Ways to Improve a Toddler’s Motor Skills

Ways to Improve a Toddler’s Motor Skills

October 3, 2022

There are so many daily tasks that depend on fine motor skills to accomplish – getting dressed, eating, writing, and more. As children, it’s essential that we develop these skills so we can become independent and successful adults. In this post, we will discuss what fine motor skills are, how much of a child’s daily life it impacts, and what parents can do to help ensure their child’s fine motor skills are developing well and right on schedule.

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

Fine motor skills are the activities and ability to use the small muscles in your hands, wrists, fingers, feet, and toes, along with brain coordination to make certain specific movements. Fine motor skills consist of smaller movements and functions, unlike gross motor skills, which include more significant movements, such as jumping, running, climbing, or riding a bike.

Why Are Fine Motor Skills So Important?
Fine motor skills are important because these are the muscles that are used to accomplish many different tasks that we have to achieve each and every day. Tasks that we all do every day that fine motor skills are required for include:

  • Holding eating utensils
  • Pouring drinks in a cup
  • Getting dressed
  • Opening and closing containers
  • Using scissors
  • Painting with fingers or a paintbrush
  • Drawing or writing
  • Doing puzzles
  • Playing board games
  • Brushing teeth
  • Communicating with others

..and much more! Fine motor skills are vital to our daily lives – child or adult!

What Are The Benefits Of A Child Developing Their Fine Motor Skills?

When a child has the opportunity and the support to develop their fine motor skills properly, there are many different benefits that will help them as they grow and develop.

1. Better Hand-Eye Coordination

Think of something as simple as catching a ball or throwing a piece of trash away – if a child doesn’t have the ability to connect the function in their brain to the function of their hand, they won’t be able to accomplish this simple task. Building up fine motor skills and actively putting them into practice helps build these skills in children.

2. Improves Communication Skills

Many people assume that fine motor skills are just in the hands. However, there are also fine motor muscles in your tongue, face, and lips. Creating songs for activities, reading aloud to the class, or actively talking with a child will help them develop these skills.

3. More Opportunities To Be Creative

Many skills in the arts require proper fine motor skill development in order for them to be successful. When a child masters this skill, they can explore and be creative in new ways, including sewing, sports, music, sculpting, and more.

4. Safer Play

When a child’s fine motor skills are developed, you don’t have to be as worried about them when they are engaged in play because they can now do more complex tasks. Playing with blocks, reading a book, communicating with playmates, and more become easier because those skills have been nurtured.

5. Better Social Skills

Children who are able to use their fine motor skills to engage in activities are better able to create friendships and connections with others through shared hobbies and interests. When their skills are developed, they can engage more with their peers in activities and create deeper connections.

6. Independence

Once your child understands how to function and use their fine motor skills, they can do more things without so much assistance. Dressing themselves, opening doors, telling you what they need, explaining their emotions, and eating are some of the things you will see your child doing on their own.

7. Improves Confidence

When a child starts to understand that they are successfully managing tasks on their own, make sure to celebrate with them. This encourages your child to keep pushing forward and doing these tasks. When you acknowledge their progress, and they are able to see it themselves, they have all the confidence in the world to push themselves to new heights.

Ways To Develop A Toddler’s Fine Motor Skills

Now that we understand what fine motor skills are and what benefits they can add to your child’s life let’s now discuss what steps parents can step to help make sure their children are getting the skills they need to thrive.

Play With Play-Doh

Using Play-Doh is a way for children to build fine motor skills because, as they use it, the muscles in their hands are developing. This is one of the first activities that a child should do to help them build their strength and prepare to do other more complex activities, such as picking up a pencil or picking up their toys. Playing with Play-Doh also helps children slow down and focus on the task at hand, build their sensory skills, and encourage their communication skills when you talk to them about what they are making. Not a fan of Play-Doh? Create a sensory feely bag by putting different colors of paints, oils, glitter, cotton balls, buttons, and other small items that children can touch and grab on from outside of the Ziploc bag that the items will be placed in. This also helps with fine motor skills and sensory skills. Plus, since it’s placed in the Ziploc bag, it’s less of a mess, which parents will like. Here is a link to a great blog about how to create a sensory feely bag at home for your child.

Do Puzzles Together

One fantastic way for parents to help children with their fine motor skills is by sitting down and working on a puzzle together. Fine motor skills are developed as the child picks up and moves the puzzle pieces around. This helps them learn how to grab and hold on to smaller objects. Working on larger puzzles and then working your way up to smaller puzzles will also help improve your child’s hand-eye coordination.

Do Art Projects

Art projects that involve things like painting, colors, cutting, or even tearing paper will strengthen your child’s fine motor skills and get those creative juices flowing at the same time. The child holding the crayon, pencil, paintbrush, or another tool will help improve those muscles. This activity can also help them learn their colors, follow directions, and help them practice their communication skills.

Practice Cutting With Scissors

Draw out dotted lines on paper for your child to practice cutting to improve those muscles and their coordination. Make sure to start your child off with age-appropriate scissors that they can easily use without hurting themselves.

