Developing Toddler Motor Skills

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 stage.

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 they’re ready.

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 five. For resources for the Christian family, including parenting, toddler and preschool activities, homeschooling, family traditions, and more, visit

avatar Rachel Paxton (30 Posts)

Rachel Paxton is a freelance writer and mom of five. For resources for the Christian family, including parenting, toddler and preschool activities, homeschooling, family traditions, and more, visit

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