Developing Toddler Motor
By Rachel Paxton
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
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 four. For more inspirational
articles and tips for everyday living, visit