Parrots are like pre-school aged-
humans in many ways. Lets compare
and learn about human and bird cognitive, perceptual and motor skills.
(I took these photos in Sarasota, Florida's Jungle Garden about
12 years ago.
They are still a lot of fun)
Click on photos for printable
Developing Standing Balance
babies can typically stand while holding onto
furniture or a hand between 6 and 10 months and stand
independently for several seconds between 11 and 14
This bird seems to have very good balance despite the
child's arm movement. The bird also has the balance and
coordination to lift one claw. The typical baby does not
have the balance to stand on one foot until
between 16-17 months.
The child's arm appears to function as a balance beam. Toddlers can
typically walk across an eight
inch beam between 17 1/2 and 19 1/2 months and across a four inch wide
beam between 3.2
and 3 years.
bird demonstrates very good eye-beak coordination
to push the ball into a basket. He shows good visual
attention and is easily motivated by an edible treat.
Ball play, of course is also a wonderful activity for
toddlers. It teaches them to coordinate using both
hands together. Toddlers typically learn to
throw a ball underhand while seated between
13 and 16 months. Throwing a ball is much more
challenging while standing and children typically
learn to throw a ball in any manner while standing
between 15 and 18 months. By 18-22 months a
child may be able to plan the movements to
make a ball land within three feet of a target.
Catching a large ball (typically between 24 and 26 months) requires
greater coordination between
the visual and motor systems and a good sense of timing to open the
arms and receive the ball at
just the right moment. A three- year old may be able to bounce and
catch a large ball at least once
while standing in one spot and during the third year learn to
bounce the ball
forward. This high level of motor control and eye-hand coordination
will help the
to play basketball like our parrot friend pictured above.
Riding a Bike
Riding a bicycle is a fantastic way to coordinate the left
right sides of the body. It develops motor planning (the
ability to plan and execute novel movement), balance and
most importantly is fun as well as helping us and birds to
keep in good cardiovascular health.
Toddlers often learn to coordinate their legs to propel ride-
on toys and typically learn to ride a tricycle with pedals
between 3.2 and 4.4 years of age. They can maneuver around
obstacles, turn, stop and start. I don't know if this parrot
can do all of that, but he is pretty impressive on his wheels!
Climbing and Cycling
can't remember how this unicycle was set up. But I think I
recall the bird climbing up the steps to reach the wire. Human
kids love to climb and it's a good thing because climbing provides
a lot of sensory stimulation that helps brain development.
Toddlers typically creep up stairs between 13 and 15 months,
walk up stairs holding one hand between 17-19 months and
can manage to get up the stairs with no adult help (but using
a railing) between 22-24 months. Many two year-olds can walk
upstairs without using a railing or a hand but don't use the
alternating feet method until between 30-34 months.
If this bird were human, he would be climbing jungle gyms and
ladders by the time he was three years of age. Luckily for birds,
they can do these daring feats and just fly off when they lose
Fitting Circle, Square and Triangle
Into Form Board
able to not only "grasp" the shape with his beak
to insert into the board but he can match the shapes to the
corresponding circle, square or triangle openings. Human
babies typically impress their parents with their eye-hand
coordination and shape matching skills to do the following:
Insert circle between 12-15 months
Insert square between 15-21 months
Insert triangle between 21- 24 months
Balancing on Ball
parrot is again demonstrating his excellent sensory integration to
balance while rolling a ball. This activity requires shifting his
from side to side as he alternates lifting each foot.
Human children demonstrate their developing balance as they learn to :
Stand on one foot between 16 and 17 months
Kick a ball forward between 18 and 24 months
Jump in place with both feet between 22-30
Stand on tiptoes between 23 and 25 months
guess parrots like to express their artistic talents as much as anyone
else. This bird demonstrates good motor control to grasp the paint
brush with his beak and he understands that the paint must stay
within the border of the paper.
Human children spend several years refining a pencil grasp and
learning how to copy lines, shapes and eventually letters and words.
Here are a few milestones:
Grasps crayon in palm between 11-12 months
Scribbles spontaneously between 13-18 months
Imitates vertical stroke between 18-24 months
Grasps crayon with thumb and fingers between
Sorting Rings by Color
bird learned to not only stack the rings but to also sort
according to color. This requires good beak coordination and visual-
perceptual discrimination skills.
Human children typically learn to:
Stack rings between 11 and 12 months
Match primary colors between 30 and 36 months
Sort colors by 33 months or older
This roller skating bird demonstrates very good
coordination as he alternates moving his left and right sides
forward to skate. He looked relatively stable and did not do anything
other than skate forward. But still that is impressive!
Human children who have good balance and coordination may
be able to learn how to skate once they are steady on their feet at
around 2-3 years of age.
Parents may try giving them a box to hold onto and push while on
the ice, giving more stability and something to hold onto.