Skill in performing tasks, especially with the hands.
Infants and children grow and develop at a rapid pace during the first few years of life. The development of both gross and fine motor skills helps a child go from a completely dependent newborn to an independently functioning toddler in about a 3-year span.
Gross versus Fine Motor Skills
Motor skills refer to our ability to move our bodies and manipulate objects. Gross motor skills coordinate the large muscle groups that control our arms and legs and involve larger movements like balancing, running, and jumping. By the end of the second year of life, most children (except those with disabilities or other special needs) can stand up, walk/run, climb stairs, jump, and skip. As children grow older (ages 4-5), many can also catch balls, ride bikes, and run with more speed and agility. The prerequisite to all these skills is postural control—the ability to hold one's head up, sit independently, and stand. Appropriate posture allows the child to learn to walk, run, and engage in other gross motor skills.
Fine motor skills, by contrast, involve the coordination of small muscle movements, usually involving the hands working in coordination with the eyes. Hand-eye coordination allows a child to perform such skills as drawing, using buttons and zippers, eating with utensils, and tying shoes. Children increase their mastery of these skills through practice. For example, at age 2, a child's drawing might be a series of crayon scribbles, but by age 5, he or she might be able to draw a person's face complete with eyes, nose, and mouth.
As stated above, children grow very quickly and meet physical milestones rapidly in the first few years of life. The following is a list of the major milestones that occur in children during those first formative years.
Up to 24 months:
Crawls skillfully and quickly
Stands alone with feet spread apart, legs stiffened, and arms extended for support
Gets to feet unaided
Can walk unassisted near the end of this period; falls often; is not always able to maneuver around obstacles, such as furniture or toys
Uses furniture to lower self to floor; collapses backwards into a sitting position, or falls forward on hands and then sits
Enjoys pushing or pulling toys while walking
Repeatedly picks up objects and throws them; direction becomes more deliberate
Attempts to run; has difficulty stopping and usually just drops to the floor
Crawls up stairs on all fours; goes down stairs in same position
Enjoys crayons and markers for scribbling; uses whole-arm movement
Helps feed self; enjoys holding a spoon (often upside down) and drinking from a glass or cup; not always accurate in getting utensils into mouth; frequent spills should be expected
Helps turn the pages in book
Stacks two to six objects per day
Up to 3 years:
Walks up and down stairs unassisted, using alternating feet; may jump from bottom step, landing on both feet
Can momentarily balance on one foot
Can kick big ball-shaped objects
Needs minimal assistance eating
Jumps on the spot
Pedals a small tricycle
Throws a ball overhand; aim and distance are limited
Catches a large bouncing ball with both arms extended
Shows improved control of crayons or markers; uses vertical, horizontal and circular strokes
Holds crayon or marker between first two fingers and thumb (tripod grasp), not in a fist as earlier
Can turn the pages of a book one at a time
Enjoys building with blocks
Builds a tower of eight or more blocks
Enjoys playing with clay; pounds, rolls, and squeezes it
May begin to show hand dominance
Manipulates large buttons and zippers on clothing
Washes and dries hands; brushes own teeth, but not thoroughly
By age 6:
Gains greater control over large and fine motor skills; movements are more precise and deliberate, though some clumsiness persists
Enjoys vigorous running, jumping, climbing, and throwing etc.
Span of attention increases; works at tasks for longer periods of time
Can concentrate effort but not always consistently
Has fun with problem-solving and sorting activities like stacking, puzzles, and mazes
Enjoys the challenge of puzzles, counting, and sorting activities, paper-and-pencil mazes, and games that involve matching letters and words with pictures
Recognizes some words by sight; attempts to sound out words
Increased functioning which facilitates learning to ride a bicycle, swim, swing a bat, or kick a ball