Definition of gross & fine motor skills

Updated July 19, 2017

Motor skills involve the function of muscle movements in the entire body. There are two groups of motor skills. Gross motor skills direct performance of large muscle groups, and fine motor skills control precision of muscle movements in the body.

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills manoeuvre large muscle groups coordinating functions for sitting, standing, walking, running, keeping balance and changing positions, according to Anna Maria Wilms Floet, MD, on eMedicine. Throwing a ball, riding a bike, playing sports, lifting and sitting upright are brief descriptions of large motor movements. Gross motor skills depend upon muscle tone, the contraction of muscles and their strength for positioning movements.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills coordinate precise, small movements involving the hands, wrists, feet, toes, lips and tongue. Features of fine motor control include handwriting, drawing, grasping objects, cutting and controlling a computer mouse. Experts agree that one of the most significant fine motor achievements is picking up a small object with the index finger and thumb referred to as the pincher grip, which usually occurs between 8 and 12 months of age.


Motor control requires awareness and planning for the execution of a task from the central nervous system to muscles. Motor skills require muscle strength, coordination and normal sensation to manage and synchronise body movements.

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About the Author

Susan Corey started writing professionally in 2010, with her work focusing on topics in education. She wrote a manual, "A Guide For Teaching Students With Learning Differences," which is in the Oklahoma State University Library. She holds a Bachelor of Science in speech language pathology from the University of Tulsa and a Master of Science in applied behavioral studies from Oklahoma State University.