There are several resources out there for infant gross motor skills, but when it comes to toddlers, there is not a lot of information out there. When should kids be running, jumping, hopping, climbing? Well I am here to help answer these questions. Here are some skills that a two-year old should be doing, along with advice and any red flags that may warrant a PT referral.
Jumping is really more of a 30 month skill, which makes all the difference. Closer to two years, you may see squatting and attempts to jump, or even bouncing, but you may not see full blown jumping yet, and that's okay! As long as your two year old is showing signs of jumping as I stated, they are well on their way to learning this skill.
Advice: Start practicing jumping down the last step of any staircase you go on. Demonstrate the activity to your child, then hold their hand and have them try. Often times jumping down comes before jumping in place. Side note- it is OKAY if your kid leads with one leg initially.
Red flags: If your child doesn't show any signs of jumping by 3 even after trying to facilitate, please reach out to a PT.
Running "well" means that running looks relatively coordinated and the child can run in a straight line without falling. Although I use the word "well", this will not look like mature running. Did you know children's gait (walking and running) is maturing until around age six?! They may not have any trunk rotation or very much arm swinging at this age.
Advice: Play "walk, run!" with your toddler. It's as simple as it sounds. Start next to your child (you may hold their hand the first few times you practice just for guidance). Say "run!" in a really excited voice and start running. Really exaggerate your form so your child knows what is being asked. Then after a couple seconds, say "walk" in a very slow, deep voice. Start walking in slow motion (again, super exaggerated). Your toddler's running may look like fast running at first, and that's typical!
Red flags: You may see lots of weird things at first (wide legs, arms up, legs circling). If these characteristics are still present after 6 months of practicing, reach out to a PT.
Your child will walk up and down the stairs while holding the rail using a step-to pattern. This means that one foot goes to step 1, then the other foot meets the first foot at step one. So, two feet will end up being on every step, like the video above.
Advice: Some kids are petite and cannot reach the railing. Holding a hand is fine, but it does take away some independence. Encourage them to hold onto a wall instead of the rail to encourage more independence.
Red flags: If your child shows no interest in walking up and down the stairs, even when you hold their hand, by age 2, reach out to a PT.
Throwing overhand may not look great at two, but your kid should at least attempt it. We are not looking for the ball to travel very far or even very straight, but we are looking for extension at the elbow to release the ball.
Advice: I like to pair overhand throwing with verbal cues. I show the child "up" and bring the ball up by my ear, then "throw!" and throw the ball by extending my elbow.
Red flags: If your child "throws" the ball by dropping it at this point even after practicing, reach out to a PT for some help!
A child will be able to kick a playground sized ball by standing on one foot and kicking with the other. They may have a preference but should be able to use either leg.
Advice: this takes a lot of balance. A good way to start is to put your child where his/her back is against a wall or couch. Then encourage kicking from this position where they have more stability if needed.
Red flags: If your child is "kicking" by walking into the ball even with practice, reach out to a PT.
Single Leg Balance
Going along with kicking, your child should briefly be able to stand on one leg. This is important for stairs, kicking, running, and other two year old skills. They may only be able to stand for 1-2 seconds this way, but should attempt both sides when asked.
Advice: I love to use a good old fashioned pop toy (like in the video)! Start by holding one hand and using your other hand on their foot to show them how to make the animals go "bye bye".
Red flags: If your child doesn't show brief single leg balance even by kicking or running, please reach out to a PT for help.
These two-year old skills are all important foundations for other skills later on, like hopping, climbing, and agility skills. If they are able to do these things, they are well on their way to big things soon!