down is easier than jumping up onto something.

Most Children

  • Can jump off a step with both feet; jump in place with minimal crouch, may land on one or both feet (one foot ahead). (2–3 yrs.)
  • Can jump well in place; jump over a small object leading with one foot.
  • Can jump well in place; crouch for a high jump of 2"; do standing broad jump of 8–10". A few children can jump over a barrier.
  • Can jump over barriers; make a vertical jump; do a running broad jump.
  • Can jump rope in a simple pattern; jump onto a target.
  • Can do jumping jacks; jump rope in complex patterns; a standing broad jump with deep crouch (arms swing further back behind body and continue until body is fully extended, and synchronized); jump and catch ball. (7–8 yrs.)

Hopping: One foot takeoff and landing on the same foot.

Watch for: takeoff and landing; placement of arms (arms swing and aid in takeoff and landing, no flailing); isolation of the hopping side; balance; fluidity (should not be stiff); preference for one foot.

Most Children

  • Cannot hop; make irregular steps instead of a hop. Some children attempt a hop. (2–3 yrs.)
  • Can hop once or twice on preferred leg; execute ten hops in a row on preferred leg. (3–4 yrs.)
  • Can hop a distance of 5'.
  • Can hop distance of 16'; use arms in opposition to feet; use either foot.
  • Can hop onto small squares.
  • Can hop in an alternate rhythmic pattern (2–2, 2–3, or 3–3 pattern). (7–8 yrs.)

Galloping: Step (walk) leap with same foot leading.

Skipping: Step (walk) hop in rhythmic alternation

Watch for: patterned use of the feet; use of arms (should move smoothly, no flailing); coordination; balance; ability to sustain the pattern.

Most Children

  • Attempt a gallop. (3 yrs.)
  • Perform a shuffle step (side step).
  • Step hop on one foot. Some gallop fairly well with preferred foot.
  • Gallop fairly well (not proficiently). Some children can skip.
  • Can skip with ease. (6-7 yrs).

Kicking: Moving an object by striking it with the foot.

Watch for: stance; standing on two feet, stepping forward with balance (older children may be able to move forward several steps and kick); movement of kicking leg; balance on contact with ball and follow-through; placement of arms (no flailing); fluidity; coordination of nonkicking side (no extraneous movements). Early kicking with stationary ball, then ball rolling directly to child (can’t shift position), then ball rolling and child meets it.

Most Children

  • Kick with leg stiff, straight leg, and little body movement. (2–3 yrs.)
  • Kick with lower leg bent on backward lift and straight on forward swing.
  • Kick with greater backward and forward swing; use arms in opposition to legs; step into ball.
  • Kick using mature pattern; kick through ball with arms synchronized; kick ball tossed into air with straight leg.
  • Run and kick in stride.
  • Kick proficiently and accurately; intercept a ball; adjust kicking to height of ball; can aim ball. (7–8 yrs.)

Throwing: Using hands and arm to propel an object through the air—overhand or underhand.

Watch for: smooth fluid motion of throwing arm; coordination of nonthrowing arm (no extraneous movements); balance; stance; rotation of body (older children also lean slightly backwards); step forward as object is released; follow-through of throwing arm; whipping motion of the arm on release; arc of throw. Early throwing, no weight transfer. Smaller balls are easier to throw.

Most Children

  • Face target and use both forearms to push; throw with little or no footwork or body rotation; may lose balance while throwing. (2–3 yrs.)
  • Throw overhand or underhand with one arm fairly well; use some body rotation; may release ball too early or late.
  • Throw proficiently for longer distances, with more mature overhand motion (at elbow); may prefer overhand or underhand.
  • Throw in a mature pattern; step forward; improved accuracy; fluid follow-through.
  • Throw overhand with whipping motion (lean body back in preparation); underhand with explosive release. (7–8 yrs.)

Catching: Using hands to grasp or capture an object thrown through air.

Watch for: stance (balanced, can move and catch); placement of the arms (trap against body or grasped with hands); following of object’s path with eyes; positioning self under object; adjusting hand position to size of object. At the beginning, catches involve a ball rolling on ground. Large balls are easier to catch. Child may show more mature catching with large balls.

Most Children

  • Stop rolling object with hands; stand with arms stiff; may close eyes, arch body away; close arms after object hits body. (2–3 yrs.)
  • Hold arms out straight, stiff with hands facing object; trap against body. Catch bounced ball.
  • Hold arms flexed at elbows; trap against body. Some children catch with hands.
  • Try catching with hands; may still trap; follow trajectory of ball better. About half of the children can catch with hands.
  • Are moderately proficient; flex elbows with hands forward; make contact with hands; may juggle object.
  • Can catch with hands, little juggling; judge trajectory fairly well; move into position; adjust hand position to size of object. (7 yrs. and older)

Perceptual Motor Abilities: Body, timing, and directional awareness. Ability to imitate by watching and listening to a model.

Watch for: ability to clap to a steady beat; walk, jump, hop, gallop, or skip to a beat or to music; control of body when moving (no extraneous movements); sense of external space (doesn’t walk into things, bump into people when moving); mimic movements of another person; perform a movement after listening to verbal directions.

Most Children

  • Can identify parts of the body; clap a simple rhythm; still lack spatial and directional awareness. (3–4 yrs.)
  • Can mimic demonstrated movements presented in a sequence (clapping pattern); use verbal directions to execute a simple movement sequence; walk to the beat of a musical selection.
  • Most children have trouble memorizing a sequence of movements. (6–7 yrs.)

Physical Fitness: The child’s physical state after vigorous exercise and the ability to sustain vigorous exercise.

Watch for: sustained enthusiastic performance of the movements; the amount of time a child spends in vigorous exercise; child’s reaction to being tired (shortness of breath, absence of strength).

Most Children

  • Can exercise vigorously for 10–15 minutes without needing to stop. (5 yrs.)
  • Can exercise vigorously for 15–20 minutes. (8 yrs.)

Adapted from: National Association for Sport and Physical Education (2004); Berk, 2006; Corbin, 1980; Council on Physical Education for Children, 2000; Gallahue, 1982; Hastie & Martin, 2006; Hetherington, Parke, Gauvain, & Locke, 2005; Poest, Williams, Witt, & Atwood, 1990; Schirmer, 1974; Sinclair, 1973; Thomas, Lee, & Thomas, 1988; Weeks & Ewer-Jones, 1991, Weikert, 1987; Wickstrom, 1983; Williams, 1991.