What are motor skills and how many types are they?

As parents and caregivers, we observe with wonder as our children grow and achieve various milestones throughout their early years. From their first steps to their first words, each achievement signifies progress and development. Among these crucial milestones are gross motor and fine motor skills, which form the foundation for a child’s physical, cognitive, and emotional growth.

Gross motor skills

Gross motor skills are movements that include movement and coordination of large core muscle groups such as the arms, legs, and other body parts. Involved in actions such as running, crawling, sitting, standing, walking, jumping, lifting, and kicking.  

Fine motor skills

Fine motor skills activities involve manual dexterity and often require coordinating movements that occur in the hands and eyes, also known as hand-eye coordination. Movements are more controlled and precise and often a well-developed pincer grip is needed. A child would need fine motor skills for actions such as holding pencil or scissors, writing, cutting, threading beads, playing with Legos, and buttoning up their coats.  

Why it’s important to have developed and adequate motor skills?

In life, both gross and fine motor skills are needed for several important aspects of a child’s life:  

  • Physical development: When children are young, they need to develop physically, intellectually, socially, and emotionally. Fine and gross motor skills are crucial because academic success involves children having control over their muscles. They need a strong core and posture to sit at a desk for long periods of time, eye muscles that can track while reading, a good pencil grip, and finger control when writing.  

Physical development includes: gross motor (large muscles), fine motor, eye-foot and eye-hand coordination, midline crossing, direction and orientation, dominance (left or right-handed or footed), body and spatial awareness. 

  • Independence: Having good motor skills gives children independence. Without that control, a baby relies on his mother to hold his bottle, a toddler can’t build her puzzle, and a preschooler can’t unzip his bag to take something out. Just like a child needs to develop language and vocabulary to be able to communicate his needs, building physical skills is the quickest route to independence and being able to do things for himself. 
  • Self-care: Self-care tasks rely on using the small muscles-especially the fingers of the body. Self-care includes tasks such as eating, dressing, tying shoelaces, brushing teeth, washing hands, going to the toilet, preparing simple foods, brushing hair. 
  • Play activities: During the preschool years, children are participating in all kinds of fine motor activities at home and at school. They need a level of fine motor control to be able to participate in these activities, and of course, these activities are further developing their skill in preparation for formal schooling later. 
  • Drawing: Drawing is crucial during the early periods of childhood. As children progress through the stages of drawing, they show their maturity and ever-increasing cognitive understanding through their drawings. Their drawings show their understanding of the world and its concepts, and their ability to hold and control drawing tools like crayons. Drawing a person, for example, is a fine motor milestone that shows a child’s level of body awareness. 
  • Learning to write: One of the most important reasons kids need fine motor control is to be able to learn to write. This is not a skill that should be pushed early but rather one that will develop when children have had years of exposure to play activities, as mentioned above. Teaching a child to write too early does not help them learn to write as their fingers are not even developed enough at a young age. Children need to first develop through play, and when they are mature enough and have the necessary physical control, learning to write will be easy and natural. Fine motor skills are needed for handwriting because children need finger strength and control to be able to hold writing tools and form letters carefully.  


Developmental milestones for fine and gross motor skills that help you in tracking your child’s development.

  • 1-2 years:  
    • Stands and can pick up tiny objects. 
    • Sitting, crawling, and walking independently. 
    • Can turn pages in a book. 
    • Can open a door. 
    • Can walk up and down stairs.  
  • 2-3 years: 
    • Can hold crayons. 
    • Can jump with both feet.  
    • Can draw lines, dots, and circles.  
    • Can cut with scissors.  
    • Can ride a bicycle. 
  • 3-4 years: 
    • Can move fingers independently. 
    • Can draw precisely.  
    • Can dress themselves.  
  • 4-5 years: 
    • Can copy shapes.  
    • Can throw and catch a ball.  
    • Can write numbers and names.  
    • Can use buttons in clothes.  

In conclusion, the development of gross and fine motor skills is a fundamental aspect of a child’s growth, shaping their physical abilities, cognitive capacities, and emotional well-being. As parents and caregivers, understanding the importance of these skills allows us to provide the necessary support and encouragement to help our children thrive.

Remember, the journey to independence and success begins with honing motor skills during the early years. From holding a crayon to riding a bicycle, each achievement builds a strong foundation for future accomplishments. As children master these skills, they gain confidence and a sense of autonomy that will serve them well in all aspects of life.

If you ever find yourself seeking additional guidance or specialized assistance in fostering your child’s motor skills, consider exploring the services offered by Talking Brains Center (TBC) in Dubai. With our psychomotor sessions and occupational therapy, provided in English, French, and Arabic, TBC is dedicated to supporting children in reaching their full potential. Our experienced professionals can tailor interventions to meet your child’s unique needs, ensuring a nurturing environment for growth and development.