A child cutting paper with scissors with text in front that says What do parents need to know about milestones? Spotlight on fine motor development

What Do Parents Need to Know about Milestones? A Spotlight on Fine Motor Development

Fine motor development, like any development, is not the same for every child. Children may be advanced in some areas of development and slower in other areas. This blog is meant to give caregivers an overview of developmental milestones based on research. If your child is not reaching these milestones, remember that each child develops at their own pace.

Every mom seems to have some version of this story:



You're at a restaurant and you hand your sweet 12 month old their bottle to drink out of. The sweet, older lady at the table next to you glances your way and says, "How old is your baby?" When you answer, her eyes narrow and she responds with, "Oh...when my babies were little they could drink from a cup by a year old."

I am sure unsolicited parenting advice pairs well with your salmon, right?

Perhaps your version of this story happened at the grocery store or a moms' group. Maybe it was about your child's behavior or their eating habits. Sometimes this advice is well-intended. But the end result is often the same... frustration and doubt. You wonder if you should be doing something different or you feel judged by this person who barely knows you. 


My oldest daughter, who is now 7 years old, was a late walker. She didn't truly walk until almost 17 months old. She was ridiculously fast at crawling and did not see the benefit of learning to walk. It only slowed her down! By the time she was 12 months old, I had already heard a string of comments about her not walking yet. These comments ranged from "My sister's neighbor's daughter walked at 7 months old!" to "Have you talked to her doctor about it? You really should!" to "Aren't babies supposed to walk by a year?" None of these comments were helpful. None of these comments were solicited. Most of these comments were not even accurate. The comments only increased as she got closer to the 18-month mark.


Now, I have a degree in child development and countless years working with young children. I knew beyond a doubt that my daughter was fine. Logically, I knew that the average age a baby learns to walk is 14 months old, with the range being from 8-18 months. You would think that would allow me to shrug off this unwelcome commentary.


Yet in those moments, I allowed doubt to creep in. I allowed people I barely knew to make me worry. I allowed misconceptions about how and when babies develop to make me question my baby and myself.


I cannot do much about people offering unsolicited advice. Nor can I magically make your Mom Guilt and worry disappear. Where's the fairy godmother with that magic? What I can offer is some insight into what development looks like in the early years. This can, hopefully, alleviate some worries or doubts you may be feeling.


I want to reassure you that milestones occur within a range. Some children may hit these milestones a bit early or a bit late but most children will fall within the range. If you do ever have a concern, start a conversation with your child's doctor. They can do an assessment or direct you to a specialist who can. Even if your child does hit a milestone later than expected, it isn't usually a cause for concern. They may just need some extra support to master a new developmental skill. You can read more about the building blocks of fine motor skills here.

As a teacher who has taught both preschool and 5th grade, I can assure you that by the time children get to upper elementary school, I cannot tell you who walked at 9 months, who didn't potty train until 4 years old, or who learned to write their name at 2 years old. The milestones that seemed so monumental to their parents when they were in the thick of it were eventually mastered and had become a distant memory.


That's not to say milestones don't matter. Many milestones are needed as a foundation for future skills. 


This month, we are spotlighting Fine Motor Development from birth to 6 years old. Fine Motor Development is often associated with handwriting but it is much more than that. It is an important part of play, life skills, and many academic activities. You can read through the milestones below. 


0-3 months

  • Hands primarily in a fisted position
  • Arm movements are mostly uncontrolled
  • Can open & close hands
  • Reflex grasp when an object is placed on the palm
  • Starts to hold small objects in two hands
  • Uses the whole arm to swing/target objects

3-6 Months

  • Can reach for objects with two hands
  • Holds hands together
  • Mastering controlled reach
  • Begins to hold objects in one hand
  • Begins to transfer objects between hands

6-9 Months

  • Pokes & points with the index finger
  • Begins to grasp and hold onto objects
  • Brings objects to mouth
  • Explores objects with tongue
  • Begins to hold a bottle during feedings
  • Squeezes object with a fist

9-12 Months

  • Begins to self-feed finger foods
  • Begins to turn pages, often a few at a time
  • Pincer grasp begins (thumb and index finger)
  • Can transfer objects across the midline
  • Can hold a crayon with a fisted grasp
  • Can put objects in a cup/container
  • Hand preference may start to emerge

12-18 Months

  • Can stack 2-3 blocks
  • Claps hands together
  • Waves hello and good-bye
  • Begins to use tools (spoons/shovels) to scoop
  • Mastering putting objects in containers
  • Begins to scribble with crayons
  • Can use signing to express wants and needs

Lovevery is my favorite brand for high quality, durable wooden blocks. You can purchase your own set here.

18-24 Months

  • Eats (with minimal assistance) independently
  • Can put shapes into a shape sorter 
  • Can turn knobs
  • Can hold and drink from a cup independently
  • Paints using whole arm and broad strokes

You can check out my favorite shape sorter from Melissa & Doug here.

2-3 Years

  • Begins to string beads
  • Can stack 3-6 blocks
  • Can make snips with scissors
  • Can turn single pages in a book
  • Holds crayon with fingers and thumb in the preferred hand
  • Imitates vertical and horizontal strokes

3-4 Years

  • Able to open zipper and containers
  • Can stack up to 10 blocks
  • Can trace lines & copy circles and crosses
  • Hand Dominance is emerging, the other hand is used to stabilize
  • Cuts roughly around an object with scissors
  • Dresses independently (with minimal assistance)

4-5 Years

  • Can cut along a line continuously
  • Holds pencil with a tripod grasp
  • Can copy a square, letters, numbers (1-5)
  • Can color inside the lines
  • Can write name
  • Can complete 24-48 piece puzzle
  • Can do self-care tasks, like brush teeth


Hands down, Ravensburger has the best jigsaw puzzles for kids. The pieces fit together with ease and these puzzles hold up to even the toughest play. This is the perfect holiday or birthday gift for 3-6 year olds. Grab a Ravenburger puzzle here.

5-6 Years

  • Can write numbers and letters independently
  • Can use a tripod grasp and move fingers (not wrist) to generate writing motion
  • Can copy a triangle
  • Can complete cut & paste projects
  • Can use a knife & fork to eat
  • Can complete 48-100 piece puzzle


If you have a question about Fine Motor Milestones, drop a comment below. I would love to talk to you!

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