Children's Fine and Gross Motor Skills

Motor skills occur when the brain, nervous system and muscles all work together to make movements. Your child will develop fine and gross motor skills through directed activities and periods of free and independent play. Although every child is different, there are certain milestones usually reached at specific ages. If you are concerned about your child’s development, ask his doctor for guidance.

Motor Skills

Fine motor skills entail small movements and require hand-eye coordination. Examples of fine motor skills include picking things up with fingers, doing puzzles and using tools or instruments. Gross motor skills involve using the whole body to make large movements, such as running, jumping, catching, throwing, kicking and hopping. Young children need concentration and time to learn these skills, especially gross motor skills that require balance. Your child eventually will become coordinated enough to do more than one gross motor skill at once, such as hopping backward.

Birth to 12 Months

Motor skills develop rapidly in the first year of your child’s life. When she is born, she can do little else than lie there helplessly. Within a few months, she may be able to sit unassisted and roll over. She will also begin crawling around 7 months of age. She will use her fine motor skills to pick things up and will develop her pincher grasp, which allows her to pick up small objects like cereal using her thumb and index finger. According to Medline Plus, she may stand alone by 12 months of age.

12 to 18 Months

Your child likely will begin walking somewhere between 12 and 15 months. This gross motor skill will take some time to perfect and tune, but his coordination will improve continually. Medline Plus states that he may be able to use fine motor skills to build a block tower at around 15 months, and scribble on a piece of paper between 15 and 18 months. By age 16 to 18 months, he will be able to walk backward and go up or down steps with assistance.

18 Months to 2 Years

A child age 18 to 24 months may be able to throw and kick a ball. She may not be accurate, but this gross motor skill will improve over time. She will be able to jump in place by the time she is 2 years old. Her fine motor skills are improving as well, and she may be able to feed herself with a spoon and use a regular cup to drink liquids. Other fine motor skills at age 2 include stacking, using puzzles and washing her hands. She will also be able to turn a doorknob, hold a crayon and draw a horizontal line.

3 Years and Older

By 3 years of age, your child’s gross motor skills have developed to include standing on one foot and riding a tricycle. He may also be able to dress and undress himself. His fine motor skills involve feeding himself, using large puzzles, pouring liquids, stringing beads, brushing his teeth, drawing shapes and folding paper. He will be able to use child-safe scissors and might be able to make the letters in his name. His gross and fine motor skills will continue to improve and will become smoother as he gets older.