Exercises for 0-3 year olds to achieve motor milestones

by Bailey Crook, PT Student

Here are some exercises for 0-3 year olds to help achieve motor milestones:


Months 1-3

Hold head up during tummy time

  • place a favorite toy out in front of the baby (preferably one that makes noise) and try to get the baby’s attention to have them look up at the toy
  • do the same thing with a mirror
  • start to encourage pressure through the arms to hold themselves up, can use a pillow for support early on
  • challenge the child by placing them in tummy time on an incline ramp


Months 3-6


  • practicing quadruped position, from prone position help child flex knees underneath to maintain weight bearing on all four extremities.
  • Weight shifting/reaching activities in quadruped helps prepare for crawling
  • place a pillow or bolster under the child to support them in quadruped


  • place the child on their side and have them reach forward so they have to roll onto their belly to retrieve the toy; repeat going backwards so they roll onto their back


Independent sitting:

  • supporting child in sitting, shifting weight to reach for objects
  • supporting child in sitting as they manipulate a smaller toy off the surface


Months 7-9


  • with the child in quadruped, place toys just out of reaching distance so they must weight shift to reach the toy
  • encourage crawling using tunnels to get a toy at the other end of the tunnel or to get closer to a mirror


Months 10-12

Independent standing:

  • use music to get the child up to dance and give them a toy or two that makes noise to shake so they are not holding onto you or the surface
  • keeps toys on higher surfaces so the child has to stand and reach to retrieve them
  • play with a friend that is stand on their own to promote peer modeling
  • Play games that will promote standing like ring around the rosy and basketball


  • start with barefoot feet to promote tactile input into the plantar surface of the child’s feet
  • play a game with a shape sorter type of toy where you put the toys scattered around the room on elevated heights and the shape sorter is up on a shelf or table so the child must navigate the room and go up on their toys to reach the toys
  • encourage less hand held support while walking by handing the child a toy to hold in their hand or a big ball that requires two hand to hold on to
  • pushing a toy car or any weighted toy cart on wheels


1-3 years old

Catch a ball:

  • start with rolling a big ball to the child and asking them to hug the ball
  • next you can play with a balloon by just hitting it back and forth up in the air
  • use easy to catch balls like ones filled with beans that add texture to grad on to, bigger balls will be easier to catch at the beginning
  • try catching a ball inside of a cone, this will promote the visual tracking and hand-eye coordination needed without using the fine motor skills to grasp the ball

Throw a ball:

  • start with rolling the ball
  • to begin throwing, use a ball that is light and that they can hold with two hands
  • explore with different sizes and textures
  • give them a target or stack blocks for them to knock down
  • mimic proper throwing techniques to promote mature form

Ascend/descend stairs:

  • place a step stool against elevated surface and have child step up onto the step stool to reach for toys placed on top of the surface. Then have them turn around and step down with hand held assistance as needed.
  • While the child is playing with toys placed on top of the couch, sit right behind them and lift up one leg off the floor for 10 seconds and repeat for three rounds before doing to the same to the other leg. To challenge your child, you can have them stand on a balance disc or pillow and perform the same leg lift. This will promote the single leg balance needed for stair negotiation
  • place stickers or tactile foot prints on the stairs to help the child place one foot on each step in order to teach and alternating step pattern on the stairs


2-4 years old


  • trampoline jumping
  • jumping over colorful tape on the ground
  • jumping from a low surface
  • jumping from hula-hoop to hula-hoop
  • practice single leg jumping too