Babies start developing control over their muscle movement from the head downwards. They begin by learning how to turn their heads. Then, they learn how to control their shoulders, arms, legs, hands, and feet. These are known as motor skills and can be divided into gross and fine motor skills. Motor skills develop gradually over the first few years of a child’s life. The key difference between fine and gross motor skills is the body parts involved. Let’s take a closer look.
What are Gross Motor Skills?
Gross motor skills refer to movements that involve the whole body or large muscle groups, like the torso, arms, legs and feet. Gross motor skills are your baby’s ability to turn over, stand unassisted, and walk. Other gross motor skills examples include jumping, hopping, swimming, pushing and pulling, and throwing.
Gross motor skills can be further divided into locomotor gross motor skills and object control skills. Locomotor gross motor skills include activities such as crawling, walking, running, and jumping. On the other hand, object control skills involve interaction with objects—throwing, pushing and pulling, climbing, etc.
Most gross motor skill development happens in the first 2 years of a child’s life. Major milestones include:
- Sitting up independently without support
- Standing without assistance
- Standing without support
- Walking without support
- Walking without assistance
The next phase of gross motor skill development also includes hand-eye coordination, like throwing a ball in a particular direction. From 3 to 5 years, your child will learn to ride a tricycle, maintain balance while running, catch and throw objects, climb stairs, walk while carrying objects, kick a ball, and more.
What are Fine Motor Skills?
Fine motor skills refer to finer movements. They usually involve the hands and fingers. Examples of fine motor skills include gripping an object, picking up something with the whole hand or just the thumb and one finger, drawing, and eating. Fine motor skill development focuses on manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination.
Gross and fine motor skills develop simultaneously. Your baby will progress from awkwardly reaching out for things and grasping them with both hands to being able to hold onto objects, squeeze them, pick and drop them and stack them to form towers. As they gain control over finger movement, they learn to develop a pincer grasp, turn book pages, scribble with crayons, and so on. They continue to develop these fine motor skills even as preschoolers.
Fine motor skills also include making facial expressions by manipulating the eyes, lips, and cheek muscles. Similarly, controlling the movement of the tongue and mouth to speak or eat is also considered a fine motor skill.
What is the Difference Between Gross Motor and Fine Motor Skills?
You might wonder, “What is the difference between fine and gross motor skills?” The difference between these skills lies in the muscles used. For example, lifting a toy is considered a gross motor skill since the child uses their arm muscles. But grasping and holding the toy is a fine motor skill that involves controlling the finger muscles. Gross motor skills involve large movements, while fine motor skills include the development of small movements.
Boys may acquire gross motor skills faster than girls and are usually more active risk-takers. On the other hand, girls may develop fine motor skills earlier than boys of the same age.
Major Milestones: Fine Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills
A baby’s growth and control over motor skills can be marked against milestones for each age. However, remember, every child is unique and may meet a milestone a bit earlier or later than other children of their age. Do not fret or push them to achieve their milestones. Have patience and give them time to explore and grow at their own pace.
Meanwhile, let us quickly look at the milestones for gross and fine motor skills at various ages of a baby’s life.
|Age||Gross Motor Skills Milestones|
|3-6 months||A child can roll over|
A child can support his/her head while being supported in a seated position
A child can raise his/her arms and legs while lying on the stomach
|6-12 months||A child starts crawling|
A child can sit without support
A child can pull himself up to a supported standing position from a sitting position
|1-2 year||A child can walk while holding your hand|
A child can pull and push toys with wheels
A child can climb 1-2 stairs without assistance
|2-3 year||A child can jump with both feet|
A child can climb stairs without holding on to the handrail
A child can run awkwardly
|3-4 year||A child can ride a tricycle without assistance|
A child can run without falling
A child can throw a ball to someone standing up to 5 feet away
|4-5 year||A child can catch objects with both hands |
A child can climb stairs alternating feet on each step
A child can hop on one foot
|Age||Fine Motor Skills Milestones|
|0-3 months||A baby can swing his/her arms at objects|
|3-6 months||A baby learns to hold both hands together |
A baby can reach out for objects with both hands
A baby can move objects from one hand to the other
|6-12 months||He/she can hold onto objects |
He/she can squeeze toys
He/she develops a pincer grasp with their thumb and index finger
He/she can drop objects into a container
He/she can hold and eat finger foods By the age of around 1 year, a child usually starts showing a preference for one hand
|1-2 year||He/she can clap hands and wave |
He/she can stack towers of up to 4 blocks
He/she can open loosely wrapped packages
He/she can turn pages in a book He/she can scribble with crayons
|2-3 year||He/she can stack towers of up to 9 blocks|
He/she can turn a doorknob
He/she can manipulate play dough
He/she can zip and unzip large zippers
|3-4 year||He/she can fold a sheet of paper|
He/she can copy the drawing of a circle
He/she can fasten and unbutton large buttons
|4-5 year||He/she can dress and undress independently|
He/she can use a spoon and fork
He/she can touch the tips of all his/her fingers to his/her thumb
How Do These Skills Enhance a Child’s Overall Growth and Development
Both gross and fine motor skills are important for a child’s physical and mental development. Gross motor skill development influences fine motor skills. A child must have control over the movement of their arms before they can start holding things with their fingers.
