Fine, Gross, Small and Large Motor Skills . . . What’s the difference?

Apr 29, 2015
Multi-colored wood stacking toy featured prominently with background blurred. Baby girl in background holding and chewing on one of the stacking toy pieces. Photo credit to @arekeworkuphotography on Instagram.

Photo Credit: @arekeworkuphotography

As a new parent or soon to be mom/dad, you have probably heard the terms, fine motor and gross motor development. These developmental skills are often referenced in magazine articles and even on toy packaging. But for those of you who hear the terms "fine and small motor, large or gross motor development" and find yourself wondering: ‘what’s the difference’? Then wonder no more!

Latino baby girl seated on outside steps playing with the Safari Lion Plush Stacker toy. Photo credit to @emmaadelebf on Instagram.

Photo Credit: @emmaadelebf 

According to the Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, “Motor skills are actions that involve the movement of muscles in the body. They are divided into two groups: gross motor skills and fine motor skills.” Gross or large motor skills include any large movements that are made by arms, legs, feet or even the body as a whole. While fine or small motor skills are smaller actions that require the use of muscle groups like the hands, wrists, toes, fingers, lips and tongue. Usually both types of motor skills develop simultaneously, since so many skills require the combined effort of both small and large muscle groups.


White baby boy rolling sideways on the floor with a mouth-open smile, holding a Winkel teether toy in his hands as he lays on a playmat. Photo credit to @babyledeverything on instagram.

Photo Credit: @babyledeverythingg 

Fine/Small Motor Activities

Just like large motor skills, small motor skills continue to change and evolve into new skills throughout the stages of development. As an infant, fine motor skills can include grasping objects or using the lips and tongue to taste various things. As the child grows, new skills get added to this category of development through actions like: holding a fork or learning to use a pencil or scissors. Small and large motor skill development go hand-in-hand. Through each new skill children continue to master developmental milestones. Continued practice through play and other activities only encourages and supports a child’s ability to control each muscle group. Now that you know more about the types of motor development, here are some ways to support your child through play as they develop their motor skills.

Toys for Fostering Fine/Small Motor Skills:
Black baby girl laying on her tummy looking straight forward with one of the arms of the Baby Whoozit toy in her mouth. Photo credit to @ocean_akin on Instagram.

Photo Credit: @ocean_akin 

Gross/Large Motor Activities

Activities that encourage gross motor or large motor development continue to change as the child grows and develops. Infant and baby activities that would be considered a gross motor skill include: rolling over, sitting up or crawling. As the child grows, additional skills continue to be added to the gross motor category, such as: walking, running or jumping.

Toys for fostering Gross/Large Motor Skills


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