What are physical developmental delays?

Physical developmental delays are when children aren’t doing activities (like rolling over, sitting without support, or walking) that other children their age are doing. Developmental delays can be a sign of a serious health condition, so it’s important to talk with your child’s pediatrician about them.

When parents first notice signs of physical developmental delays, they include worries like:

  • My child doesn’t seem to be growing the way he should.
  • My child seems very stiff and tight in the way she moves.
  • My child is weak and limp like a rag doll.
  • My child isn’t keeping up with children of the same age when they play together.
  • My child seems to get tired very quickly.

If these worries sound familiar, it’s important to talk with your child’s pediatrician about signs of physical developmental delay.

If you’re worried about other developmental issues, like social, emotional, communication, or learning, learn the signs and act early. This tool only focuses on a child’s physical development.

If my child isn’t doing activities by a certain age, does that mean he or she has a physical developmental delay?

Probably not, but it’s important to find out for sure. Usually a child who is late doing certain activities will catch up to other children. But sometimes developing late is the sign of a health condition. Spotting these signs and finding the health condition as early as possible will help your child get the care he or she needs to grow and develop.

My child was born prematurely (before 37 weeks of pregnancy). Do I need to wait until he’s older to worry about physical developmental delays?

If your child was born prematurely, it’s important to know that your child may develop later than other children of the same age. For example, if your child was born 2 months early, he may be 14 months old before he meets the milestones for a 12 month old born at term. Talk to your child’s pediatrician about what to expect from your child’s physical development.

Where can I get more information about physical developmental delays?

This website can help you start the conversation with your child’s pediatrician. If you’re worried your child might have a developmental delay, you can also check out these resources:

If your child is diagnosed with a physical developmental delay, ask your child’s pediatrician for resources in your community. These websites may also help:

The Physical Developmental Delays: What to Look For tool was developed by the cooperative agreement number 5 U38 OT000183, funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Its contents are solely the responsibility of the American Academy of Pediatrics and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the Department of Health and Human Services.