Fine and Gross Motor Skills in Children

Updated July 20, 2017

Fine and gross motor skill development begins in early childhood and aids in reaching milestones such as writing and walking. Teaching the fundamental fine and gross motor skills will lead to smooth movements, the ability to handle small objects and hand-eye coordination.

Gross Motor Skills

Children learn large muscle movements such as waving, kicking, rolling and crawling as babies. The first thing a baby learns to control is his eye movements. Gross motor skills develop in steps as muscle groups strengthen, and by the time he is 2 or 3 years old, a child will be running, jumping, hopping, throwing and catching. As the gross motor skills become more fine-tuned, children from 3 to 4 years old will learn to climb stairs by putting both feet on one step, then moving up to the next step. Most children this age will have the strength and coordination to steer, peddle a tricycle, and throw, catch and kick a ball.

Smooth it Out

Preschool age children have an easier time smoothing out the movements they have learnt from birth to age 4. Four-year-olds can walk up and down the stairs in a more efficient fashion using one leg per stair. Children of this age will run faster and fall less; they can skip, and they have more control of their movements on a tricycle or bike. Five-year-olds can look forward to riding their bikes without stabilisers, climbing with precision, hanging, swinging and jumping rope thanks to their stronger muscles. By age 5, children should be able to use scissors, match simple objects, control a crayon, build using blocks, use a zipper and buttons, and complete simple puzzles.

Fine Motor Skills

Teaching a child to hold blocks, toys and crayons are the beginning stages of fine motor skills development. By holding an object, a child learns how to grasp using her hand muscles, and her pincer grip is honed. Painting, cutting, colouring and playing with clay are all ways to improve a child's dexterity. By providing puzzles, blocks and lacing toys, you might even see if her right or left side is dominant. Once a child has mastered these skills, she will likely be able to colour within the lines and legibly write her own name and short words.

Right or Left?

Children will naturally use whichever hand and foot they feel is "right". According to Kids Health, more than 90 per cent of the world is right-handed. Primarily, a person who is right-handed will have a dominant right foot. Left-handed people will use their left foot dominantly. It is less likely to have a dominant right foot if you are left-handed. An ambidextrous youngster will use each hand with equal ease.


Muscle defects and nervous disorders may lead to lack of development or loss of fine or gross motor skills. Reaching milestones is a simple, effective way to ensure the proper refinement of fine and gross motor skills, and an inability to achieve those milestones may indicate a problem..

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About the Author

Valerie Hogervorst has been passionate about writing since she could form a sentence, — it was love at first write. She has written short stories and has published an online invite-only newsletter about weather, news and work happenings. Hogervorst has since formed a strong bond with blogging and content writing.