Fine and Gross Motor Skills of Preschoolers: What Parents Can Expect as Children Grow

As the parent of a preschooler, you will want to compare your child’s motor skills to the average developmental skill level to gauge their growth and development. Motor skills are the motions that occur as a result of a child’s brain, nervous system, and muscles working together. Although each child develops different skills at different rates, it’s helpful to get a basic idea of the milestones they should be reaching at each stage. Since motor skills are supported by many areas of the body, they are a helpful guide for parents to access their child’s development early on. It’s also a great way to tell if your child in naturally inclined towards any physical skills, so you can encourage them to develop their unique talents.

Here’s what you need to know about fine and gross motor skills for young children and the average ages these skills start to develop.  

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills involve using smaller muscles and movements, such as grasping small items or holding utensils. It’s important that small children develop fine motor skills, so the small muscles of their hands, fingers and toes can become strong and dexterous. These skills also include the small muscles of the tongue and lips necessary for language. As fine motor skills in preschoolers improve, young children are able to do simple tasks, such as feed themselves.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 2-3

  • Creating things, using their hands, such as building towers using wooden or plastic blocks.
  • Scribbling with crayons.
  • Molding Playdough or clay into simple shapes.
  • Inserting shapes into matching holes, such as placing round pegs into round holes.
  • Preferring one hand over the other one, which can signify if a child is right or left handed.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 3-4

  • Showing more independence in trying to dress or undress themselves.
  • Manipulating zippers, snaps and other garment fasteners.
  • Starting to use round-edged or blunt scissors.
  • Using spoons and forks.
  • Being able to use large crayons, markers and other types of thicker writing tools.
  • Twisting off lids from jars.
  • Opening and closing doors by turning door knobs and pulling handles.

Fine Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 4-5

  • Continued refinement of fine motor skills, such as being able to unbutton or button clothing without help.
  • Improved artistic abilities, such as drawing simple shapes and stick figures.
  • Drawing large letters.

Gross Motor Skills

Gross motor skills don’t require as much precision as fine motor skills do. Besides involving movement, gross motor skills entail arm and leg coordination, in addition to moving other large parts of the body, such as crawling, running and swimming.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 2-3

  • Running, hopping and jumping, which typically occurs after toddlers start to walk smoother, faster, and with more confidence.
  • Throwing and catching large balls.
  • Using the feet for pushing themselves when maneuvering a toy car.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 3-4

  • Improved upper body mobility, which enables children to catch and throw large balls.
  • Hitting a stationary ball from a tee.
  • The onset of stair climbing, although somewhat awkward—At this age, climbing stairs is usually done cautiously, in which both feet land on a step together before proceeding to the next step. Parents need to assist their kids in stair climbing to prevent falls. They should especially be on hand when their kids descend stairs
  • Hopping and jumping higher because of stronger leg muscles with some children being able to hop on a single foot.
  • Starting to ride a tricycle due to the improvement of overall body coordination.

Gross Motor Skills: Milestones for Children from Ages 4-5

  • Ascending and descending stairs without assistance.
  • Skipping.
  • Spinning the body when throwing a ball.
  • Riding tricycles or even bikes with better control at faster speeds.
  • Running faster and smoother.

Considerations and Warnings

  • Toddling, which is a movement, which pertains to a wide-legged posture that resembles robot-like motions, can be a clue that walking will soon begin.
  • Before most young children start kindergarten, they’re able to totally dress and undress themselves without assistance even though it can take a while.
  • As parents, you can help your preschoolers develop their fine motor skills at home, such as showing them how to cut and paste, use a zipper, clap their hands, build with blocks, do simple puzzles and manipulate crayons and pencils.
  • Once young children learn how to twist off lids, it’s critical that parents keep containers containing harmful substance out of reach.

Do you have a child who will soon be old enough for preschool? Maybe you’re a new mom. If so, it’s not too soon to start thinking about preschool and giving your son or daughter a quality early childhood education. Besides helping preschoolers with basic motor skills and developing their cognitive and social abilities, at Tessa International School we also introduce them to other cultures and languages, which can prepare them to be leaders of the 21st century. Please contact us and learn more about our exceptional preschool in Hoboken, New Jersey.