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Foundation: Fine Motor

California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations.
The developing ability to move the small muscles
8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of age, children easily reach for and grasp things and use eyes and hands to explore objects actively. (6 mos.; Alexander, Boehme, and Cupps 1993, 112)

At around 18 months of age, children are able to hold small objects in one hand and sometimes use both hands together to manipulate objects. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 40)

At around 36 months of age, children coordinate the fine movements of the fingers, wrists, and hands to skillfully manipulate a wide range of objects and materials in intricate ways. Children often use one hand to stabilize an object while manipulating it.

For example, the child may:

  • Reach for and grasp an object, using one hand. (5–8 mos.; Introduction to Infant Development, 2002, 62; by end of 7 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 205; 7–8 1/2 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Use hand in a raking or sweeping motion to bring a toy closer. (7–8 mos.; Parks 2004; by end of 7 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 205; 7–8 mos.; Frankenburg and Dodds 1990)

  • Hold a small block using the thumb and fingertips. (item right before scaled score of 10 for 7:16–8:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 127)

  • Hold a small block in each hand and bang the blocks together. (Scaled score of 10 7:16–8:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 127)

For example, the child may:

  • Hold a crayon between fingers and thumb. (13–18 mos.; Slater and Lewis 2002, 62; scaled score of 10 for 17:16–18:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 131)

  • Scribble with big arm movements. (13–18 mos.; Introduction to Infant Development, 2002, 62)

  • Place pegs into a pegboard. (16–19 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Hold a toy with one hand and use the fingers of the other hand to explore it. (By 18mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 40)

  • Point to the pictures of a book. (By 18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 40)

  • Place a stacking ring on the post. (By 18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 40)

  • Use two hands to pick up a big truck, but only one hand to pick up a small one. (12–18 mos.; Parks 2004, 81)

  • Use the wrists to rotate objects in order to explore all sides. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 40)

  • Use one hand in opposition to the other. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 40)

For example, the child may:

  • Use child-safe scissors in one hand to make snips in a piece of paper. (Scaled score of 10 for 34:16–35:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 136; 28–35 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • String large wooden beads onto a shoelace. (33–36 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Build a tall tower with six or more blocks. (28–31 mos.; Parks 2004; by the end of 24–36 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 305)

  • Turn the pages of a paper book, one at a time. (By end of 24–36 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 305)

  • Twist toy nuts and bolts on and off. (By end of 24–36 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 305)

  • Open a door by turning the round handle. (By end of 24–36 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 305)

  • Use one hand to hold and drink from a cup. (By 36mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 77)

  • Place a wooden puzzle piece in the correct place in the puzzle.

  • Use thumb, index, and middle fingers to draw or write with a crayon, marker, or pencil. (Scaled score of 10 for 21:15–22:15 and 35:16–36:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 136; by 36mos.; Apfel and Provence 2001, 33)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (4 to 7 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Transfer a cloth from one hand to another. (6 mos.; Alexander, Boehme, and Cupps 1993, 110; scaled score of 10 for 5:16–6:15 mos.; Bayley 2006)

  • Pull the spoon out of her mouth. (6 mos.; Alexander, Boehme, and Cupps 1993, 111)

  • Reach toward a toy and make grasping motions with the hand. (4–6 mos.; Lerner and Ciervo 2003)

  • Reach for a second toy when already holding one in the other hand. (5–6.5 mos.; Parks 2004, 49)

  • Hold one block in each hand, then drop one of them when the infant care teacher holds out a third block. (6.5–7.5 mos.; Parks 2004, 50)

  • Have the hands in an open position when relaxed. (4mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 14)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (9 to 17 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Hold on to two blocks while reaching for another block. (8–10 mos.; Parks 2004, 50)

  • Use thumb and index finger to pick up a piece of cereal. (Scaled score of 10 for 9:16–10:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 128)

  • Drop a block into the wide opening of a large container. (9 mos.; Alexander, Boehme, and Cupps 1993, 157)

  • Turn the pages of a board book. (Scaled score of 10 for 9:16–10:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 128)

  • Use hands to follow along with some motions of a song, chant, or finger play. (Scaled score of 10 for 9:16–10:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 87)

  • Grasp onto and pull the string of a pull toy. (9–12 mos.; Parks 2004, 51)

  • Point with the index finger. (12 mos.; Coplan 1993, 3; scaled score of 10 for 11:16–12:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 129)

  • Stack two to three small blocks into a tower. (Scaled score of 10 for 13:16–15:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 130)

  • Unscrew the lid of a plastic jar. (Scaled score of 10 for 14:16–15:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 62)

  • Put pieces of cereal inside a container with a small opening. (Scaled score of 10 for 16:16–17:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 130)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (19 to 35 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Fold a piece of paper. (21–24 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Dump a container by turning it over. (By 24 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004)

  • Use a crayon to draw lines and circles on a piece of paper. (Scaled score of 10 for 27:16–28:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 134; 30 mos.; Squires, Potter, and Bricker 1999; by 30 mos.; Apfel and Provence 2001, 33)

References for the Perceptual and Motor Development Domain

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Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | itfoundations@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 17, 2019
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