Fine and Gross Motor Skills: Milestones and Activities for Every Age

Fine and Gross Motor Skills

As parents, our job is to raise our children, encourage them to grow into exactly who they want to be and protect them lovingly along the way. It’s a tricky tightrope to walk; the balance between wanting our kids to be independent, autonomous individuals and the natural longing we have for them to stay little forever. We can’t slow down time, but we can make it count by contributing to the type of people our children become. From the moment they’re born, we have the opportunity to help them develop physically, cognitively, and socially – starting with the development of fine and gross motor skills, and the milestones that come with these skills. 


“Parents and caregivers can support their child’s learning, development and emotional security with lots of positive interaction and age-appropriate activities that practice specific skills.” - Johns Hopkins Medicine

Before we get into fine and gross motor skills for infants, toddlers, and beyond – let’s talk about how they differ! Essentially, gross motor skills involve the use of large muscles and movements, such as walking, running, picking objects up, kicking, throwing, and so on. Gross motor development lays a foundation for children to develop fine motor skills, which are more fine-tuned. Fine motor skills rely on smaller muscles to yield concentrated movements, such as writing, eating, and playing with toys. Gross motor skills aid in the development of balance and coordination, while fine motor skills support independence and autonomy. Now, let’s review some typical fine and gross motor skills in infants, toddlers, and older children: 


Fine Motor Skills For Infants 

  • Reaching for Toys 

  • Bringing Hands to Mouth 

  • Eye Movement Follows Objects

  • Holds Toys Briefly 

Gross Motor Skills for Infants 

Gross Motor Skills Activity: Tummy Time! 

In 2023, even those without children are familiar with tummy time (and for good reason)! Tummy time strengthens your baby’s neck and shoulder muscles, laying the groundwork for important movements like crawling, sitting up, and walking. Even a small amount of tummy time each day is beneficial for building gross motor skills. For newborns, tummy time typically takes place in the arms of mom or dad. As your child grows, they can explore tummy time on the floor with their favorite blanket and toys! 


Fine Motor Skills for Toddlers (1-2 Years)

  • Pointing (To Objects and People)

  • Scribbling 

  • Waving 

  • Learning to Eat With Spoons

Fine Motor Skill Activity: Story Time

According to Johns Hopkins, indulging in a good book doesn’t have to wait until your children can read themselves. In fact, reading to toddlers sharpens their early literacy skills, setting them up for success in school and making it easier for them to learn how to read. Dive into a good story with your little one to help refine not only reading skills but fine motor skills as they turn the pages of the book and point to their favorite characters. Pro tip: implement the book rotation system to give your child full autonomy in picking their story of choice! Our Montessori Book Shelves are multi-functional, keeping your play area clean while laying out every possible reading option for your kids. Swap out your current set of books with your favorite stories for a fun fine motor skill activity. 



Gross Motor Skills for Toddlers (1-2 Years) 

  • Walking With Stability

  • Running

  • Kicking a Ball

  • Jumping in Place 

Fine Motor Skills for 3 Year Olds 

  • Introductory Cutting With Safety Scissors 

  • Dressing and Undressing Themselves 

  • Drawing Straight Lines

  • Washing and Drying Their Hands 

Fine Motor Skill Activity: Enlist a Kitchen Learning Tower Helper

For parents, having assistance in the kitchen is one of the best (and most helpful) ways to engage in fine motor skills activities! Delegating low-stakes tasks to your kids empowers them to nurture fine motor skills like hand-eye coordination, grasping objects, and counting on fingers in a fun and safe way. 



Gross Motor Skills for 3 Year Olds 

  • Riding a Tricycle 

  • Throwing and Catching Balls 

  • Balancing on One Foot 

  • Climbing on Playgrounds and Climbing Gyms

Fine Motor Skills for 4 Year Olds

  • Cutting, Gluing, and Other Crafting Activities

  • Puzzling

  • Drawing, Scribbling, Tracing Object

  • Writing Their Name 

Gross Motor Skills for 4 Year Olds  

  • Skipping 

  • Hopscotch

  • Climbing 

  • Standing and Balancing on Tip Toes 


Fine and Gross Motor Skill Activity: Hopscotch

Hopscotch is a great way to incorporate larger muscle movements for growing kids, zeroing in on gross motor skills. Plus, it’s easy and inexpensive to set up! Grab some sidewalk chalk to combine fine and gross motor skills, letting your child draw the hopscotch board and then get to jumping. If you’re limited on pavement or the weather doesn’t permit outside hopping, you can cut out shapes of felt or paper for the same effect. This activity encourages gross motor skills like jumping, hopping, and crawling!

Long story short: don’t blink! The first few years of life are marked by immense growth (both physically and emotionally) and are integral to your child’s development. Each child is unique, though these outlined milestones are a great reference for parents. If you believe your child is missing out on an important milestone, we recommend reaching out to your pediatrician to ensure they’re on track. The significance of fine and gross motor skills cannot be understated when it comes to the well-being of your child. By actively participating in this part of your child’s story, you’re shaping them into who they will be for the rest of their life! 

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