Fine Motor Skills

Small Muscles

Fine motor skills involve the ability to use the small muscles of the body, specifically the hands and fingers.


Evan and his older brother are sitting together at the table. His brother is eating blueberry yogurt for an afternoon snack. Evan looks up at his brother with a big smile and then stretches his right arm out to reach and grab his brother’s spoon. Evan succeeds and is very proud that he is able to hold the spoon in his hand. Evan at tempts to put the spoon in his mouth as he brings it up to his face. On his first attempt he only gets the side of his mouth. After trying a second time he gets some of his brother’s yogurt in his mouth. Yummy!


Evan is able to focus his attention on his brother’s spoon and use his hand-eye coordination to grab it. Because he is still developing his fine motor skills he misses his mouth the first time, but after he tries again he succeeds.

Fine motor skills begin to develop at the same time as gross motor skills; however, because your baby has to put her body in place first, the fine motor skills usually lag behind the development of gross motor skills.

As we discussed before with reaching, grasping occurs as your baby gets older. Initially, however, grasping will only occur when she accidentally comes in contact with the object or you place it directly in her hand.

The first big milestone in fine motor skills occurs when your baby is about nine months old. At this time, she is able to hold small objects between her thumb and forefinger, which is what is called the pincer grasp. This is extremely important because it paves the way for other fine motor skills such as writing and buttoning clothing.

Fine motor development involves skills that require your baby to control her eyes and head, as well as other muscles. Babies learn the art of controlling several different parts of their bodies through trial and error. It begins as your baby learns how to control her eyes through focus and attention, and then she has to learn how to use her eyes with her arms and hands to create a fine motor movement. It is very complex and takes time.

Between 10 and 12 months, you will observe your infant being able to hold a spoon and feed herself, even though her aim will not be right on target. As you are supporting and encouraging your baby’s physical development, remember that everything works together.

Because fine motor skills are vital to the success of writing skills later in life, it is very important for you to support your baby’s development. During everyday routines, encourage your baby to grasp objects by put ting them directly in her hands or tapping the top part of the hand with the object.

You can stimulate your baby’s sense of touch with simple materials like a scarf. Put your baby in your lap and show her the scarf. Talk about the color and texture. Tell your baby that you are going to rub the scarf on her arms, legs, and face.

Watch for her to reach for the object as you touch each area. Depending on her age, you will see her just wave her arms, reach for the scarf, or actually grab it and close her hand. Activities such as these not only help build a bond between you and your baby, but they also develop her fine motor and tactile sensation skills.

As you are supporting and encouraging your baby’s physical development, remember that everything works together. Gross motor skills develop with fine motor skills. Skill building happens over time and builds on past developments.