Motor Skills for 2- to 3-Year-Olds

Updated July 19, 2017

Motor skills develop rapidly during the first few years of life in most children. Although gross motor skills such as running, jumping and throwing a ball are commonly used standards of development, fine motor skills such as colouring, grasping and stringing beads are equally as important. Although motor skills in young children change from year to year, there are general assumptions about motor skill development for 2- and 3-year-olds.

Drawing and Coloring

During the second year of life, one hand generally emerges as the child's dominant hand. A 2-year-old child will usually hold a crayon with his whole hand and can draw circles, dots and lines. As the child grows into a 3-year-old, she will hold a crayon or pencil with three fingers rather than the entire hand. Additionally, she will begin using simple shapes to draw a person with a head. To foster development of fine motor skills used for drawing and colouring, allow your child opportunity to create crafts with beads, buttons and string or paint rocks and pictures using small brushes.

Rolling, Throwing and Kicking

Two-year-old children generally have the ability to toss or roll a large ball on the ground. As the child moves closer to the three-year point, he will progress to throwing a ball underhand and kicking a ball forward with his feet. Parents and caregivers can encourage gross motor development by providing opportunity for children to play with balls and other large toys that can be pushed, thrown or kicked in a safe environment.

Stacking Objects

Stacking blocks is a popular activity with 2- and 3-year-old children that helps develop fine motor skills. By the time a child is 3, she should be able to stack approximately nine blocks to make a tower. Although there are many commercial stacking blocks on the market, parents can provide children with alternate materials such as plastic cups, books or various sizes and shapes of containers.

Walking and Climbing

Although all children develop at different rates, most can walk forward and backward at the age of 2. Additionally, 2-year-olds learn how to climb onto furniture and walk up and down stairs with the use of a railing. At 3 years of age, most children no longer require the assistance of a railing when climbing stairs and are able to hop on one foot as well as balance on one foot for at least two seconds. This type of gross motor development can be encouraged by playing a game where different animals are dramatised. For example, practice hopping like a rabbit, waddling like a duck and slithering like a snake along with your child.

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About the Author

Shelley Gray has been writing since 2005, with work appearing in the "Interlake Spectator" newspaper and "Manitoba Reading Association Journal." She has been an early years teacher since 2005 and is passionate about education and educational pedagogy. Gray has a Bachelor of Arts in history and a Bachelor of Education from the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, Canada.