Your child's hands are getting better and better at performing all sorts of delicate tasks these days. His eyes and his hands are learning to work together, too, which will eventually allow him to create all sorts of marvelous things. Right now, when one hand is busy, the other will probably be on the move, too. This mirroring effect will fade as his nervous system matures.
At this age, your toddler is probably using both hands fairly equally, but soon his "handedness" will begin to show itself. Watch for him to favor one hand over the other when he's eating and coloring — that's likely to be the dominant one later on. (One foot will become dominant, too, so watch to see which one he uses while kicking a ball around.)
Here are a few ways you can encourage your child's fine motor skill development:
- Get him involved in getting dressed. Start the zippers on his clothing, and let him finish them up. Let him practice with buttons, too; even though they're a big challenge, you'll definitely see progress.
- Set the table with a full set of silverware for your child. By now, he should have mastered the spoon and probably the fork as well. The knife is still a big hurdle, but if you let him try it out on soft foods, he'll start getting the idea.
- Play with water. Give your child a chance to hone his pouring skills in the bathtub or the sink. Once he gets better at transferring liquid from one cup or pitcher to another, you can let him do a trial run at the dining table (use small containers to start).
- Let creativity run rampant. Your child's improving dexterity may be most apparent when he's drawing or coloring with crayons and markers (under your supervision, of course). Watch him work at getting a crayon in his hand pointy end down; he'll use his whole fist first, and then his fingers. (By the time he's 5, he'll have mastered the "tripod" grasp.) Your child's random scribbles are probably starting to take circular turns. Soon, a person will emerge from those round shapes. It might look more like a tadpole at first, but that doesn't make it any less remarkable! Give your toddler lines and shapes to copy. He may only be able to do the horizontal and vertical ones right now, but a fascinating process is beginning: learning to set ideas down on paper.