What You Need to Know About Fine Motor Skills
The Blueberry Pediatrics Blog

What You Need to Know About Fine Motor Skills

Dr. Lyndsey Garbi
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For the most part, the sequence of fine motor skills development is the same for all children, but the pace at which they acquire the skills differs. These skills, called developmental milestones, are acquired by the natural interaction, physical growth, and learning patterns children gain in their first years of life. Each child is different, and all develop at their own pace.

The different types of development include:

  1. Gross motor
  2. Fine motor
  3. Language
  4. Social skills

I will break down the sequence of fine motor development here.  These skills use the body’s small muscles to accomplish tasks such as picking up a tiny cracker, holding a pencil, feeding, and dressing.

Age 0 – 3 months:

Fine motor skills usually start with the reflexive grasp. Children grab your thumb when it's near them.

  • Start out with the reflexive grasp
  • Start to relax hands and not hold them grasped; thumbs out more
  • Reach for objects

Age 3 – 6 months:

  • Hold things with 2 hands
  • Starts to hold items and move them around
  • Starts to hold hands together in the center

Age 6 – 9 months:

  • Starts to grasp things and rake them towards their body
  • Holds a bottle
  • Uses index finger to touch things
  • Touches fingers together
  • Squeezes items

Age 9 – 12 months:

  • Develops the pincer grasp (uses thumb and index finger to pick up objects)
  • Can move items with hand into a cup
  • Feeds themselves, though not proficiently
  • Bangs things together
  • Begins to show a preference for one hand over another

Age 12 – 18 months:

  • Scribbles on paper
  • Waves goodbye
  • Can scoop items up with shovel or spoon
  • Builds a tower of 2 blocks

Age 18 months – 2 years:

  • Can turn pages in a book one at a time
  • Holds crayons with thumb and fingertips
  • Puts rings on pegs
  • Opens loosely wrapped items
  • Builds a tower of 3-4 blocks

Age 2 years:

  • Turns a doorknob
  • Stacks blocks of 9 or higher
  • Can wash hands independently
  • Zips and unzips large zippers

Age 3 years:

  • Uses a scissor to cut paper in half
  • Can draw a circle
  • Can string beads on a string
  • Uses one hand consistently in most activities

Age 4 years:

  • Can get dressed and undressed without help
  • Writes name
  • Copies a few letters and numbers
  • Can touch fingertip to end of nose
  • Can touch each fingertip to the thumb’s fingertip
  • Cuts on a line

Age 5 years:

  • Can cut out a circle
  • Copies a triangle
  • Holds pencil correctly
  • Pastes and glues appropriately
  • Ties shoelaces

Age 6 years:

  • Builds a castle with blocks
  • Can put puzzles together alone with 16-20 pieces
  • Colors in the lines
  • Uses a knife to cut food


Your doctor will review these milestones with you at yearly well-checks to ensure your child is on track with the development of their fine motor skills. If you think your child is falling behind, check with a pediatrician. They may recommend specialists in your area that can help your child build these skills.