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Clumsy Kids

‘My child can barely can stay up right, it is hard not to get frustrated with them but they just slop around the place all day long.’ Does this sound familiar? It is not uncommon for children to appear sloppy and flopping and generally uncoordinated.

But what is the reason and what can we do about it?

Well rest assured that it is fairly normal for kids to fall over and be somewhat ‘unco’ and there are many reasons for this, but the main reason is the rapid change their bodies are going through. Their body is literally changing in front of our eyes, as they are growing, their centre of gravity moves with it. They are continuously having to find new ways to navigate in space. To draw an analogy, for mums, think about the changes and feeling you have during pregnancy, it’s like you don’t even know your own body! It’s similar for their growing bodies once they are out of your womb, as they are growing and changing, their strength can be compromised. Sometimes, they may appear a little weak with very little control. But relax it will come. They are also continuously experimenting with the strength and ability which can appear like a series of uncoordinated attempts to run, jump, climb and dance. What adults take for granting is the acquired knowledge of physical abilities and limitations. We accumulated this knowledge through our childhood experiences. The most important thing is to keep them active, so that their neural pathways are continuously being set and renewed ensuring they can navigate space without going A over T.

Some tips on vital activities to include;

Core strength – not necessarily baby boot-camp style but incorporating movement patterns into play. Use their imagination to jump around like frogs or roll like a ball and get in there and do it with them. We all know the saying ‘Monkey see, Monkey Do’.

Sensory play – incorporate all the senses if you can, think musical statues balancing on one leg, hop scotch, skipping rope, copy-cat, and games with balls and balance- shoes off.

Move move move – the most important thing to do if you are worried is make movement part of your day. Whether it is walking to school and playing on the playground on the way home, morning activity in the loungeroom, or backyard games in the afternoon. Include it in your everyday, and it will become habitual, leading to positive long-term lifestyle choices.

Keep it positive – kids progress at all different ages and times. Try not to label your child. If they see themselves as clumsy they may steer away from activities that will be amazing for their health and confidence.

When you might need further advice

While being ‘unco’ is common in children, there are sometimes cases where children need the help and guidance of a health professional. If your child is not meeting milestones within reasonable timeframes, speak advice from your doctor.

Normative Data / Milestones Age Focus Area Milestones 8 weeks old Gross MotorWhen pulled to sit, head lag is present but not complete

Able to hold head momentarily upright when supported sitting

When suspended print holds head in line with body Vision and fine motorWhen lying supine follows face from 90deg through to 180deg (remove noise distraction)

Hands often open, grasp reflex weak Social Skills & UnderstandingResponsive social smiling Seeks advice if..Sucking or swallowing with difficulty from nipple or teat6 months old Gross MotorSpontaneously lifts head from bed when supine

No head lag when pulled to sit, back straight.

When prone, lifts chest on extended arms Vision and fine motorUse whole hand in palmar grasp

Holds one block in both hands and transfers objects from one hand to the other

Puts objects to mouth Social Skills & UnderstandingLaughs


Shouts to get attention

Increasing reserve with strangers

Plays peek a-boo games Seeks advice if..No vocalisation

Head lag persists12months Gross MotorCrawls rapidly on all fours – may be walking alone. Pills to stand and lets self down again Vision and fine motorPicks up small objects with pincer grasp, casts objects to the floor repeatedly, Looks for hidden object (game) Social Skills & UnderstandingKnows and turn to own name, drinks from a cup with help, holds spoonSeek advice if.. Clear handedness emerges before this

Not pointing

Unable to establish a shared focus of attention with an adult18months Gross MotorWalks well

Jumps using both feet

Walks backwards Vision and fine motorScribbles spontaneously

Builds a tower of three cubes after demonstration

Looks at picture book, turning several pages at once Social Skills & UnderstandingAble to point 2-3 parts of the body

Drinks from a cup without much spilling

Uses spoon wellSeek advice if.. No single words or does not comprehend single commands

Not walking

Unable to build tower of two blocks

No use of spoon.


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