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Fine motor skills: birth to 2 years

Fine motor skills: Birth to 2 years 

Generally thought of as the movement and use of hands and upper extremities, fine motor skills include reaching, grasping and manipulating objects with your hands. This is a list of fine motor skills children should demonstrate between the ages of 0-2 years.  

3 months  

  • Holds small object in hand (without thumb tucked in hand) 

5 months  

  • Reaches for toy 
  • Briefly holds toy 

6 months 

  • Follows objects with eyes in all directions 

7 months 

  • Transfers objects from one hand to the other 

8 months 

  • Keeps hands open and relaxed most of the time 
  • Starting to have ability to pick up small foods, like Cheerios 

10 months  

  • Able to release an object voluntarily 
  • Gives toy to caregiver when asked 

14 months  

  • Likes to explore, turn pages of cardboard books 

15 months 

  • Puts objects/toys in a container 

16 months  

  • Uses both hands to play 
  • Points at objects with index finger 
  • Can isolate index finger with other fingers closed 

17 months 

  • Can build a block tower using 3-4 blocks 

Helping infants develop fine motor skills 

You can help your infant develop MOTOR SKILLS by: 

  • "Tummy Time"... An important concept in motor skills development for children ages 0-2 years is what is known as "prone skills." Prone refers to lying on your stomach; many therapists call this "tummy time." A young baby needs to spend play time in "prone." A 3-6 month old learns to push up on their elbows in prone and eventually is able to push up onto their hands. These activities are the beginnings of shoulder stability and arch development in the hands, which are used later on for strength activities, such as pitching a ball, or precise activities, such as writing with a pencil.  

As the development of vision and the sense of touch is important to the development of motor skills, children need to be able to see and feel what is in their hands in order to interact with or manipulate objects.  

Help your infant develop VISUAL SKILLS by: 

  • Getting Close... Young babies like to look at faces. A parent's face is very expressive and possesses contrast which encourages babies to focus and use their visual skills. Position your face about 12" from your baby's face. Sing, talk and make silly faces!  
  • Choosing Color... As babies get to be 3-6 months old they begin to enjoy objects with increasing color. Three-month-olds often like "cool colors"- lemon yellow, sky blue and lime green. Six-month-olds are getting ready for brighter colors - hot pink, red and orange.  
  • Exposing Your Baby to Different & Enriching Visual Environments... If you usually have an infant seat in the den, try other rooms so your baby can have different views. If you often carry your baby in a cradle hold through the house, alternate and carry your baby at your shoulder level so he/she can view the world with an upright head posture.  

Help develop SENSORY SKILLS by: 

  • Positioning... Our senses of vision, hearing, touch, taste and smell are all developing in a young infant. We also have a "positional sense"; this helps us to define if our body is moving, and where we are in space (sitting up or lying on our stomach). This positional sense is why babies like to be rocked. To help them have an enriched environment, alternate rocking with swaying, try different rocking chairs, and change the baby's position - swaddled in a blanket, upright on your shoulder, or lying on his/her stomach across your lap. Go for walks with your baby in a snuggle pack or backpack for stimulation.  
  • Massaging... For development of touch sense or tactile awareness, provide your infant with massage to arms, legs and trunks. You can use baby lotion or oils if you like. Many YMCA's and other organizations offer great classes for infant massage. This activity is great for bonding time with your child.  

Note: Occupational Therapy addresses problems related to cognitive, daily living, motor, sensory processing, social and visual/perceptual skill development.  

This information is a general guide to help you determine if your child is progressing at the rate expected for his or her age. Please keep in mind that each child is unique and develops skills at their own rate. If you are concerned about your child's development, a physician or therapist may be able to assist with an evaluation.  

Information provided by Sallie Tidman, OT/L, Director of Therapy Services, and Melanie Koch, Occupational Therapist.