Sub-domain: Motor Development

The Motor Development sub-domain covers goals seventeen through twenty of the Idaho Early Learning Guidelines. 

Using this guide

Scroll down to see the age group you are most interested in. Click on the goal to learn more about the goal's:

  • developmental growth
  • child indicators
  • caregiver strategies

There is an option to download the information at the end of each goal. When you click the link you will be brought to a new page where you can download the goal as a PDF.  

Mother playing with daughter in sandbox

0 - 8 Months

Goal 17: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of large motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Gain control of head, trunk, arms, and legs.

Child Indicators: Moves initially in a predominantly reflexive way (rooting, sucking, grasping, blinking, and swallowing). Holds head erect and steady when held on a shoulder. Lifts head and chest while lying on tummy. Extends legs and kicks when lying on tummy or back. Supports upper body with arms when lying on tummy. Sucks thumb or fingers. Gains control of arm and leg movements. Rolls from side to back, then from back to front. Pounds on things with hands and kicks legs. Reaches for feet and brings them to mouth. Sits with support. Moves from sitting position to crawling or prone position.

Caregiver Strategies: Once infant holds up head, encourage supervised tummy time. (Use a rolled towel to support infant’s chest and arms if necessary.) Provide periods of supervised play when infant is awake using a variety of positions (back, tummy, side). Place interesting toys in front of infant to reach for. Place toys or novel objects just out of reach to encourage infant to roll, scoot, creep and crawl. Provide secure bedding, diapering, and feeding equipment because infant cannot efficiently control movements.

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Goal 18: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of small motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Bring hands and objects to mouth.  Purposefully manipulate objects

Child Indicators: Grasps caregiver’s fingers. Brings hands into visual space and moves them. Reaches and swipes at a dangled object. Reaches for a toy, mouth open, and brings object to mouth for exploration. Watches hands while reaching, making some spatial corrections. Grasps and releases an object. When on back, brings extended hands together over chest to grasp or to swipe mobile. When on tummy, or supported sitting, uses both hands to grasp toy and brings towards self. Grasps a toy, releases it to the other hand, or drops it. When relaxed or playing, uses mostly open hands, ready to grasp.

Caregiver Strategies: Put finger on baby’s palm for grasping. Hold or hang safe objects for baby to swipe, both while on back and held on lap. Provide safe toys within reach for baby to grasp and mouth; encouraging interaction. Provide opportunities for baby to reach for objects. Provide opportunities for baby to play while on its back.

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Goal 19: Children use their senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to guide and integrate their interactions.

Developmental Growth: Respond to sensory input.

Child Indicators: Responds by turning toward sound, movement, and touch. Focuses eyes on objects near and far. Tracks objects by turning head. Explores the environment with mouth and hands. Adjusts to changes without becoming distressed (moving through space, sudden noises, etc.). Distinguishes and responds to differences in sound and intonation.

Caregiver Strategies: Simplify sensory experiences (decrease clutter, noise, visual input, etc.). Ensure child receives routine vision and hearing screenings. Monitor child’s environment for variety of sound levels and types of sound. Avoid putting electronic toys in crib.  Keep loud noises away from infant’s ears. Place a mobile near infant’s crib (safely out of the child’s reach) to stimulate vision and other senses.  Avoid prolonged periods in highchairs or devices that restrict movement (mechanical swings, baby carrier). Wait for child’s visual or tactile response as sensory changes occur in the environment. Give adequate time for the baby to respond to changes.

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6 - 18 Months

Goal 17: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of large motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Develop strength, balance, and coordination to change the position of the body from lying to sitting, to standing, and then to walking, with or without support.

Child Indicators: Sits in lap with head steady. Rocks back and forth on hands and knees and, later, crawl. Moves to sitting position, without assistance. Sits steady, without support. Pulls self up to stand while holding onto something or someone. Walks two or three steps, without support. Walks holding on to furniture, then, later as the primary means of moving around. Stoops over to explore things on the ground; first without, and then with balance. Tries to climb stairs, with assistance. Carries toys or objects while walking.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for child to move safely and freely during waking hours. Provide large motor challenges in environment (pillows, mats, foam risers, variety of surfaces/levels). Provide a safe environment and objects for physical activity. Provide a variety of push/pull toys. Play interactive games (e.g. roll a ball back and forth) and sing songs from child’s home culture that involves child’s hands, feet, and body. Provide motor challenges to allow child to go to the next level of development by moving up, over, around, on top of, and through equipment (slides, tunnels, multilevel foam risers). Offer adaptive equipment to build strength if a child has a disability (adaptive chair or scooter boards for exploring a room).

