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What is fine motor and gross motor skills ?

What is fine motor and gross motor skills ?

Motors skills are the ability of a child to use her muscles. Let us try to understand motor skills further, in detail.


Motor skills are categorized into Fine Motor and Gross Motor Skills. Fine Motor skills involve the use of smaller muscle group like those of the fingers wrists etc. Gross Motor skills use larger muscle groups like those used for jumping, running etc.


Fine Motor Skills


As mentioned above these involve moments of the smaller muscle group like those of hands, wrists, feet , toes even lip, tongue and eyelids!! Fine motor skills are necessary for daily activities such as holding a pencil, cutting, zipping, buttoning etc. Development of fine motor skills are critical to a child's development, without which, a child may face difficulties in carrying out tasks presented at preschools. Fine motor skills can be seen in children as early as infancy through preschool going years.


First motor skills begin to develop at births which are mainly involuntary reflexes. These very prominent reflexes known as the Darwinian reflex disappears soon after birth and is taken over by basic fine motor skills at approximate 8 weeks. Newborns until 6 weeks are unable to exhibit hand eye coordination. Notice how the little one looks in one direction and hands move in the other. That is mostly because they have not discovered their hands yet as they are not in the purview of their vision. They do not realize that hands are a part of their bodies and can be effectively used to grasp at things. From 6-8weeks, they discover hands by deliberately touching one hand with the fingers of another. Now is the stage when you give your little one a rattle to play with. Their primary reflexes coax them to hold the rattle and shake it. The sound of the rattle makes her look for the source thereby making her notice the hand that grasps it.


Followed by the above, 2- 4 months is the time when the child develops hand-eye coordination which enables them to reach out and grasp objects.


An activity gym is the best way to facilitate these skills. The reason behind this is that once the child has established a connection with her hands she needs a way to actively use them. Toys dangling right above where she lies, helps her look directly at them and reach out. Notice how they play, try to hit these toys! They may not be able to do it in the first attempt, but they aim again and again and once they hit it, the toy moves and flails and then her face lights up into a million dollar smile!!! These are just the initial steps to achieving hand eye coordination. 4 months on wards infants get better at exploring and discovering the environment around them. At roughly 6 months they begin to examine the world by using fine motor skills like holding stroking squeezing etc. As they grow, their grasping ability increases enough for them to hold and stand up on their own.


At year 1, toddlers successfully identify objects with respect to their shape size and weight. Right about now, she starts to show hand dominance (as in right handed or left handed). As a preschooler, her fine motor skills are more advanced and she is ready to hold pencil in a finger clasp, cut shapes out of paper, button a shirt and zip her pant!

Development of fine motor skills does not stop here, as they grow fine motor skills are well coordinated they get better adapted to play sports etc.



How to Develop Fine motor skills in children?

We discussed above, what you can expect from your little one in terms of fine motor development. Now let us understand what we can do as a parent to facilitate these skills in our baby.


0-3 months

 Babies as young as 3 months old are sensitive to touch, almost like little ‘touch me nots’! You give them your finger and they will wrap their tiny fingers around it. As mentioned earlier, this is the time their reflexes improve and you can further develop these by giving them a hand toy like a rattle. An activity gym is highly recommended for your little one, so that she can play with the hanging toys while she lies down.


4-6 months

 Infants at this stage not only reach out for their favourite toys but also put them in their mouths. This is the right time to introduce your child to colourful stuffed animals.


7-12 months

At this stage, independence is the key! Your little one is an individual and will need to explore things on her own. By now she is a pro at handling her toys, exceptionally good with her grasp and also throws her toys around. At 10 months, she uses her pincer grip (using the index and thumb finger for holding objects). Encourage her to point at things, at this point. Also encourage her to hold a spoon and eat by herself. You can also give her few blocks to stack one upon the other. Give her a crayon and ask her to scribble. Beware to keep small objects away from her at this point!



At this stage, your child would insist on doing things on her own..So give her the space and let her do things on her own! At this stage the development of fine motor skills are very much related to her physical and mental skills. For example, give your child some beads and ask her to put those beads through a thin rope. This will not only develop her motor skills but also her concentration. Introducing them to play dough, finger painting is a good idea.




 They play a pivotal role in a child's day to day activities like running, jumping, walking etc. The first gross motor milestone for babies is lifting their head. Definitely not an easy task for your little one!


To give you an idea, imagine a heavy encyclopaedia on your head and try lifting your head! At age 3-4 months your little one is just beginning to control her head movements.


While you give her ample tummy time at this stage you will notice she will raise her head and look from side to side. Also if you lift your baby at this point, her head will not fall backward.


Sitting is the next milestone. At 5 to 7months the muscles of the torso and back begin to develop helping them to sit independently for brief periods. Spread her legs apart and make her sit upright. Do not forget to place a cushion around her lest she topples! At nine months she is ready to help herself sit independently and enjoy some playtime with her toys.


Rolling is the next activity that begins around 4-6 months of age. Here your baby is ready to employ all major muscles like that of the head, back tummy and legs. Initially they roll from side to side. With time and practice they roll in both directions.


Crawling begins at roughly at 7-8 months of age. However there are instances where infants skip this milestone and directly proceed to walking. Now your little one will scoot and enjoy exploring corners of your house. However it is recommended that to stay a little vigilant and watch out for her actions.


Standing requires bearing weight on legs and a considerable grasp of hand which at 10 months is significantly developed. Hold her hand, help her stand upright and watch her smile!! By roughly 11months she is ready to stand on her own by holding on to furniture.


Walking, the initial stages of which is holding the furniture and take baby steps, begins at 11-12 months of age. Encourage her to hold on to something and take tiny steps towards you. With age you can encourage her to walk up the stairs. Walking down the stairs however take more time. Babies are ready to walk by their 1st Birthday. If not, then by 14 months of age. By 18 months of age your baby is ready to walk backwards. He is also ready to run.


It is important to lay emphasis on both fine and gross motor skills equally as it not only helps the physical/mental abilities of the child but also helps the child express her creativity in later stages of life.