Developing Fine and Gross Motor Skills in Children - A Parent’s Guide

Fine and Gross Motor Skills

If you watch your children playing they are enormously busy and very active. They run about, jump, skip, climb and seem to have boundless energy. All this activity is moving their large and small muscles to develop their fine motor skills and gross motor skills.

Developing Fine Motor Skills and Gross Motor Skills in Children

Repetitive motion builds muscle mass and strengthens muscles which contribute to the development of muscle tone; balance; body control; co-ordination of movement; hand/eye coordination; spatial awareness; left and right orientation; and most importantly, confidence. Children are a muscular work in progress as they continuing to develop and grow.

Encouraging Development of Fine Motor Skills in Your Children

The development of fine motor skills is important to gain proficiency in writing, drawing, self-help tasks, and many daily activities. Small muscles are developed as children practice fine motor skills. Small muscle development is needed to control and use tools and materials. Strong muscles in fingers hands and arms are needed for manipulation. Hand/eye coordination is important in fine motor skill development. Fine motor skills are needed to facilitate development of literacy, numeracy, and socialization.

Children will develop at their own pace. A normal progression for using fine motor muscles with proficiency can be seen when children are given opportunities and time to practice their fine motor skills.

The following ideas will encourage the development of fine motor skills in your children;

  • Threading of large and small beads, pasta shapes, and collage materials.
  • Drawing, painting and gluing with different size brushes and utensils with different handles. Use a variety of medium. Don’t forget hands and fingers for a sensory experience.
  • Board games; small manipulative toys like farm animals; building blocks; construction toys such as Lego and Mobilo; games using tongs and tweezers; are all excellent ways of having fun while practicing fine motor skills.
  • Social play such as dressing up; bathing dolls; dressing dolls and teddies; pretend cooking with plastic utensils; all assist in development of small muscles.
  • Play dough, with a wide variety of utensils, is a great medium for encouraging manipulation and hand/eye coordination.
  • Music and movement can also incorporate finger puppets; musical instruments; and finger plays to enhance fine motor skills.

Strive to facilitate interaction with materials the children shows an interest in. Avoid frustration, fatigue, and a fear of failure, as this will only lead to the children not gaining enough practice to develop fine motor skills. This can then cause a delay in literacy, numeracy, and social skills. Time and patience and exposure to varied experiences is the recipe for development of fine motor skills.

Encouraging Development of Gross Motor Skills in Your Children

Children who are challenged by gross motor activity will be seen to have difficulty climbing, hopping, and jumping. They will be challenged by balance, swinging by their arms and legs, and show poor judgment of direction and distance. They may have challenges in reading, writing, listening and remembering. These challenges can be carried into adulthood if not corrected at an early stage.

 Be aware that encouraging the development of gross motor skills requires a lot of positive reinforcement so children will try, and want to try again, at an activity. It is about help and practice, not about performance. Decrease frustration by knowing when to end an activity or knowing how much help to give. Be encouraging and patient.

The following ideas will assist in developing gross motor skills in children;

  1. Age appropriate bikes, scooter and roller skates.
  2. Climbing and swinging equipment such as tree houses, ladders, tyre swings, knotted ropes and nets.
  3. Balance boards of differing heights, width, and plain.
  4. Stilts of different sizes.
  5. Balls of different sizes for throwing and catching; and fit balls for rolling on.
  6. Sand pits, mud patches and water play all encourage lifting and large body movement.
  7. Music and movement to encourage moving to rhyme, rhythm, and instructions.
  8. Line play – hopscotch, walking on lines on the ground; ‘Hop and Stop’; marching; climbing up and down stairs; and ‘Follow the Leader’.

Leave plenty of time for outside free play as this will encourage even the most challenged of your children to practice and develop at their own pace. Encouraging development of fine motor skills and gross motor skills will help learners progress in all areas of their development. If you feel your children are not developing their fine motor skills and gross motor skills as they should then speak with their carer or teachers and seek professional input where needed.

For those homeschooling your homeschool physical education program will be very helpful.  We have some great ideas for this. Click here to read our article.

Please share any activities you do with your children to support the development of their fine and gross motor skills in the comments below.  We would love to hear from you.


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Heather Collins

Heather Collins is an Early Childhood and Special Education Teacher who makes developmentally appropriate resources for teachers and parents to use with their children. She is author and co-author of poetry books and children’s books. She is a passionate collagist and has crafted beautiful finger puppets and story aprons suitable for early childhood education.

Her resources can be purchased on this website or she can be contacted at Create-Ed by emailing You can order an original apron for any favourite storybook.

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