Fine Motor & Gross Motor Activities for Infants & Toddlers

by Erica Loop

    Fine motor skills include small muscle movements of the hands and fingers, dexterity and eye-hand coordination. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, young infants typically only have the ability to rake objects with all five fingers, older babies can use a true pincer grasp and toddlers can manipulate items such as toys easily. Likewise, gross motor skills -- such as large muscle strength, balance and agility -- grow with age. Motor activities for infants and toddlers can help kids to build these burgeoning abilities.

    You can help to build your infant's fine motor skills with simple activities that help to increase typical hand and finger movements of this stage -- according to the AAP -- such as using a pincer grasp, taking objects out and putting them in a container or poking an object with the index finger. One easy activity is filling a play bucket with baby toys or soft blocks. Have your child reach in and take out the objects, then place them back into the bucket. To increase finger control and coordination, give your little one a thick crayon to hold onto and scribble with.

    As your child moves into the toddler years, you can help to build up his fine motor skills with more complex, in comparison to the infant stage, manipulative activities. The AAP recommends giving 2-year-old toddlers blocks -- up to six -- to build a tower with or using books as motor helpers. Thick board books are ideal for practicing skills such as lifting and turning pages. Like older infants, toddlers enjoy using crayons to color and draw with. Although your toddler will still scribble, he may make more purposeful marks and may have the ability to draw lines in different directions on his own.

    Your infant might not have the ability to walk yet, but she is starting to sit and even crawl. The AAP notes that by 7 months, most babies can sit unassisted and crawl or pull themselves up to standing -- while holding on to furniture -- by the end of the first year. The national child development organization Zero to Three suggests that parents support the infant's gross motor development by providing tummy time -- beginning soon after birth -- to help arm, back and muscle strength. Additionally, placing interesting or colorful toys just outside of the baby's reach will make her want to move and explore her environment.

    Now that your toddler is up and on his feet, walking and running, he is ready for more sophisticated types of gross motor play. Movement games, rhymes and dances such as the Hokey Pokey are perfect for 1- and 2-year-olds who are developing muscle control, agility and coordination. Turn on your child's favorite song and free dance to get your little learner up and active or try a more controlled game of Follow the Leader in which you walk and hop around and have your child follow.

    About the Author

    Erica Loop is an arts educator and freelance writer. She has been freelancing since 2010 and writes mostly child development and kids' activity articles for websites such as education.com. She has a Master of Science in applied developmental psychology from the University of Pittsburgh.

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