Fine motor skills give us the ability to coordinate and make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. These skills develop as we progress through the stages of human development.
Babies are initially not able to make small movements with their hands but are observed to make wide movements with their arms using larger muscles. In the first 3 months, an infant interacts using their eyes more than their hands, as they visually track objects and people.
Below is an outline of what is expected in typical developmental progression of fine motor skills.
Age: Birth-6 months
- Follows moving person using their eyes.
- Ineffective reach for objects and difficulty combining reach and grasp (3 months).
- Develops ability to accurately and directly reach for objects.
- Uses crude palmar grasp to grab objects (4-5 months).
- Transfers objects from hand to hand.
- Plays with hands at midline (imaginary line that runs down middle of body)
- Uses palmar grasp where object is secured in the center of the palm (5-6 months).
- Demonstrates controlled reach and grasp with two hands by 6 months.
Age: 6 – 12 months
- Reaches for, grasps, and puts object in mouth.
- Uses radial palmar grasp where object is secured in the palm, closer to the thumb (6-8 months).
- Plays with toys at midline and transfers toy from hand to hand.
- Bangs objects together to make sounds.
- Waves toys in the air.
- Uses raking grasp where objects are brought into the palm by flexing fingers in a “raking” motion (7-8 months).
- Controlled release of toys into container.
- Uses radial digital grasp where object is secured and held by fingers and opposing thumb (8-10 months).
- Pincer grasp is observed where there is full opposition of the pad of thumb and index finger in order to hold the object (10-12 months).
Age: 12-18 months
- Holds crayon to make marks and scribbles using palmar supinate or fisted grasp, where movement is seen in shoulder and elbow.
- Points to pictures with index finger.
- Attempts puzzles.
- Opens and shuts toy boxes or containers.
- Uses two hands in play, one to hold or stabilize and the other hand to manipulate toy.
Age: 18-24 months
- Completes four- to five- piece puzzle.
- Builds tower of four small blocks.
- Holds crayon in fingertips and draws simple figures.
- Strings beads.
- Turns pages of book two or three at a time.
Age: 2-3 years
- Snips paper with scissors.
- Imitates vertical, horizontal, and circular strokes.
- Holds crayon using a digital pronate grasp.
- Uses one hand consistently in the majority of activities.
- Rolls, squeezes and pulls playdough.
- Turns single pages of a book.
Age: 3-4 years
- Builds tower of nine small blocks.
- Uses static tripod grasp where crayon or marker is held between thumb and index fingers, while resting on the knuckle of the middle finger. Movement still comes from the elbow and shoulder.
- Copies vertical, horizontal, and circular forms.
- Imitates cross form.
- Manipulates clay to roll into balls and “snakes”.
- Uses non-dominant hand to stabilize and assist during tasks.
- Constructs 3-D design such as a three-block bridge.
- Initially cuts jagged snips across a piece of paper which transitions to cutting across straight and curved lines when given a thick guideline.
Age: 4-5 years
- Begins to draw using a dynamic tripod grasp, with movement initiated from the thumb, index and middle finger, as well as the wrist.
- Copies simple shapes such as a cross, square and diagonal lines.
- Completes puzzles of up to 10 pieces.
- Starts to cut out shapes (squares and triangles) while using helper hand to hold paper.
- Colors within the lines.
- Draws a human figure with 4-7 features.
- Hand dominance becomes well established.
Age: 5-6 years
- Copies shapes such as triangle and “X” form.
- Completes puzzles of up to 20 pieces.
- Traces letters, begins to copy letters.
- Copies letters in own name.
- Uses two hands together in complementary movements.
- Draws a human figure with 8-11 features.
Age: 6-10 years
- Demonstrates good dexterity and bilateral coordination when creating crafts and constructing with small objects.
- Can independently build with Legos.
- Ties shoelaces independently.
- Handwriting becomes more legible.