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Fine motor activities for toddlers

Fine Motor Skills in Toddlers and Activities to Support their Development

As a baby grows into the toddler stage of life, it is hard to believe how much development has already taken place. By 18 months old, the toddler phase is beginning. Now, can stand upright, take steps, start forming words, and recognize shapes and objects. It is amazing that all those things can happen in such a short amount of time!

There are many aspects of development that take place. Cognitive development in the brain is happening on a daily basis as the neurons strengthen and fuse together. Emotional development is happening each hour as a toddler learns to understand and process human emotions. Social development is prominent each day as a toddler watches and observes people interact around them.

activities for children

Also, there are many fine motor skills developing and forming. These are smaller, less obvious milestones, but ones that are fundamentally important nonetheless. This article will further explain what fine motor skills are, how they develop, and what activities can help their steady development for toddlers.

What are fine motor skills

There are many movements that the human body makes. Big movements like taking a step or jumping up and down are controlled by gross motor muscle skills. Small movements like pinching the fingers together or picking up a spoon are controlled by fine motor muscle skills.

Fine motor skills are developed and enhanced over time. They are achieved when babies, toddlers, and children learn to use the muscles in their fingers, hands, and wrists. Some examples of fine motor skills include cutting a piece of paper with scissors, turning pages in a book, or typing on a computer. These actions that we seemingly take for granted are highly important and have interesting development phases in early childhood.

Fine motor skill development by age

At each stage of life, there are endless milestones and developmental miracles taking place. This is a rough guide to some of the developmental achievements that will happen at certain ages of early childhood. This is only a guide and the development can take place at anytime within the time frame. Everyone develops at their own pace.

Fine motor skills activities for toddlers

Age Milestones
0-6 months –       Reflexive grasp at birth

–       Voluntary grasp around 3 months old

–       Controlled reach by 6 months

6-12 months –       Controlled release of objects

–       Reaching and grasping

–       Pincer grasp

–       Dropping and picking up object

1-2 years –       Building tower with blocks

–       Scribble with pencil

–       Using spoon to eat

–       Drinking from cup

2-3 years –       Snipping with scissors

–       Use one hand consistently

–       Turn pages of a book

Toddler fine motor skills checklist

During the toddler phase of life, there are certain milestones that ought to be achieved. Always remember that milestones are reached in their own time. While there are things that can be done to encourage their development, they shouldn’t be forced. The toddler phase goes from around 18 months old up to 3 years old so there is plenty of time for these things to happen!

Fine Motor Skills in Toddlers and Activities

Here are some things to expect toddlers to start doing with their fine motor skills:

  • Point to a picture in a book
  • Turn the page of a book
  • Hold a toy with a two hand grasp
  • Scribble with a pencil
  • Hold a cup, some spilling may occur
  • Hold a spoon, knife, or fork and attempt to feed self
  • Take own socks and shoes off
  • Put a hat on head
  • Use the pointer finger to point
  • Pull up a zipper and manage large buttons

If there are significant red flags and delays with fine motor development, there are childhood psychologists and play therapists who can help. Always consult with learning professionals and other parents to see how a child is developing.

Fine motor skills activities for toddlers

The development of fine motor skills is fundamental for a productive childhood, teenage years, and adulthood. It is incredible to think how these skills develop subtly, over time, and gradually from birth throughout life.

One thing to keep in mind is that gross motor skill development should happen before fine motor skills. The big muscles are needed to help support the small muscles. For instance, you can’t wiggle your fingers without first having control over larger arm movements.

Here are some activity ideas that can help development those all important fine motor skills when the time is right.

  • Putting pom poms or buttons in jars or containers by color or size order
  • Using tweezers to pick up a small object like a pin or button
  • Stretching rubber bands around the fingers
  • Attaching paper clips together to make a line
  • Making things with play dough
  • Weaving with ribbon
  • Sewing with a safety needle
  • Putting beads on a string
  • Painting with water or paints

Fine motor skill development can happen at any time. It doesn’t have to be a structured arts and crafts activity. For instance, taking kids on a nature walk outside and picking up objects off the ground is a way to boost development. Pointing to colors or pictures in a book is development too. Each meal time is a chance to promote fine motor skill development by giving more autonomy to a child using their own knife, spoon, or fork.

Fine motor skills activities for toddlers


Fine motor skills are important, small muscle movements. They mostly occur in the fingers, wrists, and hands. Things like picking up a pencil and holding a pair of scissors or typing on a keyboard wouldn’t happen without fine motor skills development. This type of development can be supported with activities and crafts, but shouldn’t be pushed. Childhood development happens in its own time and space.