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Goal 18: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of small motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Demonstrate development and precision of eye-hand coordination by grasping and manipulating objects in exploration and including both hands in accomplishing a task.

Child Indicators: Turns pages with adult help. Shakes a rattle. Transfers small object from hand to hand. Pushes an object off highchair tray. Picks up small objects with thumb and forefinger. Bangs objects together. Waves bye-bye and claps hands. Empties objects from container. Tries to imitate scribbling. Turns pages of a board book independently. Points at object that is out of reach. Holds fat crayon with a full-hand grasp and scribbles on large paper. Fits two cups together, one inside the other. Holds toys in one hand and explores it with the other. Stacks two to three objects.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide toys to grasp, transfer, release, and drop; playfully handing the toy back to the baby (rattles, small blocks, or toys). Provide fat crayons and large paper. Provide objects for play that offer a variety of sizes and textures. Provide board books to encourage reaching, mouthing, and page turning. Provide a variety of safe objects and containers to manipulate.

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Goal 19: Children use their senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to guide and integrate their interactions.

Developmental Growth: Intentionally respond to sensory input and to coordinate actions based on input.

Child Indicators: Orients to a speaker when addressed by name. Coordinates eye and hand movements (puts objects into large container). Explores and responds to different surface textures. Moves body in response to music and sounds.Explores and responds to a variety of textures, sounds, smells, tastes, and visual input. Moves body in rhythm to music and sounds. Seeks out sensory input by mouthing or touching objects. May respond with surprise or resistance to moved sensory input.

Caregiver Strategies: Respond to child’s sensory cues by giving additional sensory stimulation or reducing sensory stimulation. Provide time daily for child to move freely on the floor in a safe environment. Incorporate a variety of surface materials in the environment (hard top tables, soft cushions). Provide opportunities to listen to music. Provide opportunities to listen to, to discriminate, and to make a variety of sounds including quiet and louder sounds. Provide materials and objects of various textures, shapes, colors, smells, and sounds. Talk with child about the colors, sounds, temperatures, tastes, and smells of things during daily activities. Sing/play music and encourage movement to the rhythm of sounds and music.

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During the first years of life, the human body changes continuously and dramatically.

16 - 38 Months

Goal 17: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of large motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Coordinate whole body to make complex movements for moving from place to place (walk, run, hop, climb).

Child Indicators: Walks and runs with skill; changing both speed and direction. Walks backwards. Climbs in and out of bed, or onto a steady adult chair. Pounds object with intent and precision (hammers peg with accuracy). Kicks and throws a ball, but with little control of direction or speed. Jumps in place. Balances on one foot briefly. Bends over easily at the waist without falling. Walks in a straight line. Walks up and down stairs (not alternating feet), without assistance.

Caregiver Strategies: Play with child and encourage them to run, throw, jump, kick, and climb. Provide a variety of materials and equipment (riding toys, push and pull toys, low climbing structures). Engage child in physical activities that promote balance (rocking, swinging, rolling, and spinning). Provide opportunities for child to try different body positions (bending, twisting). Modify activities to ensure individual participation of each child (provide ramps or low steps to ensure access to climbing equipment). Use assistive technology and adaptations to activities if needed to engage children with individual needs in physical activity and movement.

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Goal 18: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of small motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Coordinate arms, hands, and fingers to accomplish purposeful fine-motor tasks.

Child Indicators: Turns book pages, one page at a time, most of the time. Scribbles with crayons and begins to imitate marks (a circle). Uses a paintbrush. Folds blanket, cloth diaper, or paper, with assistance. Pours or dumps water, sand, and other materials using other containers or a simple tool. Opens doors, with assistance, by turning and pulling doorknobs. Eats with utensils; using some eating utensils appropriately. Pours liquid from a small pitcher to a cup. Completes simple insert puzzles (uses shape sorter box or puts pegs into peg board). Imitates hand motions of simple finger plays or songs.

