Fine Motor Development:
The Essential Foundations

4 essential foundations for the development of fine motor skills

I like to think of a child’s fine motor development as a 4-legged stool.

Each leg of the stool represents one of the foundations for fine motor skills. When one of those legs is missing, or misshapen, the stool will wobble and topple over. Each of the legs has to be in place in order for the stool to be stable.

If your child struggles to take part in fine motor activities, it may be because one of the "Foundations" is less “stable” or less developed than the others.

This article outlines the Four Essential Foundations for Fine Motor Development and will point you in the right direction for activities to help your child get a good foundation for fine motor development.

If your child seems to be struggling with any of these skills, please ask for a referral to a pediatric occupational therapist! This website is not a substitute for an occupational therapy evaluation and treatment!

Foundation 1: Postural Stability

When the bigger muscles of the shoulder girdle and trunk are strong and stable, the smaller muscles of the arms and hands can move freely in a controlled way.

Therapists refer to this as "postural control and stability".

When a child lacks stability in the shoulder girdle and trunk, he/she may hold the pencil really tightly to try and get more control over it, or may press really hard on the paper. You may also see tension at the shoulders during fine motor tasks.

Trying to use a pencil or scissors without adequate stability of the large shoulder girdle and trunk muscles is like trying to paint a portrait while standing on a wobbly stepladder. It takes huge amounts of effort, is extremely tiring and the results are usually lousy.

Read these pages on my site for more information on shoulder girdle and core stability, and get inspired to try some simple activities to help your child!

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Foundation 2: Tactile Perception

If you are not getting good tactile (touch) feedback from your fingers, it is hard to be accurate with them!

You know how strange dishes feel when you are wearing rubber gloves to wash them? It is hard to tell which piece of cutlery you are washing if you can’t see it. You would not know if you were washing your wedding silver or your everyday fork until you looked at it.

When a child has poor touch perception, the pencil and the scissors may feel as though they are being held with rubber gloves on! 

There is probably not anything wrong with the nerves in the hands, but the brain is not processing the information from the hands properly, and so fine motor development is not optimal.

Kids with poor tactile perception can sometimes be really clumsy with their hands, always dropping small items and letting things slip out of their grasp.

Sometimes they hold items with too much force, so they can "feel" it properly.

Read more about this important foundation for fine motor development and try out the activities in the pages below.

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Foundation 3: Hand Function

Hand function is an Essential Foundation for fine motor development, because the hand and finger muscles need to work well together in order to control pencils and other small objects and tools.

The wrist and forearm muscles are also important, as the position of the wrist and forearm will get the hand into the best position to control pencils, scissors and other fine motor tools.

the hand and finger muscles need to work together well for good handwriting

Giving your child lots of opportunities to get the hands and fingers working together will improve hand strength and dexterity. Cutting with scissors is a really good way to help a child to develop good hand function, so be sure to include lots of scissor cutting in your child's routine!

Click on the images below to view pages on my site that are jam-packed with information and activity ideas to help promote your child's fine motor development.

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Foundation 4: Bilateral Coordination

It may seem like a strange foundation for fine motor development, but if your hands don’t work well together, your ability to do many fine motor tasks may be affected.

Eating with a knife and fork... holding a piece of paper while cutting... tying shoelaces... playing with construction toys, nuts and bolts... all of those fine motor activities need both hands to work together in a coordinated way.

using a knife and fork together requires bilateral coordination

Kids who have poor bilateral coordination skills may end up avoiding those fine motor activities and thus adversely affect their skill development.

Get helpful info and activities on my bilateral coordination pages below!

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Helpful Resources for Fine Motor Development

From Rattles to Writing

This is a helpful resource book for anyone who wants ideas for inexpensive, developmentally-appropriate activities from babyhood to kindergarten - read my full review of From Rattles To Writing to find out more.

Fine Motor E-Books

All my fine motor resources and MUCH MORE are available in an accessible, downloadable format.

Check them out!

Fine Motor Resources from PFOT

PFOT have let me compile my favorite fine motor products on a page of their website.
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Use the coupon code OTmom and get 15% off your order of $35 or more at PFOT

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Free Printable Fine Motor Download!

This free printable download gives you an overview of the essential bases for fine motor development that were covered on this page.

It is part of a set of 3 handouts that I compiled to help parents understand how fine motor skills, gross motor skills and visual perception skills can affect your child's learning.

You will get all 3 handouts absolutely free when you sign up for my newsletter!

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Thank you for visiting - I hope you were helped by the information on this page!

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All Of My Fine Motor Activities In One Place!

Do you want practical activities to help develop your child's fine motor skills with everyday resources?

Are you tired of lists of suggestions that don't show you HOW to do the activities?

My Fine Motor Activities E-Book contains lots of helpful information as well as more than 24 pages of photographed activities to help support your child's fine motor skills!

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Parush, S.; Levanon-Erez, N., Weintraub, N. Ergonomic factors influencing handwriting performance. Work 11(1998) p295-305

Benbow, M. Neurokinesthetic approach to hand function and handwriting . Albuquerque: Clinician’s View, 1995

OT Mom E-Books - mega motor bundle deal

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