Gross and Fine Motor Skills Explained

Anyone in the baby and nursery industry will have heard the terms ‘gross motor skills‘ and ‘fine motor skills‘ used in product descriptions and articles about children’s toys and products. These are regarded as important things to develop, but what exactly do these terms mean? Leading baby and nursery wholesaler, Baby Brands Direct, is here to explain the difference between these two key skills and why they’re so important in the early years of a child’s life. 

Fine motor skills

Fine motor skills are important, as these are essentially the ability to use the small muscles in our hands – such as those in our wrists and fingers. We use our hands and fingers so much every day that most of the time, we aren’t even aware that we are using them! From working on the computer, to eating and drinking, our hands are an essential tool in day to day life. Kids will need fine motor skills in order to learn to dress themselves, tie their shoes and clean their teeth. Children are constantly learning and developing in their early years, so boosting their fine motor skills as soon as possible is very important, as this will pay dividends in the years to come and in later life. 

Many activity toys feature buttons or switches which can be pressed or turned on, helping to fine tune baby’s movements and hand-eye coordination. This often also teaches cause and effect as the buttons may result in lights or sounds, helping baby to understand that their actions have an effect on the world around them. Small toys, such as figures and playsets, construction toys and shape sorters, can help to improve the dexterity of little one’s fingers, ensuring that they are able to control even the tiniest of movements.

Their bodies will grow used to the delicate movements it will take to manipulate a block into the right position – which will come in handy when it’s time to learn how to self-feed. Baby Brands Direct stock a huge selection of products that are perfect for encouraging confident self-feeding, with cutlery and cups that take into account the still developing fine motor skills. 

Gross motor skills 

If fine motor skills are what let us do small movements of wrists and fingers, then you can probably work out that gross motor skills are movements of larger muscles that control our ability to walk, stand, run and stretch. Gross motor skills are all about being able to control the movements of muscles in our legs, torsos and arms. They impact balance and coordination.

These movements seem simple but they are made possible by a series of complex instructions from your brain to your body. If these skills don’t develop, this can lead to mobility problems later in life, so developing these functions in baby’s early years is essential. Fine motor skills are also built upon gross motor skills – meaning that these skills are definitely something to focus on during play. 

Activity toys that get kids up and moving are perfect for developing gross motor skills. Walkers and push or pull along toys help naturally encourage movement and toys that get baby to chase them like VTech’s Crawl with Me Elephant and Play and Chase Puppy are great ways to make moving fun! Activity tables are also good for getting kids to move without thinking, as often they need to move round the table to get to all the fun stuff! Janod’s wooden kitchen playsets are also good options – as they inspire kids to crouch and reach to open cupboards, lift items and turn knobs. 

Many toys have elements that challenge all of these skills, with use of both large and smaller muscles coming into play. In order to build confidence in movement, encourage independence and set up essential skills for life, it is imperative that babies are introduced to products that enhance their fine and gross motor skills.

Baby Brands Direct, leading wholesaler for baby and nursery goods, has a great range of toys that are designed to improve these important skills. Retailers are encouraged to take a look at our preschool toys and educational toys pages to find products that will appeal to parents’ needs for developmental toys, as well as their little ones desire for fun!