What Are Motor Skills?

Motor Skills

Stacking cups are good early development toys. These toys appear as simple toys but they facilitate learning in many ways. One of the areas stacking cups are good at is developing a child’s fine motor skills as well as gross motor skills. Humans need to use motor skills to perform certain functions like holding a water bottle, walking, running, jumping and many more. Development of these sets of motor skills should be given priority and there are many toys that help children develop these essential skills.

So we talked about how good stacking cups are for early development particularly developing fine motor and gross motor skills. But what exactly are motor skills? Let’s take a closer look at motor skills and how they help us function everyday.


Motor skills are a set of skills and learned abilities using a group of muscles to perform a specific action. Regular practice and use of these skills result in performing certain actions with maximum certainty and precision. One of the objectives of using motor skills is to optimise how our body’s ability to perform actions with reduced energy consumption. To simply put, motor skills allow us to do purposeful movements using our bodies’ groups of muscles easily.

Types of Motor Skills

Motor skills are categorised into 2 - fine motor skills and gross motor skills.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are a set of skills or abilities that involve using a smaller group of muscles to perform actions and movements with our hands, wrists and fingers. At an early age, babies do not have developed fine motor skills. You can notice this when they start using their hands to hold and pick up things. Instead of using their hands and fingers, they often use their entire hands including the palm to hold and pick up objects and toys.

Fine motor skills allow us to perform precise actions like using a pencil to write on a piece of paper, using a pair of scissors or tying shoelaces. Toys that encourage manipulation and repositioning are highly recommended for babies and toddlers. Stacking cups are good examples of these toys. Stacking the cups on top of each other allows children to practice and develop their fine motor skills.

Unfortunately, loss of fine motor skills is possible when used over a long period of time. There is also a possibility of impairment of fine motor skills due to injury and illness.

Gross Motor Skills

Gross Motor Skills are sets of skills and abilities that involve using a large group of muscles and whole to perform purposeful movements and whole body actions like jumping, walking, standing, sitting upright and many more. Most of these skills are acquired and developed during early childhood. Many toys and play activities facilitate development and improvement of these skills. Outdoor activities and or any toy that encourages a child to move and become mobile are good for developing gross motor skills. Children continue to refine their gross motor skills into adulthood.

Unlike fine motor skills, most gross motor skills can be retained or remain unchanged even if not used after a long period of time.


Next Up: What Develops First - Fine or Gross Motor Skills?

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