- Beyond three years, motor milestones become more based on the experiences kids are having rather than age
- Active play experiences that incorporate fundamentals of catching, kicking, throwing and striking will help kids achieve skill milestones earlier and build a better base of coordination
Parents often ask, "When should my child be able throw or catch?" The answer, as vague as it may seem, is that it depends. It depends on the experiences they have been exposed to through their early years. In fact, you may find a 5 year old who is a very competent catcher, whereas another 8 year old may have very poor catching skills.
With babies, and too a lesser extent, toddlers we can more accurately predict age brackets for when kids will achieve motor milestones. However, as kids develop, their milestones or skill level becomes increasingly different based on the fact that kids are having such varied experiences from which they can learn. Motor milestones begin to become irrelevant aside from being used to identify developmentally delayed children. What becomes important is recognizing the skill level of individual kids and providing them with appropriate play activities to help them improve their motor skills. The more and better you can do this, the more they will benefit from a lifetime of fundamental motor skills, advanced coordination and eventually sport specific skills.
Milestones at three
At three years old, kids can generally:
- run and change direction
- balance on one leg
- throw overarm with mostly just elbow extension
- beginning to hop
- catch on the chest
- begin to be able to move with increasing speed to moving objects
- kick with some direction and are starting to punt
But even at three years old, these skills will vary considerably, depending on the exposure kids have had to active play experiences that incorporate these skills.
From here on
From three years on, you can use play as a vehicle to really help kids build their fundamental perceptual motor skills. After three, kids' skill levels will start to vary more and more. Just like if we never have experiences of learning the guitar, we won’t be able to play the guitar, if kids don’t have experiences in fundamental perceptual motor skills like catching, throwing, striking and kicking that form the basis of sport skills, they won’t develop competence in these skills.
And it’s the same for developing even greater coordination. The more we play and learn the guitar, the better one’s guitar skills get even at a very young age, and the more exposure to play and learning of fundamental skills, the better kids' fundamental skills will get.
The best way to think about the motor milestones of kids beyond three years is that you can impact their motor milestones by facilitating the experiences they need to learn. Just because kids are ageing doesn’t mean they will naturally acquire these skills. Without active play at a young age that incorporates these skills, they will be forever disadvantaged when it comes to sport. Or on the flipside, they can forever have an advantage.
The next article to read is - Understanding development between three and ten years.