Caregiver Strategies: Engage child in scribbling using crayons, chalk, and large pencils. Provide experiences that support the use of hands in many different positions (finger painting, manipulating clay, painting at an upright easel). Engage child in activities that promote moving fingers individually (finger plays, typing on a toy keyboard, making music). Model uses of writing and drawing in everyday life. Engage child in playing with and stacking blocks and/or small household objects. Provide child-sized utensils during mealtime. Provide opportunities for water and sand play.

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Goal 19: Children use their senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to guide and integrate their interactions.

Developmental Growth: Regulate actions and responses based on sensory input.

Child Indicators: Demonstrates awareness of own body in space (walks around table without bumping into it). Performs basic creative movements, with adult guidance or alone (dances to music or rhythm). Eats food with a variety of textures, tastes, and temperatures. Exhibits eye-hand coordination (builds with blocks, completes simple puzzles, or strings large beads). Climbs, walks up inclines, slides, swings to integrate sensory input. Plays with materials of different textures (sand, water, leaves).

Caregiver Strategies: Provide physical experiences that integrate child’s movements with all of the senses (shadow play, painting with feet, playground equipment). Comment positively and specifically about how a child is responding to a sensory experience in play (e.g., “You smelled that yellow flower two times.  Did it smell good or bad?”). Model movements and invite child to participate (dance or drum together). Provide objects for catching and throwing (large, soft balls; beanbags). Provide a variety of sensory materials such as water, snow, mud, and sand for the child to explore. Offer a variety of food with varying textures, tastes, and temperatures.

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36 - 60 Months

Goal 17: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of large motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Coordinate whole body to move in complex ways with strength, agility, and balance.

Child Indicators: Walks and runs following circular paths (around obstacles and corners). Runs, pivots to change direction, and stops as appropriate. Crawls through a play tunnel or under tables. Climbs on play equipment. Throws large beanbags or ball with some accuracy. Catches large balls with two hands. Kicks ball forward. Balances on one foot; hops forward on one foot. Jumps on two feet and jumps over small objects with balance and control. Jumps from a height. Jumps for distance. Gallops. Pedals consistently when riding a tricycle. Starts and stops a tricycle intentionally. Walks up and down stairs using alternating feet.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide safe equipment and environments that vary in skill levels (tricycles, tires, hoops, balls, balance beam, climbing equipment). Teach child new skills (skip, throw overhand, jump rope, hula hoop, swim). Provide activities in which only one side of the body is used at a time (hopping, standing on one foot). Provide opportunities for dance and other movement activities that use both sides of the body (bending, twisting, stretching, balancing). Use assistive technology and adaptations to activities if needed to engage children with individual needs in physical activity and movement.

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Goal 18: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of small motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Use fingers and hands for purposeful tasks.

Child Indicators: Eats with utensils; scoops, spears, and spreads food. Uses various drawing and art materials (crayons, brushes, finger paints). Copies shapes and geometric designs. Opens and closes blunt scissors with one hand. Cuts a piece of paper on a straight line and on a curve.  Child needs sharp scissors to cut accurately. Manipulates small objects with ease (strings beads, fits small objects into holes). Fastens large buttons. Uses large zippers. Uses stapler or paper punch. Completes increasingly complex puzzles (single, cut-out figures to 10-piece puzzles). Writes some recognizable letters or numbers.

Caregiver Strategies: Engage child in activities that strengthen hand grasp (molding play dough, using a hand-held hole punch). Encourage child to strengthen grasp of thumb/forefinger (gluing small pieces of paper, peeling/sticking stickers, picking up small objects with fingers). Encourage use of precision grasp (using writing utensils such as crayons, pencils, markers, paints). Provide opportunities for child to practice tying, buttoning, and beading. Demonstrate and provide opportunities for child to use scissors safely (include adaptive scissors). Modify activities to ensure participation of each child (i.e. attach rubber grips to pencils and pens, provide loops scissors, and paint tools with thicker grasps). Offer supervised woodworking opportunities (gluing, hammering, screwing, sawing).

