TODDLER FINE MOTOR SKILLS

“Fine motor” refers to the movements we make with the small muscles of the hands. Children start to use their hands right at birth to explore their own bodies and the world around them. Their fine motor skills develop as their whole body starts to move and become more stable.


They also learn to do more things with their hands as their cognitive and social/emotional skills improve.  

Below are some of the typical developmental milestones for fine motor skills. After each age group, you can find some “red flags” that might indicate a problem.


Between the ages of 12-18 months, your child will:

  • Point to pictures in books

  • Build a tower using 2 blocks

  • Use her hands together to hold a toy at the middle of her body

  • Scribble with a crayon

  • Point with his pointer finger

  • Hold her own cup and drink, with some spilling

  • Feed himself using a spoon, with some spilling

  • Remove his own socks

  • Put her hat on her head


Red Flags for Fine Motor Development (18 months)

If you notice some of the following things about your child by the time she is 18 months old, you may want to talk to your doctor or to another health professional such as a public health nurse.

  • Your child is not able to use a pincer grasp (thumb and pointer finger) to pick up small objects

  • Your child does not point at things using his pointer finger (e.g. pictures in a book)

  • Your child is not able to put things into containers

  • Your child is not able to use both hands during play (most children do prefer one hand over the other)

  • Your child’s movements seem shaky or stiff


Between the ages of 18 months and 2 years, your child will:

  • Build a tower with 4-6 blocks

  • Put 4 rings on a stick

  • Put large pegs in a pegboard

  • Turn pages of a book, 2 or 3 at a time

  • Scribble

  • Turn knobs

  • Throw a small ball

  • Paint on paper using her whole arm to move the paintbrush

  • Imitate you drawing a vertical line ( l ) and a circle (it may not be accurate)

  • Begin to string large beads

  • Feed herself using a fork and spoon

  • Pull up a large zipper

  • Start to hold a crayon with her fingers, usually with her hand at the top of the crayon

  • Put large shapes into a shape sorter


Red Flags for Fine Motor Development (2 years)


If you notice some of the following things about your child by the time she is 2 years old, you may want to talk to your doctor, or to another health professional such as a public health nurse.

  • She cannot imitate you drawing a vertical line ( l )

  • He is still putting lots of toys in his mouth

  • He is not able to put a simple, large puzzle piece into a wooden puzzle

  • She is not able to put a simple shape into a shape sorter

  • She cannot feed herself with a spoon

  • He cannot stack 2-3 blocks on top of one another