Kids & Parenting
Developing Toddler Motor Skills
by Rachel Paxton
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If you have a toddler, you already know that he or she is a
little bundle of endless energy! My twin boys turned two several
months ago, and they have been non-stop action since they learned
to walk. There is never a dull moment! It's been a long time
since I've had a toddler in the house and I had forgotten how
quickly they grow and how much they learn during this toddler
At this age toddlers are developing many motor skills. There are
two main types of motor skills: gross motor skills and fine motor
skills. Gross motor skills involve large muscles, and are
strengthened by walking/running, climbing, and general play.
Fine motor skills involve mostly the hands and fingers and hand
to eye coordination. Your toddler will strengthen many of these
abilities on his or her own, but there are many ways you can
encourage and help them to develop their motor skills.
Eating and Grooming
The easiest way to encourage your toddler to develop motor skills
is to have them help with everyday activities like feeding and
grooming themselves. Toddlers are famously messy when eating,
but this is the age when they should be using a spoon and fork to
feed themselves, as messy as it may be. This will greatly help
their fine motor skills and hand to eye coordination. Your
toddler will also enjoy dressing and undressing, combing their
own hair, and brushing their own teeth.
Drawing and Coloring
A toddler as young as 18 months old is capable of coloring. I
didn't know this until my boys brought home their first coloring
page from Sunday School. I couldn't believe it! Toddlers love
to scribble. Walmart sells some great oversized coloring books
that my boys love to color in. Sit and color with them and show
them how to hold the crayon. My boys love to take the crayons
out of my hands and tell me "no" when I try to color on the same
page with them!
Puzzles and Shape Sorters
Puzzles and shape sorters are great for toddlers 18+ months old.
Again, I was surprised at how young my boys were able to place
pieces into a wooden puzzle. It took them a couple of months to
figure out which pieces went where and to be able to turn the
pieces just the right way to fit into the puzzle, but it kept
them busy for 10-15 minutes at a time and it was amazing how much
they remembered each time they sat down to do their puzzles.
Shape sorters are also great. We've had several different ones,
and the boys have responded better to some than others. We found
a neat one at Baby Depot that is shaped like a toolbox on the
outside and is a shape sorter on the inside. My boys have spent
many hours figuring out which shapes go where. The toolbox makes
a sound when the shape is placed in the correct hole.
Songs with Hand Motions
Toddlers love to sing and dance. Songs with hand motions are a
great way for toddlers to learn fine motor skills. My boys
started doing small hand motions at around 18 months old, but
after about age 2 they were ready to do most of the hand motions
to their favorite songs. Some of their favorites: "Itsy-Bitsy
Spider", "Patty Cake", "If You're Happy and You Know it Clap Your
Hands". Sunday school favorites include: "Deep and Wide" and
"This Little Light of Mine".
Free Play and Exercise
Playing is a great way to develop both gross and fine motor
skills. Running, jumping, hopping, and skipping are all skills
your toddler will eventually master. I'll never forget the first
time one of my boys jumped. He squatted all the way down on the
ground and threw himself up in the air with his hands all the way
up, and jumped about a half an inch off the ground. It was the
most hysterical thing I'd ever seen. When you catch your toddler
doing these types of activities you can encourage them to keep
doing them to develop these skills.
While your toddler may or may not be ready for a tricycle yet,
this is a good age to introduce one to them, so they will know
what's expected and be ready to jump on and pedal away when
My boys are also working on mastering climbing jungle gyms at the
park, and playing "catch". Throwing and catching a large ball is
great for developing your toddler's hand to eye coordination. At
first just have your toddler hold out their arms and throw the
ball into their arms so it is easy for them to catch. They will
soon get the idea!
Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of four. For more
inspirational articles and tips for everyday living, visit
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