Fine motor skills in the first 2 years of life

As an occupational therapist I am often asked what exactly are fine motor skills, and how do I know if my child needs more support in their development of these skills? 


What are fine motor skills?


Fine motor skills involve the use of smaller muscles in our hands, wrists and fingers that help us to perform everyday tasks such as dressing ourselves, writing, tying our shoelaces and eating with a knife and fork.

These tasks involve a number of underlying skills to coordinate so that a task can be completed to the best of the child’s ability. These include being able to isolate each finger, using two hands together with one leading, and hand and finger strength.


From birth, children use their hands to explore their own bodies and the world around them. Learning more about your baby or toddlers fine motor development can help you incorporate fun activities through play to target areas of concern.

Although children develop at different rates, today I am going to break down typical developmental milestones for fine motor skills from birth all the way to 2 years of age. 


0-6 months

  • Brings hand to, or near the mouth
  • Placing their hands in their mouth
  • Hands are more relaxed 
  • Begins reaching with both hands at the same time 
  • Reaches and holds or shakes a small toy using both hands 


6-12 months

  • Reaching and putting objects in mouth
  • Transferring objects from one hand to another
  • Picking up smaller objects with their thumb and one finger
  • Pointing with their index finger
  • Banging objects together
  • Controlled release of toys

1-2 years

  • Building simple towers with three or more blocks
  • Turning thick pages of a book
  • Painting or drawing using a fisted grip and whole arm movements 
  • Finger feeding
  • Bringing spoon to mouth
  • Putting shapes into a shape holder 
  • Spontaneously scribbles 


For older children you can explore some fine motor skills development practices found in this infographic.


It is important to remember that children develop at different rates and that their fine motor skills will develop over time with exposure and experience using these skills through play and everyday actions. 


If you have any concerns or questions about your child’s fine motor skills, please contact us on 3265 4495, email [email protected], or feel free to book in a consultative session online to chat with one of our Occupational Therapists.

Helena Manicaros


Occupational Therapist