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Proprioception: how my child knows how to move their body

little girl and woman walking on train tracks

Key points:

  1. Proprioception is the sense of knowing where your body is in space.
  2. Special receptors in muscles help us maintain posture and balance.
  3. Proprioception is crucial for coordinated movements.
  4. Children develop fine and gross motor skills between 25 and 48 months.

When you watch a baby try their wobbly first steps, it’s cute how completely uncoordinated they look. It seems as if they are still unsure of where their body parts are or of all the different movements they need to coordinate just to take one step. Also, have you ever sat cross-legged only to find that one leg has gone momentarily numb, and then you have to spend a few minutes trying to wake it without being able to correctly calculate how much weight you can put on it or exactly where does your foot end? These experiences prove the impressive connection of how our brain processes sensation and movement. That sense is called proprioception.


The term proprioception is used in medicine and in psychology to describe how a person knows where his or her body is in any given space, and therefore is the basis with which we can safely and carelessly move around our environment. Special receptors in our skeletal muscles allow us to be aware of our own posture, position, and balance.

Our brain has to be continuously aware of where each limb is and what it’s doing so that we can move accurately and coordinately. Although, as adults, this complex process is so fast and fluid that it usually goes unnoticed, coordinated movements are no small feat for a developing child. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, between 25 and 48 months of age children develop many fine and gross motor skills such as walking, grasping, jumping, running, throwing, and catching objects. While your child is working at these skills, they consolidate how they processes the internal information about how to move.

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