Understanding Fine and Gross Motor Skills

July 28, 2022 2:22 pm
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What are motor skills?

Motor skills are an essential factor of development for all children. These skills are movements of the body which are made when the brain, nervous system and muscles work in conjunction with each other. Through each stage of a child’s development, motor skills will continue to develop from small grasps of the hand to jumping and catching. Both fine (small) motor skills and gross (large) motor skills will contribute to a child’s development and independence.

Fine motor skills

Fine motor skills are small actions a baby/child will make – some examples of these include when a baby uses their fingers and thumb to pick up objects, and feeling and tasting objects with their mouth and lips. For slightly older children, good examples of fine motor skills include actions like tying shoelaces or using scissors to cut up paper.

Gross motor skills

Gross motor skills are the larger actions a baby/child makes; these skills concern the larger muscles in the body creating bigger movements and actions. Examples include when a baby is able to lift and move their head on their own or rolling over, and for slightly older children examples of gross motor skills include actions like running, skipping and jumping.

It is important to remember that fine and gross motor skills work hand in hand together. For example, once a child has mastered the everyday gross motor abilities such as getting in and out of bed, walking up and down the stairs and putting on clothes, the fine motor abilities will then allow for increased independence in smaller yet equally significant ways, such as brushing their teeth, undoing and doing up the buttons on their clothes, tying shoelaces, washing hands and so on.

Encouraging motor skills

You can encourage a child’s development of motor skills by offering lots of opportunities for practice. Regularly plan outdoor and indoor activities, and give children the resources to play with that will motivate them to use these skills. Ball games are great for building on the gross motor skills as they can be open to interpretation and children can get their whole bodies moving; you can show them a game to play and then let them play freely to their own liking, allowing them to use their imagination. Stacking blocks and Lego are also great for the fine motor skills as children have to pick the blocks up and work out where they need to be placed.

Try to steer away from doing things that can discourage this development; for instance, rather than using a stroller or carrying a baby who can walk/almost walk, it is worth letting them practice their walking skills where possible using you or other objects as a balance if necessary.

Below is a list of motor skill examples that a child will go through from 0 – 60 months +


Fine Motor Skills

Gross Motor Skills


-Holds objects with both hands and explores them with their mouth

-Attempts to reach out for objects

-Able to poke and point with index finger

-Roll from front to back and back to front

-Holds head up independently

-Pulls on furniture to stand

-Bangs objects on the floor or table


-Can feed themselves with a spoon and drink from a beaker independently

-Enjoys mark-making on paper and can hold a crayon with the thumb pointing upwards

-Stands and walks well without support

-Rolling and throwing balls

-Will move to music they enjoy


-Can begin to build tower of 4-5 blocks

-Enjoys scribbling and can draw a line

-Can remove shoes and socks independently

-Can walk upstairs independently or with minor support

-Carry large toys whilst walking

-Can balance on 1 foot with minor support


-Is able to copy a drawing of a circle

-Can button and unbutton large buttons on clothes

-Undresses self with some assistance

-Able to ride a tricycle or something similar

-Bends down and rises without using hands

-Likes to play pretend and copy everyday actions


-Holds a pencil with 3 fingers and is able to copy some letters

-Attends to own toileting needs most of the time

-Can run around obstacles, kicks ball

-Confident moving in different way, e.g. hopping, jumping, walking backwards, balancing


-Able to write own name and attempts to write short sentences

-Can use scissors to cut both straight and curved lines

60+ -Able to cut out complex pictures fairly accurately and could complete a complex puzzle

-Is getting good and catching, kicking and throwing balls

-Can jump forward 10 times without falling

-Is able to walk on a balance beam

By the time a child has reached 6 years of age plus, their fine motor skills have developed to complete important tasks such as dressing, eating and writing. Children will continue to develop these skills through their childhood, although the foundation of these skills is developed in their first 6 years. It is also important to remember that all children will develop at different rates.

Do you know about Play Day?

You can use this day to encourage children to get active and use their motor skills as Playday is the national day for play in the UK, traditionally held on the first Wednesday in August. As well as a celebration of children’s right to play, Playday is a campaign that highlights the importance of play in children’s lives. This year Play Day will be held on the 3rd of August.

For more information about Play Day and how you can get involved please click here.