Baby’s Fine Motor Skill Development – Timelines, Activities and Developmental Delay

6 min read

Written by Aparna Hari

Aparna Hari

`Baby's Fine Motor Skill Development

Have you ever noticed how babies start using their hands and fingers to hold and grip things without being taught to? Some babies do it early while some babies take time. These skills that involve small groups of muscles such as hands, wrists or fingers are known as fine motor skills. These fine motor skills will help babies hold toys of different sizes and give them the ability to play with fine sand too.

Developing these muscles and learning to use them well is very important. Babies start becoming independent as they develop their fine motor skills. So, what skills can you expect your baby to learn by which age? Let us take a deeper look into these aspects.

In This Article

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

Fine motor skills are the movement and usage of the smaller muscle groups in the upper limbs – hands, wrists, and fingers. As your baby learns to use their smaller muscle group well, they start doing things like grasping, grabbing and making a pincer with a finger and thumb on their own without help.

Some of the activities your child will start doing on their own as fine motor skills develop are:

  • Eating on their own
  • Writing
  • Brushing teeth
  • Buttoning their shirt
  • Holding toys, comb and other small objects
  • Picking things up

Baby’s Fine Motor Skill Development After Birth – Milestones

Fine motor skills develop as the baby uses their smaller muscle groups. The more they use it in different ways, the faster their development will be. Developing fine motor skills is a natural process and does not need any intervention in most cases.

Here is a rough estimate of what you can expect from your child in terms of fine motor skills, at various stages of their lives. Remember, these are just an estimation. Each child is different and will cross milestones at their own pace. Just because your baby developed the skill earlier or later than what is mentioned here, does not indicate anything to worry about.

Birth to Three Months (0 to 3 Months)

By the time your baby is 4 months old, they will have better hand-eye coordination. As a result, you can expect the following fine motor skills to improve:

  • The babies’ clenched fists relax, and they open their hands more.
  • Babies reach for things at arm’s reach.
  • They can bring their clenched fists to their mouths.

[Read : Why Do Babies Clench Their Fists?]

Four to Six Months (4 to 6 Months)

They are a little older and stronger. Both gross motor and fine motor skills develop around this time. your 6-month-old can:

  • Hold both hands together.
  • Shift things from one hand to another (try giving them a toy).
  • Can hold an item and shake it without dropping as the grip is firmer.

Seven to Nine Months (7 to 9 Months)

When your baby is 9 months old, they are rolling and sometimes even crawling. Their hands are getting stronger by holding their weight. Being the curious little ones, around this age, you can expect your baby to:

  • Hold an item tight and even squeeze it.
  • Rake and reach for items close to them.
  • Tries to touch fingertips to one another.
  • Can point and touch items with their index finger.
  • Hold items with both hands in a coordinated movement.
  • Clap hands.

Ten to Twelve Months (10 to 12 Months)

Your baby is a year old. You can see a noticeable difference between what each child can do around this age. You can expect your one-year-old to:

  • Hold and eat finger foods by themselves.
  • Use thumb and index finger to hold things (pincer grip).
  • Bang things in a coordinated movement.
  • Take and give items when you ask them to.
  • Use just one hand to hold toys (they won’t reach out with both hands to grab anymore).

[Read : When Will My Baby Develop The Pincer Grasp?]

List of Top Activities to Encourage Fine Motor Skills in Infants

activities to improve Baby's Fine Motor Skill Development

Any parent would love to do their part and help improve their child’s development. If you want to improve your child’s skills, you can try the following activities:

1. Try Tummy Time

Tummy time is an important part of developing baby’s fine motor skill development. You can start doing this even before they turn a month old. Start with a few seconds and push up the time as they get comfortable. Tummy time improves upper body strength and helps develop hand-eye coordination.

2. Encourage Pincer Grasp Activities

The more the activities require them to use their pincer grip or lift small things, the better will be their baby’s fine motor skill development. If your child is unable to lift small items, give them bigger items for a while. Let their grip get stronger and then you can slowly decrease the size of items.

3. Engage With Crayons

Giving them a pencil or a crayon may not be the right choice as their pincer grip is just developing. You can try bigger size crayons that are designed to help such small children to use colors.

4. Other Activities

When they are sitting up or during tummy time, you can try the following –

  • Leave toys scattered close to them, to encourage them to move and grab things they want.
  • Give them a rattle or a toy that can make noise when used.
  • Make them pick things from one basket and drop them in another.
  • Let them play with a shape sorter.
  • Finger painting.
  • Play with toys that involve banging.
  • Fix puzzles.
  • Stacking toys.
  • Sensory play (introduce different textures, sizes, and shapes).

[Read : 8 Creative Sensory Activities For Babies]

Signs of Delay in Developing Fine Motor Skills in Babies

Baby's Fine Motor Skill Development

When you are a parent, it is quite natural to worry about your child’s development milestones. If you are a first-time parent, you are bound to ask and compare what another child is doing at the same time.

You need to learn how to recognize a delay in their development instead of worrying constantly. Since some children take more time than others to show development, it’s important to give your child the time.

If your child exhibits the following, you need to check with your doctor:

By 8 Months

  • Unable to or not even attempting to roll over even after the 6 months mark.
  • Fists are still clenched like in infancy, even when they are 8 months old or more.
  • Unable to lift their upper body during tummy time even at 8 months mark.

By 12 Months

  • Is unable to hold their own bottle for around 10-12 months times.
  • Unable to wave, clap or bring hands together by age 1.
  • Arms are stiff and unable to lift anything like toys or other objects around them.
  • Unable to drop toys into large containers for around 12 months.
  • Is unable to hold and eat finger foods or use a cup and spoon when they are almost a year old.

Babies develop reflexes on their own but for achieving milestones, they need to be shown or taught. If your child does not have exposure to various activities, you cannot expect them to do them smoothly on their own.

For example, if you have never shown or encouraged your child to self-feed with a spoon, you cannot expect them to eat from a cup and spoon around the 12-month mark. Show them, teach them and if they are physically unable to do it, then start worrying.

Fine motor skills are crucial for all humans. Babies are all different and each will develop this skill in their own time. do not rush or compare unless there is a big delay.


1. If My Child Does Not Hold Things by Month 6, Should I Worry?

In case the baby is not able to hold at all, then it is a cause for concern. If they can hold but not for long, it may not be an issue with their motor skills.

2. Does a Delay in Fine Motor Skills Development Indicate a Delay in Cerebral Development?

Not always. Sometimes it could be a physical delay. If their muscles are still weak and not strong enough to cope with developments at that age, there can be a delay.

3. Do Pre-Term Babies Take More Time to Develop Fine Motor Skills?

Yes, many of them do. If a baby is born at 34 weeks, they still have 6 weeks until they can be on par with a full-term baby. You need to remember this gap and be more patient with a pre-term baby.

Read Also: Baby’s Sense of Taste Development – Timelines And What to Expect

Aparna Hari,MBA in Marketing,P.G. Diploma in Human Resource Management from IGNOU Bachelor of Sciences (Home Science) from Nagarjuna University

Her experience in impactful writing combined with her background in Home Sciences makes Aparna the perfect candidate for content writing in the pregnancy and parenting niche.Read more.

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