In the first year infants acquire the basic abilities to grasp, manipulate, throw, bang, shake and inspect interesting objects and toys.
In the second year, toddlers start to engage in more complex hand (fine motor) tasks that require more accurate manipulation and complex motor planning, as well a s anticipation and prediction.
When toddlers pick up, move, inspect and manipulate toys and other interesting objects they are not only refining their motor skills, but also improving their capacity to use their attention to gain important information, solve problems, try different ways to achieve their goals and importantly increasing their own sense of self-efficacy.
Self-efficacy is the belief in your own ability to achieve a goal, the sense of I-can-do-this. Success breeds success, and the more opportunities a toddler has to experience success, the more motivated he or she will be to explore and take on new challenges.
An enriched environment filled with many opportunities to explore, experience and succeed has a profound effect on a toddler's developing brain. Experience shapes and refines the connections between different parts of the brain that underlie optimal development of motor, emotional and cognitive abilities.
But the child also needs to be motivated to engage and explore in order to benefit from the enriched environment.
Toddlers who were born preterm, and those with developmental delay, coordination difficulties, joint hypermobility, low muscle tone, Downs syndrome and autism may need extra help and support learning new fine motor tasks.