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Goal 19: Children use their senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to guide and integrate their interactions.

Developmental Growth: Coordinate motor activities.

Child Indicators: Coordinates motor activity based on visual input. Holds materials at an appropriate distance. Moves eyes rather than head to track objects. Physically reacts appropriately to the environment (bends knees to soften a landing, moves quickly to avoid obstacles). Demonstrates concepts through movement (imitates an animal through movement, sounds, dress, dramatization, dance). Improves eye-hand coordination for precise movement (catches a bounced ball). Coordinates motor activity based on auditory input (runs to look out the window when hearing a siren). Demonstrates sensory regulation by pushing objects, climbing short ladders, swinging on a swing, and sliding.

Caregiver Strategies: Play word games and sing songs that use the senses. Set up an obstacle course of chairs, sticks, boxes, and give directions; go over the box, under the chair, and beside the stick. Provide opportunities for the child to explore natural surroundings through the senses. Provide opportunities for the child to integrate rhythm, sounds, and music with motor activity; like striking a drum to the beat or marching with the rhythm. Provide opportunities to use touch, pressure, and texture to learn to push, pull, or lift an object effectively.

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Children develop motor control and coordination from the center of their bodies outward.

60 Months - Kindergarten

Goal 17: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of large motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Coordinate multiple movements with accuracy and purpose.

Child Indicators: Runs with an even gait and with few falls. Hop on each foot separately, without support and with balance. Maintains balance while bending, twisting, or stretching. Walks up and down stairs while holding an object in one or both hands. Moves body into position to catch a ball; then throws the ball in the right direction. Kicks large ball to a given point, with some accuracy. Alternates weight and feet while skipping or using stairs. Throws a medium-size ball, with some accuracy. Moves to a rhythm (marching). Runs forward, backward, slides to the side, and pivots without pausing.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for child to participate in activities that develop large muscles (soccer, dance, basketball, freeform play with balls, bicycle riding). Include child in simple, small physical chores (taking out trash, raking leaves). Offer environments, both inside and outside, that include opportunities for climbing, jumping, throwing, catching, running, and using wheel toys. Use assistive technology and adaptations to activities if needed to engage children with individual needs in physical activity and movement.

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Goal 18: Children demonstrate strength and coordination of small motor muscles.

Developmental Growth: Manipulate materials in a purposeful way, planning and attending to fine details.

Child Indicators: Removes and replaces easy-to- open container lids. Folds paper and makes paper objects (airplanes, origami), with assistance. Cuts, draws, glues with provided materials. Ties knots and shoelaces, with assistance. Prints letters with some legibility. Buttons large buttons on clothing. Tears tape off a dispenser without letting the tape get stuck to itself, most of the time. Puts together and pulls apart manipulatives appropriately.

Caregiver Strategies: Involve child in daily activities (setting a table, preparing food, or lacing shoes). Play card games in which child must hold, pick up, and turn over cards (Memory, Go Fish). Provide daily opportunities for child to use art supplies that support fine-motor skills (crayons, chalk, pencils, scissors, glue, stickers). Provide small materials to manipulate such as building bricks, hammer and nails, or beads for stringing and sewing.

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Goal 19: Children use their senses (sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch) to guide and integrate their interactions.

Developmental Growth: Integrate sensory motor skills into actions.

Child Indicators: Hits a medium-size ball (6 to 8 inches) with a bat, with some consistency. Catches a ball thrown from a distance of 5 to 10 feet. Manipulates simple puppets. Carries a glass of water or juice across the room without spilling it. Participate in vigorous, active play (freeze tag, hide and seek, snow play). Pivots, runs, and stops with control. Successfully aims and tosses objects.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide play opportunities that involve eye-hand coordination (a ball and/or bat). Provide opportunities for the child to explore spatial relationships (playing games with other children, crawling through tunnels, swinging on hand bars, and managing projectiles such as a basketball and hoop). Explore foods from a variety of tastes and textures. Provide safe and supervised opportunities for the child to try a variety of activities with limited sensory input (using headphones, blindfold, and gloves). Provide opportunities for play and games using sensory instructions.

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