May 23, 2016

Child Therapy: Fine Motor Milestones

Last week we discussed gross motor milestones for young children, so this week, we will focus on fine motor skills. Fine motor skills are defined as movements that involve the small muscles of the hand and fingers. In the first couple months, a child’s fine motor skills may be limiting. Around 1 year old is when most parents notice a significant change in the strength of their child’s hand muscles.

0-3 months

  • Your infant’s hands will remain closed for the majority of their first 3 months. At this age, the child will have a grasp reflex. If you put your finger on your child’s hand, you will notice he/she will grab onto it.

3-6 months

  • The child will start to pick up and hold small objects in hands. At this age, they will usually hold their hands together.

6-9 months

  • Your child will start to use their ‘pinchers’. Pinchers are when they use their thumb and fingertips to grasp onto or pick up objects. They will begin to feed themselves cheerios, raisins, chopped fruit, etc. using their pinchers or sometimes, even their whole hand. They will also be able to hold two objects, one in each hand. This will then lead to them being able to pick up bigger objects using both of their hands.

9-12 months

  • Once your child is around 9 months old, they begin to encourage more exploration with their hands. They will be able to pick up objects on their own and put these objects into different sized containers. Pointing at objects will become more prevalent as well. Your child will learn to imitate your gestures as well as incorporate more gestures into their everyday lives through popular phrases (hi and bye), songs (itsy-bitsy spider) and dancing (clapping).  While reading books, urge your child to turn the page for you.

12-18 months

  • As mentioned above, around 12 months old is the start of more significant fine motor development. Children will begin to grasp a spoon, fork, and/or cup, but will not be able to fully feed themselves at this age. Most of your child’s gross motor skills are developed around 18 months, so it is a great time to focus on fine tuning these skills. Use chalk outside, guide your child to draw with big crayons, and/or build towers with blocks. Your child will have more control over their hands and movements if you do activities such as these, so continue to introduce them to new ways to explore with their toys.

2 years:

  • At around 2 years old, fine motor skills will continue to increase. Your child will begin to pick up food and feed him or herself with a spoon or fork. They will be able to draw with markers, chalk, and/or other big drawing utensils. Your child will also be able to copy or draw a vertical line. Towards the end of their second year, they will be able to copy or draw a horizontal line. Lastly, putting on shoes, socks, and shorts will become easier as well as taking off their clothing.

3-4 years

  • At around 3-4 years old, most children are enrolled in some sort of preschool, daycare, or extracurricular camp. During these activities, you will notice they allot a period of time for arts and crafts. Children at this age enjoy a variety of creative crafts. They are able to copy or draw a circle and a cross. They are also able to use scissors to cut across paper.  At 3 years old, you should expect your child to completely feed themselves with little to no spilling and transition into a drinking glass instead of Sippy cup. Closer to 4 years old, they will be able to write the first four letters of their name. They should also be able to fully dress and undress independently with the exception of buttons, zippers, front vs. back, and left vs. right shoe.

If you feel your child is significantly behind in any of these fine motor developments, contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy for a consultation with one of our occupational therapists. For more developmental milestones, read our past posts on developmental, speech, and gross motor skills.


Brown, Stephanie. “Fine Motor Skills.” Very Well. About.com, 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

“Fine Motor Development Chart.” Sensory Processing Disorder. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

“Fine Motor Milestones.” Kids Can Do Children’s Therapy Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

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