Kids and Motor Skills: Understanding Developmental Milestones (Part 1)

This is the first of a two-part blog post on the topic. Check back soon for part two!

Activities from drawing to drumming to holding a cup all require the use and coordination of the small muscles in your hands. Easy for us, but for your children, they can be more challenging. Therapists like me refer to these actions as fine motor skills.

As children age, they refine these movements, most of which rely on coordination and the synchronization between hands and fingers as well as the eyes. While kids are improving their visual motor skills, their young brains are actually combining visual perception, the fine motor movements we mentioned, and their larger, or gross, motor skills.

The development of fine motor skills and visual motor skills are critical aspects of your child’s development, because mastery of these skills allows them access to their environments.

For toddlers at home, the process of developing these techniques can move at a rapid pace, and as the child develops, these skills becoming imperative in preschool and beyond.

Parents may not know if your child has delays in visual and fine motor abilities. Let’s consider the guidelines for your child’s first year as they relate to these physical skills:

0-3 months: Holds an object in each hand at the same time.

3-6 months: Bangs two objects together, transfers an object from one hand to the other and plays with a rattle when placed in hand.

6-9 months: Picks up small objects using a thumb-and-forefinger grasp; pokes items with the index finger; holds or supports a bottle to drink; purposely pulls of socks; feeds self “finger foods.”

9-12 months: Scribbles spontaneously, holds crayon with an adaptive grasp, which is not the same as an adult grasp; removes rings from a ring stacker; cooperates in dressing/undressing and handwashing.

As we consider these timelines and the actions, it’s important to remember that the pace described above is a general guideline based on research. Some kids will develop skills more rapidly. Some children will slowly learn, and then have a “spurt” where they take off and run with these new talents – much to the chagrin of mom and dad.

During baby’s first year, we encourage you as parent to keep an eye out for the changes and if you’re concerned progress is too slow, make an appointment with your qualified occupational therapist. We can provide an in-depth evaluation of your child’s fine motor skills, their visual motor skills and assess their development. In most cases, they’re fine, but it can reassure mom and dad to know everything’s on track.

Melissa Brissette

By Melissa Brissette

Occupational Therapist, OTR/L at Avera Therapy - Mitchell Pediatrics/Integrated Therapy Services

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