preschool little girl (2-3 years) in Montessori classroom engaged sensory wooden puzzle activity. 10 fingers, Fine motor skills, Montessori method, Child development, Early education

An important part of early childhood development is gaining motor skills, both fine and gross. The two types of motor skills are movement-based but differ by the muscle groups that are worked. 

Fine motor skills: Fine motor skills work the smaller muscle groups that are found in children’s wrists, hands and fingers. 

Gross motor skills: Gross motor skills work the larger muscle groups found in children’s arms and legs. Gross motor skills allow babies the strength to sit up, roll over, crawl and walk. 

While both types of motor skills are incredibly important for children to develop, fine motor skills are especially critical. Fine motor skill development allows children to use and control the smaller muscles in their hands that allow them to take care of themselves with everyday activities like eating, writing, brushing teeth and dressing themselves. 

Importance of Fine Motor Skills

Because fine motor skills are essential for completing everyday tasks, it’s important to stay on top of your child’s development. Since they are part of our everyday lives as adults, we don’t necessarily recognize that the task we are working on involves our fine motor skills. For children, everyday activities like tying or buckling shoes, writing or drawing, zipping pants or buttoning a shirt all require the use of these small muscle groups. 

Because a child’s self confidence is often reflective of their independence, and many of these tasks require them to use their fine motor skills, these things go hand-in-hand.


It is important to note that children can develop motor skills at different rates. While some babies might roll over more quickly than others, some might crawl earlier and that is completely normal. Children start developing these skills early on in their lives, starting at 1 or 2 months and development of skills continues through kindergarten and early elementary school.

Development Timeline

Healthline has outlined a loose timeline of fine motor milestones for babies and toddlers:

0 to 3 months

  • Places their hands in their mouth
  • Hands become more relaxed

3 to 6 months

  • Holds hands together
  • Moves a toy from one hand to the other
  • Holds and shakes a toy using both hands

6 to 9 months

  • Begins to grasp things by “raking” with the hand
  • Squeezes an item with their hands
  • Touches fingers together
  • Grasps a toy with both hands
  • Uses their index finger to touch things
  • Claps hands

9 to 12 months

  • Feeds themselves finger foods
  • Grabs small objects with thumb and index finger
  • Bangs things together
  • Holds a toy with one hand

12 month to 2 years

  • Builds block tower
  • Scribbles on paper
  • Eats with a spoon
  • Turns one page of a book at a time
  • Holds crayon with fingertips and thumb (pincer grasp)

2 to 3 years

  • Turns a doorknob
  • Washes hands
  • Uses a spoon and fork correctly
  • Zips and unzips clothes
  • Places lids and removes lids from canisters
  • Strings beads on yarn

3 to 4 years

  • Unbuttons and buttons clothes
  • Sses scissors to cut paper
  • Traces shapes on paper

Activities to Develop Fine Motor Skills

The National Association for the Education of Young Children has developed a list of everyday activities that your child can practice and participate in to help hone their fine motor skills. They suggest providing opportunities to:

  • Set the table
  • Hold knives, forks, and spoons to eat
  • Pour juice into a cup
  • Wipe the table with a sponge
  • Help with meals—stir, shake, chop, cut, and mix
  • Get dressed—button, zip, snap, buckle, and fasten
  • Use Velcro tabs
  • Open and close containers with lids
  • Cut with child-safe scissors
  • Finger paint
  • Use a paintbrush
  • Play with playdough and clay—roll, smoosh, pat, pound, and use tools like popsicle sticks or stamps
  • Draw, scribble, or write with crayons, pencils, and markers
  • Put together puzzles
  • Place pegs in a board
  • Build with small blocks
  • Play board games
  • Play with puppets

Make An Appointment

At HealthPark Pediatrics we are dedicated to providing the most current, compassionate, and comprehensive medical care. Comprehensive medical care includes your child’s fine motor skill development. Give our office a call at (919) 896-7066 to talk to a team member about making an appointment.

At HealthPark Pediatrics, the health and safety of our staff and patients is our top concern. We are taking steps to ensure that you and your child will be safe while visiting our office. This includes using a separate entrance for sick visits, limiting the number of staff and physicians, observing social distancing guidelines, and offering telemedicine visits.