Play With Sand

Playing with sand can be messy, but it is really an excellent way to help your child develop those fine motor skills and develop their senses. They can use cups or small shovels to put up and dump out the sand, or they can play with molds and build sand castles. You can also bury objects in the sand and make it a game for your child to dig and search for.

Start A Garden

Many parts of gardening require one to have fine motor skills, so why not involve your child? Allow your child to help dig holes for the seeds and assist you with putting the seeds in the holes. You can also let them help you water the plants to build up those muscles. Not only will their skills develop, but they’ll also be able to get the satisfaction of seeing their garden grow.

Play With Sponges

Another simple yet highly effective method for building fine motor skills is to play with sponges. Place two bowls, one with water and one without, along with a dry sponge, in front of your child. Have them take the sponge in their hand and dunk it in the water, then squeeze it out in the dry bowl. This builds both fine motor skills and sensory skills and helps them learn comprehension.

Perform Finger Plays

Finger plays are short stories or poems where children use their fingers to act out the actions. Finger plays like “The Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “The Three Little Pigs,” or “Five Little Monkeys” allows children to act out the movements with their fingers, sing along with the songs, and follow directions from their teacher and the music. This helps the child build their fine motor skills, comprehension skills, listening skills, and vocabulary.

Clean Up As A Family

Nobody likes to clean up, but it could actually do wonders for your child! Involving them in your cleaning schedule not only helps your finish this chore quicker, but it helps them practice building their muscles. Picking up toys and putting them in their toy box, putting garbage in the garbage can, and allowing them to mark off their tasks on a cleaning chart helps to strengthen their fine motor skills and build up their independence and confidence. You can also sing or play a clean-up song or set a timer to help get your child more engaged in the process.

Use Technology

A child’s use of technology can also help them with their fine motor skills. Using the mouse and keyboard are great ways to help build those fine motor skills, help with hand-eye coordination, and learn how to effectively use these devices. There are many games available for children to play to help them with this. Also, be sure to monitor your child’s internet use at all times and limit their screen time.

How Can I Tell If My Child’s Fine Motor Skills Development Is On Track?

Keep in mind that every child is different, which means that the speed in which they develop some skills will likely be different also. However, here is a quick guideline on the milestones your child can expect to reach by a certain age range, according to Petit Early Learning Journey:

Around 18 months

  • Create random scribbles
  • Put a hat on their head
  • Stack at least two blocks together
  • Use both hands to hold a toy
  • Release a toy
  • Bangs two objects together.
  • Hold a drinking cup with a small amount of spill

Around 2 years old

  • Feed themself with a spoon or fork
  • Pulls up a large zipper.
  • Throw a small ball.
  • Use the whole arm to paint across the page or canvas
  • Stack at least four blocks
  • Able to push, pull, and put things down
  • Place small objects into containers or bins

Around 3 years old

  • Able to stack up to nine large blocks
  • Turn a single page in a book
  • Use scissors to cut across a piece of paper
  • Fold a piece of paper in half
  • Puts on some items of clothing with supervision
  • Draw a semblance of a circle on paper
  • Place four large beads onto a piece of string

Around 4 years old

  • Places a big puzzle piece on a board to complete  a puzzle
  • Show favor of one hand over the other hand
  • Able to roll and press Play-Doh or clay material
  • Tries to catch a ball
  • Able to feed themself with a small amount of spills
  • Able to color in the lines for the most part
  • Able to successfully brush their teeth while being supervised.

What If My Child Is Struggling To Develop Their Fine Motor Skills?

There are several signs you can look out for to determine whether or not your child is struggling to develop their fine motor skills:

  • They seem to be very clumsy
  • They don’t show interest in grabbing objects
  • Avoiding activities like drawing, feeding themselves, or playing with blocks

If you or your child’s teacher starts to notice that your toddler is struggling to reach this milestone, it could be happening for several reasons. Some studies indicate that this delay could be indicative of a learning or physical disability. This may require the assistance of an occupational therapist. Another reason could be that the child could be in pain. Developing those muscles can be uncomfortable for the child, so it could be as simple as finding another way to help your child build those muscles up. Either way, it’s important not to panic and to remain confident – your child will still come out on the other side victorious.

Final Thoughts

Eating, drinking, picking up items, writing – these are all tasks both children and adults do every single day, whether they realize it or not. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this if our fine motor skills were not developed.

It is so important to practice developing these muscles both inside and outside of the classroom to ensure your child is successful. If you keep our tips in mind, your child will be guaranteed to thrive and have a better experience exploring the world around them.


For more information about ESA, and to find out why we offer the perfect solution to meet your child’s early childhood development needs, please contact us at (662)694-9594 or (662)617-8303.  You can also email us at empoweredforlifeinc@gmail.com.  Contact us today!

We currently have 2 locations to conveniently serve you:

ESA Starkville

732 Whitfield St

Starkville, MS 39759

“It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. - Frederick Douglass”

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