Motor skills development aids in a child’s physical and cognitive development. For instance, when kids start crawling, they have more space to explore. This exposes them to new sights, sounds, and textures, further influencing their cognitive development.
Fine motor skills are linked to the child’s ability to speak, eat and drink. These skills help the child’s scholastic development as they grow older. Only when a child grasps and manipulates an object in his/her hand can they start scribbling to form alphabets.
How can You Help Motor Skill Development in Your Child?
The pace at which a child develops motor skills depends on heredity and their environment. You can do many fine and gross motor skills activities to help your child reach their developmental milestones faster.
- Give Your Child Tummy Time
Turn your baby over onto his/her tummy and let them some time in this position. It helps strengthen the neck and shoulder muscles and encourages them to start crawling. Closely supervising the baby during tummy time is essential.
- Play with a Ball
Large and colourful balls are great toys for infants. The bright colours capture their attention and encourage them to play. At first, your child will swat at the ball but hit it gradually. As their muscles develop, they will be able to roll it back towards you.
- Play with Building Blocks
Building blocks are popular physical and cognitive developmental toys. Look for blocks with different colours and sizes. Initially, you may have to stack them up. This entices the child to crawl towards the blocks and swipe at the tower to knock it down. As your child grows older, he/she will learn to stack them independently.
- Create a Maze
Once your child can crawl comfortably, create a maze to develop other gross motor skills. You can place cushions and pillows in their path and encourage your little one to climb over them to crawl between them. Also, you can include tunnels made with a bed sheet. Choose a soft carpeted area for such a maze, and supervise them.
- Experiment with Finger Foods
You can start giving your child a wide variety of finger foods by the age of 1 year. This exposes them to new flavours and helps develop muscle memory. Give your child both soft and hard fruits and vegetables to make eating a fun experience. You can also vary finger food sizes to help them improve their grasping skills.
When Should You be Concerned
After understanding the difference between gross and fine motor skills and the developmental milestones, let us read about the signs that you can look out for that indicate slower-than-normal development.
If your kid fails to meet the developmental milestones for his or her age, or if you suspect a problem with how your child plays, learns, speaks, acts, or moves, talk with your child’s doctor and express your concerns. But a slight delay is usually nothing to worry about – every child grows at a unique pace. It is difficult to chart out a month-by-month developmental milestone journey. As your child grows older, get appropriate help if you notice other signs of discomfort indicating a problem with motor skills, like:
- Does not show interest in physical activities that his/her peers are doing
- Appears to have trouble completing activities and tasks
- Tells others what to do but does not participate in the activity
Seeing your child roll over, crawl, stand up and achieve all the other motor skill developmental milestones is extremely joyful. You want your child to excel and not face any difficulties in life. Engaging your child in age-appropriate activities helps boost their developmental pace.
If you are uncertain about how to support your baby’s motor skills development, then Raising Superstars can help. Every child is born with unlimited potential, which they start losing as they get older. The right intervention at the right time can help your child to make the most of their inborn talents and meet milestones faster. Our Prodigy Programs are designed by experts to give your child age-appropriate stimuli and experiences through screen-free activities to enhance their growth and development. So, what are you waiting for? Contact us today.