A Quick Guide to Fine Motor Goals for Early Childhood


Knowing what’s normal or expected for the fine motor movements in the daily life of our children can be stressful to navigate. Here’s a quick guide of fine motor skills development. As our babies transition into curious toddlers and then bustling preschoolers, their tiny hands are on a fascinating adventure of mastering essential skills that will set the stage for a lifetime of dexterity.

So, what exactly are these fine motor goals, and why are they crucial for our young children? Well, think of it as their ability to pick up those small objects, scribble with a crayon, or fasten a button. It’s all about  gross motor skills, fine motor control, and hand-eye coordination working together.

As your baby evolves into a toddler and then a preschooler, they’ll be refining their skills in bilateral coordination, learning to use both hands together. This is the foundation of many activities they’ll encounter in early childhood, from building with blocks to holding a pencil for the first time.

So, here’s to empowering our little ones with the tools they need for a world filled with tiny buttons, colorful crayons, and endless possibilities!

Why are Fine Motor Skills Important?

From the very beginning, our little ones are exploring the world around them, reaching out to touch, grasp, and manipulate objects. We play a pivotal role in nurturing their development of fine motor skills. Good fine motor skills start earlier than you probably think! 

This journey is filled with joy and discovery. There are countless ways to encourage the development of strong fine motor skills through various activities. From threading beads and playing with playdough to scribbling with crayons and engaging in puzzles, these experiences not only foster hand strength but also create a solid foundation for the future.

Move at Your Child’s Pace

For fine motor activities, they should focus on building your children’s hand and finger strength, wrist stability, and hand eye coordination. These activities usually involve refined movement of the hand or fingers that require control and concentration. And remember to encourage use of the non-dominant hand, too! 

Remember, every child is unique, and they’ll navigate these milestones in different ways and at their own pace. Embrace the magic of their individual journeys, celebrating each tiny victory along the path of fine motor development.

kids painting and making easter eggs

Fine Motor Milestones by Age

The following are all examples of fine motor skills by age that are normal for a child’s development. Here are the specific skills that are expected at each age range:

0-3 Months

  • Grasp a finger or toy 
  • Turn my head towards a sound or voice
  • Gaze at someone talking 
  • Wiggle arms and kick my legs

​3-6 Months

  • Hold my head steady
  • Clasp my hands together
  • Bring my hands to my mouth 
  • Begin to push up on my elbows when places on my tummy
  • Shake toys or swing my arms at hanging toys

6-9 Months 

  • Wave 
  • Point at things
  • Pass objects from one hand to the other
  • Pick up small food with my thumb and fingers

9-12 Months

  • Feed myself cereal or crackers using my thumb and index finger
  • Hold and play with a spoon at meal times
  • Hand toys or books to you
  • Remove puzzle pieces or ring stack toys

12-18 Months

  • Begin to complete puzzles
  • Help take off my socks or hat
  • Hold my own bottle
  • Bring toys or small items in from another room 

18-24 Months

  • Help clean up toys 
  • Assemble four blocks or nesting cups
  • String large beads
  • Build a tower using six blocks

24-30 Months (2-2.5 Years)

  • Wash my hands (may still need some assistance)
  • Brush my teeth (may still need some assistance)
  • Remove several articles of clothing to help undress 
  • Catch a large ball 
  • Hold a crayon with my thumb and fingers to draw lines and possibly circles

30-36 Months (2.5-3 Years)

  • Begin to use scissors to snip paper
  • String smaller beads
  • Build a tall tower of blocks
  • Complete 3-4 piece puzzles

​36-42 Months (3-3.5 Years)

  • Draw a person with 2 or 3 body parts
  • Use scissors to snip paper
  • Brush my teeth unassisted
  • Steer a tricycle

42-48 Months (3.5-4 Years)

  • Stack a tower of small blocks unassisted
  • Build a structure 
  • Catch a ball
  • Throw a ball towards a person
  • Draw a person with 4 or 5 body parts

48-54 Months (4-4.5 Years)

  • Play a simple board game or card game
  • Copy letters
  • Use scissors to cut a line
  • Dress and undress myself
  • Help serve food unto my plate

54-60 Months (4.5-5 Years)

  • Draw pictures
  • Simple writing tasks like letters
  • Cut out shapes from paper following lines

All this information and more can be found at the Collaboration for Early Childhood. They have tons of resources for early childhood including how to improve fine motor skills. If your child does not meet all the fine motor abilities for their age, try working specifically with them on each one.

paint on little kids

Fine Motor Skills Free Printable

Here’s a free printable with all the goals! Or follow this link.

fine motor skills free printable

Fine Motor Skills Activities

Here’s some of our best (and easiest!) fine motor activities for any child development stage in early childhood. These are all a ton of fun for children and great for building the small muscles of the hands and fingers. 

The best way to encourage fine motor skills is to find activities that your child really loves to do. Also encourage them to help you with everyday tasks like getting dressed, putting away dishes, and trying to tie their shoe laces (depending on your child’s age).

If you are concerned about fine motor problems or any developmental skills, seek out medical advice from your child’s pediatrician or an occupational therapist.  

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