What Are Fine Motor Skills?

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all about fine motor skills

The term "fine motor skills" technically refers to one's ability to control the small movements of the hands and fingers, as well as the small muscles of the face and mouth (tongue) and feet.

However, when teachers and therapists use the term, they are usually only referring to the use of the small muscles in the hands and fingers.

Here are answers to some common questions that parents have:


Why Are Fine Motor Skills So Important?

In the preschool years, being able to color with crayons, cut with scissors, paint with a paintbrush and play with small objects such as lego, beads and puzzles, are integral to your child’s development. Your child needs to use the hand and finger muscles accurately in order to keep up with peers in these activities.

Self care activities such as tying shoelaces and using a knife and fork to eat food, all require a degree of fine motor control.

Children who struggle with any of these activities often feel frustrated and their self-esteem suffers when they can’t keep up with their peers.

tying shoelaces

Once formal schooling starts, good control of the hand muscles will enable the child to learn handwriting with a minimum of effort. Many bright children falter in the early years because their great difficulty with pencil control holds them back from showing what they are really capable of.

We know that children who struggle in the early years of school often end up with a negative attitude to learning and don’t live up to their potential in school. And none of us want that experience for our kids!

When your child has to concentrate on just trying to hold a pencil, as the child in this picture has to, there is less brain power to devote to actually learning the work! When a child can write freely and easily, it is easier for him/her to concentrate on writing a great essay, or on answering the exam questions.

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poor pencil grip

What Affects My Child's Fine Motor Development?

Fine motor skills do not develop in isolation from other skills. As with all areas of child development, a lag or delay in one area can impact on other areas of development.

If your child has experienced birth trauma, serious illnesses, physical deprivation or emotional trauma, he or she may be at risk for a delay in fine motor development as well as delays in other skills.

lego fine motor activity

Poor core stability, weak shoulder girdle muscles, weak hand muscles, and poor coordination skills can all impact on your child's ability to use the hand and finger muscles effectively.

If you are in any way concerned about your child's development, please speak to your health professional as soon as possible!

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How Can I Help My Child?

This article on Fine Motor Development will help you to understand the foundational skills that are needed for good fine motor abilities and will also direct you to some fun learning activities to do with your child to help cover every base.

If you are looking for ways to help your child's fine motor development, then check out these scissor cutting pages and fine motor activity pages on my site.


But if you are short of time, and want all the activities and information in an accessible format, then check out my downloadable OT Mom e-books! For the price of a cheap coffee or two, you can have great photographed activities at your fingertips!

I hope you found this page of information helpful! Please sign up for my newsletter if you want to stay in touch with new articles and activities on my site!

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› Fine Motor Skills



References and Resources

Cornhill, H; Case-Smith, J. Factors That Relate to Good and Poor Handwriting.  50(9):732-9 · November 1996 http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.50.9.732

Ohl, A. M., Graze, H., Weber, K., Kenny, S., Salvatore, C., & Wagreich, S. Effectiveness of a 10-week Tier-1 Response to Intervention program in improving fine motor and visual–motor skills in general education kindergarten students.  American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 67, 507–514. Sep/Oct 2013 http://dx.doi.org/10.5014/ajot.2013.008110

Sharp, G. and Thompson, D. (2001-11-27) Biomechanics of the Hand. Retrieved (last checked 2019-01-04) from https://ouhsc.edu/bserdac/dthompso/web/namics/hand.htm

Weintraub, N. ;Graham, S. The contribution of gender, orthographic, finger function, and visual-motor processes to the prediction of handwriting status. The Occupational Therapy Journal of Research; 20(2):121-140 · March 2000 http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/153944920002000203

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