Encouraging Physical Motor Skill Development in Young Children

This post is sponsored by Fisher-Price.

Motor skills are physical skills requiring the co-ordination of the muscles of the body to affect movement. This includes large body movements involving the head, torso and limbs, most often known as gross motor skills, and small body movements involving the hands and fingers, commonly referred to as fine motor skills.

Each physical motor skill or activity, whether gross or fine motor, involves a sequence of smaller movements that need to be coordinated and completed smoothly in order to efficiently complete the specific task. For example, think about the sequence of movements needed to successfully kick a ball – the child needs to:

  • Coordinate not just the kicking leg but the planted leg as well, and
  • Coordinate their arms to maintain balance as they kick, and
  • Accurately, judge their distance from the ball to ensure they are close enough to connect with it, and
  • Move their leg and foot in the direction necessary to connect with the ball successfully… and so on.

Which motor skills are important?
When it comes to identifying the sorts of physical activities that we can expect to observe in our young child, it is easy to think of those associated with major milestones like learning to crawl and walk or learning to cut with scissors but there are many often less obvious motor skills that are just as important to a child’s overall development. The following list is by no means exhaustive but is indicative of the types of skills relevant to each age group (remembering, of course, that each child is an individual and will follow an individual path of development).

Baby (0-12 months)

Fine and gross motor skill development crawling | Childhood 101

  • Rolls
  • Crawls
  • Sits unassisted
  • Pulls up to standing and stands unassisted
  • Walks with assistance

Fine and gross motor skill development reaching | Childhood 101

  • Reaches for an object
  • Grasps an object
  • Mouths an object
  • Bangs two objects together

Fine and gross motor skill development | Childhood 101

  • Picks up object using a pincer grip (thumb and one finger)
  • Transfers object from one hand to other
  • Claps hands

Toddler (1-3 years)

  • Walks unassisted
  • Runs forward without falling
  • Walks backwards
  • Jumps in place
  • Uses slide unassisted
  • Walks on tiptoe
  • Moves to music
  • Feeds self with spoon, spilling little
  • Pulls toy
  • Pushes toy

Fisher Price Crawl Around Car

  • Turns knobs
  • Pushes buttons
  • Scribbles
  • Turns pages two or three at a time
  • Stacks blocks into short tower

Fine and gross motor skill development stacking | Childhood 101

  • Places rings on stick
  • Places large pegs in board
  • Posts items into an appropriately sized hole

Fisher Price Motor Skill Development | Childhood 101

  • Rolls ball
  • Throws ball
  • Puts on own hat
  • Unzips zipper
  • Removes own shoes, socks, pants

Preschooler (3+ years)

Fine and gross motor skill development balancing | Childhood 101

  • Walks on a line
  • Hops on one foot
  • Runs around obstacles
  • Skips with alternating feet

Fine and gross motor skill development skips | Childhood 101

  • Kicks ball
  • Catches bounced ball
  • Turns single pages
  • Models with clay and dough

Fine and gross motor skill development dough | Childhood 101

  • Strings large beads
  • Cuts with scissors
  • Makes more controlled marks with art materials

Fine and gross motor skill development painting | Childhood 101

  • Spreads soft butter with knife
  • Buttons and unbuttons large buttons
  • Puts on own shoes
  • Washes hands unassisted

How do young children develop motor skills?
Young children need lots of active, playful opportunities to develop both gross motor and fine motor skills. These skills take time and repetition to master, and will often require the child to employ patience, perseverance and/or concentration  – all of which are important long-term learning behaviours.

Encouraging their development can be as simple as taking advantage of everyday learning opportunities, such as involving the child in dressing and undressing, and household chores. Carefully selecting a range of playful activities and toys will also help to encourage motor development. When choosing, consider;

  • The child’s current motor skill development: it is important to choose toys that encourage the child to try and persevere but are not so difficult as to cause frustration,
  • The child’s individual interests: choose toys that reflect and build upon how your child already loves to play to motivate them to keep practicing, and
  • How fun and engaging the experience is for the child.


This post features a number of Fisher-Price products, including;

Fisher-Price Crawl Around Car

The new Laugh & Learn Crawl Around Car. Suitable for babies and toddlers from six months of age, the Crawl Around Car is a sturdy, stationary vehicle that encourages little ones to sit up, crawl, pull up, stand and move all around. The child can push buttons on the dash, move the gear shift and steering wheel, turn the windshield wiper, open and close the car door, send balls scooting down the built-in ball ramp and post blocks through the included shape sorting game.

The Brilliant Basics Rock-A-Stack. Sorting and stacking rainbow style for sitting babies and toddlers.

The Chatter Phone. A Fisher-Price classic, toddlers will love to turn the dial to phone their friends and family members.

What are your children’s favourite motor skill development activities?

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  1. So many lovely idea to get those little muscles moving!

  2. This list is a great reference for parents. Both of my children have been quite slow in developing major motor skill milestones. As babies, they were both very tentative and waited until they were ready and confident before taking off.

    Both of my babies really enjoy using their fine motor skills- which is why we’ll be putting together the sensory board we spotted in your homemade gift round up

  3. The chatter phone such a classic, hope it is around forever.

  4. My kids are both climbers and love to stress their mummy out with how high they can climb up huge playground rope structures. Thankfully they are a bit bigger now and I don’t feel like such a “nervous mother”. This is a great list to refer to, thanks for sharing.

  5. Such a diverse list of activities to develop and strengthen motor skills. Thank you so much for helping me out with my little nephews Christmas pressie. I think he would absolutely love the Laugh & Learn Crawl Around Car.

  6. Love those stacking rings!

  7. Great list. A useful resource. Thanks!

  8. What a helpful list for parents to use! Thanks for sharing.

  9. I love this list. I linked a friend to it when she asked about encouraging crawling. Thanks so much for sharing :)

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