• Introduction
  • The basics of fine motor skills
  • Delays in motor skill development
  • Final thoughts
  • Sources
  • Fine motor skills: the coordination between small muscles in movement with the eyes. Often involves the synchronization of hands and fingers.
  • Gross motor skills: full-body movements that require large muscle groups, trunk, arms, legs, etc. simultaneously.
  • Schema: memory representations of movement patterns.


Motor skills refer to skills associated with muscle activity. These actions lay the foundation for all movement that humans do. For example, crawling, sitting up, walking, and grabbing are all considered motor skills in their most basic form.

Motor skill development follows a predictable sequence. It starts from the inner body (head, neck, arms and legs) and then moves towards the extremities (hands, feet, fingers and toes). Because physical development strongly related to other development areas, motor development is crucial throughout a child’s early life. When the child is first starting out, these skills are often inaccurate and inefficient. Through repetition and maturity, fine motor skills become more refined. This results in being able to perform them more purposefully with increased force, velocity, and accuracy. Constant motor skill development also creates a basis for learning new and more complex movement patterns.

Motor skills can be divided into two categories: fine motor skills and gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are broad, powerful, and less accurate movements that often utilize the entire body. Fine motor skills consist of accurate movements that require hand-eye coordination and dexterity.

This post explains the basics of fine motor skills, and what makes them so crucial for motor learning.

The basics of fine motor skills

Fine motor skills refer to movements that require high levels of accuracy and dexterity. They often require a coordinated effort between the small muscles in your hands, fingers, and eyes (hand-eye coordination).

In many ways, fine motor skills are built on gross motor skills, which is why they are also learned before more complex fine motor movements. For example, a child must first learn to extend their arm and grab a pencil (gross motor skills) before writing or drawing on a piece of paper (fine motor skills).

Although gross motor skills stay relatively unchanged throughout your entire life, fine motor skills require consistent use. Otherwise these skills start to reduce in both precision and efficiency. This is especially important in highly technical sports like gymnastics, figure skating, and skateboarding.

Together, gross and fine motor skills build a foundation for more advanced sports-specific skills.


Fine Motor Skills

The basic skills used in daily life (writing, tying your shoelaces, etc.)Follow a certain hierarchy - some skills are learned before othersBuild on gross motor skills and previous fine motor skillsBecome more refined with repetition and maturityBuilds a foundation for advanced sport-specific skills

Delays in fine motor skill development

Children with developmental delays and neurological conditions may experience slower fine motor skill development. When compared to major gross motor skill milestones (rolling over, crawling, taking your first steps, etc.) fine motor skill delays are often much more difficult to notice.

Fine motor skill delays become more apparent in preschool when the child starts socializing with others. Having difficulty with holding a pen, copying letters, or using scissors can be indicators of developmental delays. The child may also display avoidance behavior and refuse to participate in a craft. They may even show defiance during the activity if they feel incompetent in it. As the child grows and participates in physical activity, their motor skill development becomes more noticeable.

The motor skill acquisition for a normally developing child looks like this:



0-2 Years

Reflexes & Rudimentary Skills

2-6 Years

Basic Motor Skills

6-10 Years

Advanced Motor Skills

10-14 Years

Sports-Specific Skills

>14 Years

Advanced Sports-Specific Skills

If you suspect the child has challenges learning or improving their fine motor skills, speak to your pediatrician. This way you can rule our disorders such as dyspraxia and developmental coordination disorder (DCD). Early diagnosis and intervention are crucial in helping your child get the support they need.

Luckily, there is plenty of help available for children with developmental delays. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, and assistive technology just to name a few.

Fine motor skills are small movements that require dexterity and hand-eye coordination.

Final thoughts

Fine motor skills develop naturally with age as the child learns and plays. How quickly these skills are learned is strongly related to genetics and the amount of physical activity your child participates in. You can even choose activities and toys that support your child’s fine motor skill development. 

Because motor skill development requires plenty of exercise, it is affected by the child’s access to different forms of exercise. Consistent and versatile activities also ensures that the child learns the necessary skills needed in everyday life. For example, joining a sports club or playing outside with friends are all great ways to move the body and learn new skills. Not to mention the benefits in social development these activities could offer.

Exercising also strengthens the muscles, bones, and joints. It even offers benefits in learning and memory – both of which are directly related to better grades in school.

Did you learn anything new about fine motor skills? Let us know in the comments. 


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