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What are the fine motor skills?

mom showing a toy to her baby so she practices her fine motor skills

Key points:
1. Fine motor skills involve precise hand and finger movements.
2. Progress from reflexive grasping to purposeful object interaction.
3. Key milestones: transferring objects, holding two items, and the pincer grasp.
4. Encourage fine motor skills through various engaging activities.

Your baby will reach countless milestones during her first year. The most noticeable and exciting ones will be the gross motor skills like turning, sitting, crawling, standing, and maybe even those first steps! But don’t look past your little one’s fine motor skill development, or her hand and finger skills –they’re quite significant as well.

Fine motor skills require the use of small muscles in the fingers and hands. They refer to the ability to make precise movements with the hands like buttoning up a shirt, picking up a cereal flake off the floor, or writing. The development of these might be harder to notice if you’re not focusing on them, but they are just as exciting as gross motor skills because they lead to exploration, independence, and learning.

When your baby was born, you probably noticed her hands were clenched tight most of the time. If you placed something like your finger in one of them, she held on tight because of the grasping reflex. After a few weeks, and getting used to being outside the womb, you’ll see your baby open and close her hands. Try placing a small object in one of them and she’ll probably hold on to it, maybe even give it a shake by three months.

Then, months four to seven will bring even more interaction with her environment. At first, your baby will just swat at objects, attempting to grasp them, but at around six or seven months, you’ll notice a change and see how she can accurately reach for something and grasp it using her whole hand. Observe how your baby interacts with different objects and you’ll notice slight but important milestones, like transferring an object from one hand to the other, and holding two objects at the same time.


Around nine to twelve months, fine motor skills begin to refine and you might see the beginning of the pincer grasp. The pincer grasp is a fine motor skill that allows your baby to pick up small objects between her index or forefinger and thumb. Your little one will delight in picking up everything she finds on the ground and, with her improved coordination, she will investigate the objects she encounters more thoroughly –opening new doors to learning!

Remember that every baby develops at their own pace. These are just guidelines for development, and are by no means definitive. However, there are many ways to promote your baby’s fine motor skills. Kinedu has a bunch of ideas –check out this video for an example!

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