Fine and Gross Motor Skills: 1-3 Years


This will be a time of tremendous development for your child. They may follow timelines less closely, but they will be developing exciting new skills all the time. It will be really important to supervise, since it’s easy for children to fall as they stand, walk and explore more—and since they like to put things in their mouths. 

Give your child time outdoors. Let them run and play. Climbing in and out of boxes is a favorite game. Remember to watch them closely when outside—they can move pretty fast when they want to! Give your child a large piece of paper and a large crayon and allow them to scribble. Work with them to solve simple puzzles that have only a few big pieces. Let them pick the pieces up and guide their hand as they place them.

12–15 Months

  • Pick up tiny objects using only thumb and forefinger (pincer grasp)
  • Point and probe with forefinger
  • Hold something out for you to take (they won't always let go)
  • Walk with one or both hands held, or walk alone without support
  • Rock to rhythm while standing alone
  • Stoop to pick up things on the floor

15–18 Months

  • Try new ways to fit things together
  • Take covers off containers
  • Throw a ball while sitting or standing
  • Explore their world by climbing to things out of reach
  • May start potty training (don’t rush—go at the child’s own pace)

18–21 Months

  • Walk up stairs, holding an adult's hand (or a railing)
  • Climb and stand on a chair
  • Roll a ball
  • Feed themselves
  • May help to dress themselves
  • Begin to recognize, name and pick out common objects

21–24 Months

  • Walk with more direction to their movements and remember familiar places as well as things that happened at those places
  • Kick a ball forward without losing balance
  • Walk up and down stairs alone (while holding on to a railing)
  • Jump and stand on tiptoes
  • Enjoy music and begin to develop a sense of rhythm

2–3 Years

  • String large beads
  • Hold scissors correctly (use blunt-edged scissors)
  • Scribble and mark with crayons
  • Walk between two straight lines
  • Jump or walk backward
  • Copy vertical and horizontal lines
  • Cooperate in dressing
  • Close snaps and unbutton large buttons
  • Pedal a tricycle
  • Run without falling
  • Play on swings, ladders and other playground equipment with a fair amount of ease
  • Jump about 8 inches from a standing position (broad jump)
  • Open and close scissors (use only blunt-edged type and, please, supervise!)
  • Drink from a small cup or glass without help (they may still spill a lot)
  • Drink from a cup using a straw
  • Use the toilet without help
  • Begin to cut with blunt-edged scissors

Read more about infant and early childhood mental health.

Learn more about toddlers' language development.

Learn more about toddlers' brain development.