Fine and Gross Motor Skills

To find out if your child's fine and gross motor skills are developing within normal limits for his/her age you can visit the following web sites:

Pathways Awareness Foundation is a national non-profit organization dedicated to raising awareness about the benefit of early detection and early therapy for children with physical movement differences. This is a great site for your infant or toddler.

Can Child is the centre for childhood disability and research located at McMaster University.

The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists provides occupational therapy shortcuts for teachers and parents, suggestions and tips for children, and strategies for increasing kids' physical activity.

The following activities can help to enhance fine, gross and visual motor skills in your infant, toddler and preschooler. Keep in mind that learning occurs when you are having fun.

  • Encourage a variety of fine and gross motor play and activities
  • For your infant, activities that encourage bringing hands together and reaching for dangling toys are excellent. Toys should be small enough to fit in little hands and safe for the mouth. Toys that can be held with two hands are great.
  • Crawling is a great activity to develop and strengthen your child's hands, arms and legs.
  • Use baby equipment (infant swings, exersaucers, jolly jumpers) sparingly since time on the floor is crucial for proper development.
  • Infants develop strength by moving. Provide him/her with various positions. place your infant on his/her tummy to play throughout the day.
  • For your toddler, play with balls, sand and water play, blocks and pegboards, simple puzzles, large chunky crayons, finger-paints, play doh, riding and push toys.
  • For your preschooler, tongs and clothespins are great for building hand muscles and developing scissor skills.
  • Activities that require a pincer grasp will help build the muscles needed for pencil grasp. Putting pennies in a bank, play with marbles, small peg pegboards to name a few.
  • For preschoolers, encourage jumping, hopping, running, riding a tricycle and climbing on play equipment.
  • Take advantage of community programs such as swimming, music, skating, gymnastics, dancing, soccer and Tai Kwan Do. Those programs that include parents can be a lot of fun for the family and will give you ideas for things to do with your infant, toddler or preschooler
  • Don't forget to stimulate your child's sensory systems, at every age, with lots of movement, sights, sounds, and smells.

The following activities can help enhance fine motor and printing skills in your school-age child. The more fun the activity is, the more likely they are to cooperate! This is only a start. Feel free to use your imagination and your knowledge of your own child's interests to expand on these ideas.

Printing/writing activities

  • keep a daily and/or travel journal
  • write letters and thank-you notes to friends and relatives
  • write shopping lists
  • crossword and other word puzzles
  • write poems or short stories
  • use sidewalk chalk
  • draw/write on blackboard
  • tape mural paper to the wall and let your child draw, write, etc. with various media (pencils, markers, crayons, pastels, paint)
  • Use non-traditional media to practice print and cursive letter formation
  • shaving cream
  • plasticine flattened on a cookie sheet
  • hand lotion on tin foil
  • form letters in the sand
  • make letters out of Wikki Stix, Silly Putty, play dough etc.

Household chores

  • washing and drying dishes
  • cooking and baking activities (stirring, measuring, rolling out dough for cookies or pizza, tossing salads, etc.)
  • squeezing sponges to wash walls, floors, or the car
  • weeding the garden
  • polishing silver or shoes
  • folding laundry
  • opening jars
  • using spray bottles (e.g. to wash mirrors or windows)
  • sewing
  • beadwork


  • play games such as Boggle that require printing
  • play card games-don't forget to have your child shuffle and deal the cards
  • ball activities
  • skipping rope
  • playing with Legoes and other building blocks
  • building models
  • spinning tops
  • playing marbles
  • dressing/undressing dolls

The following activities can help gross motor development of your school age child. This is just meant as an example of games. Let your imagination guide you as well in your play with your child. Try different games out and adapt it according to the abilities of your child. It is important that it is fun and the children feel successful in the game!

1. Balancing

  • Walking and when 'stop' is called out the child has to freeze in that position
  • Walking over a rope which can be put down in different shapesStanding on one foot and write a word or a letter in the air with the other leg - a second person guess what is written in the air
  • The game 'statue': the child balances on one or two feet - a second person moves the arms, the head, etc. like a statue. The child tries to hold this 'statue' as long as possible
  • The game 'twister'

2. Jumping

  • Jumping over a moving rope (like a snake or a swing movement)
  • Jumping over and off obstacles (ropes, steps, curbs, etc)
  • Jumping high to reach for a line on the wall.
  • Hopscotch

3. Rolling a ball

  • The game 'Bocce'
  • For children unable to throw a ball for rolling activities, such as bowling or bocce, use a ramp to ensure success.

4. Throwing and catching

  • Use beanbags, scarves and rolled up socks to assist catching with two hands.
  • A ribbon attached to a ball helps to slow it down and makes it easier to catch it.
  • A large thrown ball that is soft and lightweight, such as a balloon or a beach ball, reduces the fear of catching.
  • Receive a bounce pass
  • Use different catching devices e.g. bucket, plastic scoop, velcro glove (using tennis balls and Velcro pads)

5. Kicking

  • Use large light balls (balloons, beach balls)
  • Place beanbags on students' feet and ask them to try to kick them off

6. Walking

  • walking with music
  • walking with a map
  • treasure hunt
  • walk to play grounds

Getting your child involved in sports in the community is an excellent way to develop a healthy and active lifestyle.

George Jeffrey Children's Centre • 200 Brock Street East Thunder Bay, ON • 807-623-4381