3–4 years old: Gross motor skill development

3–4 years old: Gross motor skill development

Your child’s gross motor skill development at 3–4 years old. Follow your child’s milestones step-by-step.

Gross motor skill development allows babies to exercise their balance, coordination, and large muscles. These abilities will help your little one master certain movements, such as sitting, crawling, walking, running, climbing, and jumping. Developing gross motor skills is also an important step toward developing fine motor skills.

Gross motor skill development: 3–4 years old

At this age:

Remember that not all children develop the same skills at the same speed. The material on this website is for general information purposes only. If you’re concerned about your child’s development, speak with a doctor.
  • Your child can run with ease (start, stop, and change direction) while pumping their arms.
  • They can throw (and occasionally catch) a ball without losing their balance.
  • They can climb, slide, and swing on different playground structures.
  • They can squat and stand back up without help.
  • They can climb stairs by putting one foot on each step, without holding on to the banister.
  • They can slowly move forward by hopping on one leg.
  • They can briefly balance on one foot, then usually for up to 5 seconds.

Over the next few months, your child will begin to do the following:

  • Be able to catch a large ball by holding out their arms.
  • Sprint, run, walk, and tiptoe during group activities.
  • Jump in the air with their feet together.
  • Do somersaults.
Find out how to support your child’s gross motor skill development through books. (In French)

How can you help your child progress?

Every child is different and develops at their own pace. That said, you can help foster your baby’s development by adopting the Comfort, Play and Teach approach, which can easily be integrated into your daily routine. The table below outlines small, age-specific actions you can take that will benefit your child’s gross motor skill development.

When you praise your child for using their new skills (e.g., “You’re so good at catching the ball!”),
they become more confident and want to repeat the activity.
When you play your child’s favourite music and explore moving in different ways together,
your child enjoys spending time with you and is excited to show you their moves.
When you help your child practise more difficult skills, like balancing on one foot or following a straight line on the floor,
they feel safe and gain the confidence to try new activities on their own.
When youencourage your child to imitate animal movements, such as jumping like a frog, swimming like a fish, wriggling like a worm, or galloping like a horse,
they get to carry out various movements while using their imagination. They also develop greater body awareness and coordination through play.
When you accompany rhymes with gestures while encouraging your little one to act out the words, like wiggling your fingers while singing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,
they develop their ability to understand words by creating movements that mimic the actions being described.
When you invite your child’s friends over and teach them a simple game, like London Bridge Is Falling Down,
your child practises social skills like waiting their turn, all while having fun and being active.
When you do yoga stretches with your child, like the cat, dog, rabbit, snake, candle, and rag doll poses,
they learn to move their body in a relaxing and creative way to imitate various animals and objects.
When you create an easy obstacle course using hoops, a table, cones, a balance board, or a ball,
your child learns the meaning of words like above, below, around, up, and down. They also learn more about their body and environment while gaining spatial awareness.
When you play Simon Says and ask your child to do simple activities like jumping three times or doing a somersault,
your child practises their listening and counting skills while showing you their new physical abilities.


Naître et grandir

Scientific review: Stéphanie Boivin and Sonya Côté, occupational therapists
Research and copywriting: The Naître et grandir team
Updated: April 2019


Photo: GettyImages/FluxFactory



Please note that hyperlinks to other websites are not updated regularly, and some may have changed since publication. It is therefore possible that a link may not be found. If a link is no longer valid, use search engines to find the relevant information.

  • Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. Physical Activity in Early Childhood: Setting the Stage for Lifelong Healthy Habits. April 2011. www.child-encyclopedia.com
  • Ferland, Francine. Le développement de l’enfant au quotidien: de 0 à 6 ans. 2nd ed., Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2018, 264 pp.
  • Ferland, Francine. Viens jouer dehors! Pour le plaisir et la santé. Éditions du CHU Sainte-Justine, 2012, 122 pp.
  • Canadian Paediatric Society. Caring for Kids. “Your child’s development: What to expect.” www.caringforkids.cps.ca