Big to Little; Top to Bottom; Inside Out

in Physical

Children’s bodies develop in a predictable sequential manner.


Three areas that children’s bodies develop in a predictable sequential order are:

  1. From large muscles to smaller muscles

  2. From head to toe

  3. From inside out

From Large Muscles to Smaller Muscles

Babies begin to develop their large muscles first. This is professionally termed as Gross Motor Development.

That is why you see your baby first hold up her head. A little later, she begins to bear weight on her legs, and then down the pike, she’ll be able to pick up food with her finger.

If you’ll notice, a preschool child can walk and run but is not very adept at using their fingers.

They can hit (large muscle/gross motor) better than they can hold a crayon (small muscle/fine motor). Walking and hitting use the large muscles while using fingers for coloring and writing require the use of the smaller muscles groups.

From Top to Bottom

The second area of sequential growth occurs from head to toe or from top to bottom.

Babies first learn to hold up their head,  baby34

baby2 then use their arm muscles,

then sit up,  babysits1

        first-steps and then bear weight on their legs and feet.

Have you ever noticed that when toddlers are first learning how to walk, their legs make “frontward” movements while their feet just kind of dangle?  They are figuring out the legs before working on the feet. This is why you can’t teach a baby not to walk flat-footed. Their brains and their bodies have to figure it out on their own.

From the Inside Out

The third area of sequential development is from the Inside Out. The muscle groups in a baby’s torso begin to mature and strengthen before the baby is able to control his outside muscle groups.

Have you seen a newborn cry? When newborns are in distress, they’ll move their entire body in spastic motions versus moving a specific limb.

As we saw above, with the baby strengthening muscle groups from the Top to Bottom,  we see at the same time the muscles groups developing from the Inside Out. First the baby rolls over (inside torso muscles), then pushes self with arms (muscle groups outside of torso.)

A baby’s arm muscles will gain strength and coordination before the fingers can be mastered.

When babies begin reacting to visual stimuli, they are working on their eye-hand coordination. Their brain processes the brightly colored object before them, and they attempt to grab it. Their first attempts are more like “batting” at the object.

As their arm muscles, then their hand muscles, then their finger muscles develop, they will become more adept at reaching for a particular object.


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All content copyright Margaret Burkhart | 2011-2013