A Checklist of Fine Motor Skills to Look for as Your Little One Grows
Parents spend a lot of their time watching their child’s health, growth, and development, celebrating each milestone and looking forward to the ones that haven’t happened yet. When it comes to children, no two are the same, as some walk before they speak, others speak before they walk, and still others take some time getting to either. Keeping track of your child’s progress and identifying developmental milestones are important not only for staying connected with your little one, but also helpful with determining whether intervention is needed.
Looking out for places in which your child is having some trouble is critical in the early years of childhood. Preschool age brains are malleable and flexible in ways that older brains are not, so figuring out if your little one needs some extra help and figuring out how to provide it early on in their development can be a powerful tool for avoiding more significant issues in adolescence and adulthood. Boosting adaptive, cognitive, language, physical, and social skills help enhance your child’s development. Some of these skills can be developed by enhancing listening skills, communication skills, social skills, early literacy development, etc. While the specific skills your child will develop have their own classifications –– adaptive skills, for example, refer to your little one’s ability to meet the demands of their environment, while your child uses social skills to communicate with others –– at the end of the day, all that matters is that your child can get around in the world on their own. Doing so starts with fine motor skills.
Fine motor skills involve the synchronization of hands and fingers and help your child develop and coordinate their small muscles with eye movements. The nervous system controls one’s ability to perform everyday movements, and developing fine motor skills is critical to helping your little one learn to perform common tasks.
The following checklist is organized by age group to help you identify what developments to expect from your little one and in which areas they might benefit from additional support. Remember each child is different so use this checklist as guidance.
Under 6 Months
An infant up to the age of six months should demonstrate:
- Reflexive grasp when objects are placed in hand
- Ability to reach and grasp objects
6 - 12 Months to One Year
Between the age of six months to one year old, your little one should be able to:
- Grasp objects to put in their mouth
- Pick up small objects with the thumb or a finger
- Transfer an object from one hand to another
Between one to two years of age your child should have developed the skills to:
- Turn knobs and turn pages of a book
- Paint using whole arm movements to make strokes
- Eat independently with minimal assistance
Parents can help in developing fine motor skills by providing aid like toys such as building blocks, a shape sorter, and a stick to put rings on, for this particular age bracket.
Once they are two to three years old, parents can identify and track their child’s fine motor skill development by:
- Providing the child with a string to put large beads on
- Having them build age-appropriate puzzles
- Letting them eat without assistance
- Allowing them to build a tower with three to five small blocks
- Instructing them to copy a simple sequence of colored blocks
- Showing them how to safely make snips with a scissor
- Helping them hold a crayon with the thumb and fingers
- Watching whether or not they use one hand consistently for most of the activities
- Drawing circular, horizontal, and vertical strokes for them to imitate
Between the ages of three to four, your little one should be able to:
- Hold a pencil between their thumb and other fingers
- Trace thick lines, copy circles, and imitate crosses
- Build a tower with nine small blocks
- Open zip lock bags, containers, and lunch boxes using the non-dominant hand to assist and stabilize objects
- Brush their teeth and hair
- Dress independently in clothes with large buttons, as well as put on socks and shoes.
- Use scissors to cut pictures with borders
- Cut along lines and color inside them
- Complete eight to twelve piece interlocking puzzles
- Copy pictures using simple geometric shapes
- Design with Duplo models
- Copy letters and numbers
By this age you can expect to see your child:
- Writing neatly while holding a pencil with a three-fingered grasp
- Cutting shapes neatly
- Getting dressed on their own and going to the bathroom independently
- Tying their shoelaces
- Eating with a knife and fork
- Building K’nex, Lego, and other blocks activities
Your child’s growth when it comes to developing these skills should be continuous, and that’s why the activities we recommend for them as they get older build on the ones we recommend for them when they are younger. There should be a smooth increase in complexity and the level of intricacy of the activities you introduce to your kid as they grow.
Here are easy ways to improve fine motor skills for kids
As such, it’s important to provide your little one with equipment and tools that help them develop their fine motor skills. It’s also important to celebrate small improvements and achievements! Doing so encourages your child to keep growing and makes learning exciting.
That being said, development shouldn’t happen under pressure. Small achievements and steps forwards should be fun moments that happen naturally as your child tries out new activities and learns more about the world. As a parent, it can be hard not to try to ensure everything happens exactly as you’ve read or heard it should, but letting your child learn as they go is one of the best gifts you can give them!