What Is the Difference Between Fine and Gross Motor Skills?

According to Reading Row, fine motor skills refer to small movements made with the tongue, lips, fingers, hands, wrists, toes and feet while gross motor skills refer to movements made with large muscle groups, such as walking and jumping. Many activities require both fine and gross motor skills.

Fine motor skills develop in early infancy, according to Reading Row. From birth to 24 months, a child develops fine motor skills which include grasping for objects, clasping hands together, holding small objects and picking up objects. From 24 to 36 months, fine motor skills include putting on socks, shoes and other clothing; using a spoon; successfully cutting with scissors; and drawing lines and circles. Fine motor skills require movement with small muscle groups and are closely tied to hand-eye coordination, while gross motor skills use large muscle groups.

As Reading Row points out, from birth to 24 months, gross motor skills include reaching for objects, waving arms and legs, crawling, walking, jumping and climbing. From 24 to 36 months, a child’s gross motor skills develop in the areas of running, kicking balls, jumping with both feet and walking on tiptoes. Fine and gross motor skills normally develop together because they are both so essential to carrying out tasks.

According to the Encyclopedia of Children’s Health, fine motor skills can be impaired by injury, illness, stroke or major health conditions such as cerebral palsy and mental retardation.