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Fine Motor Skills for Kids, Toddlers, and Preschoolers

Written by: Kokotree

Last updated:

fine motor skills

If you’re a parent, you know your child’s development is always on your mind. You want to ensure that they are hitting all of their milestones, which can be especially difficult regarding fine motor skills. 

There are lots of things you can do to help encourage your child’s development in this area. This blog post will discuss some tips for doing just that. So read on for information on how to promote fine motor skills in kids!

Table of contents show

What are motor skills?

Motor skills are abilities that allow us to control our movements. They can be divided into two types:

What is the difference between gross motor skills and fine motor skills?

Gross motor skills involve large muscle groups, such as arms and legs. Fine motor skills involve smaller muscles, such as fingers and hands. 

Motor skills are an essential part of child development and start during childhood. Parents must help their children with these activities to ensure they establish solid movement abilities. Activities that help improve motor skills include playing sports, dancing, and using playground equipment. 

Parents should also ensure their children get enough exercise to develop good motor skills. By understanding motor skills and how to help development, parents can give their children a head start on a lifelong love of physical activity!

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What are fine motor skills? Fine motor skills definition:

Fine motor skills are the ability to control the small muscles in our hands, fingers, and wrists. These skills develop throughout our lives but are especially important during infancy and childhood when we learn to use our hands for tasks such as eating and writing. 

Many everyday activities require fine motor skills; children who struggle with these skills may have difficulty completing simple tasks. 

Occupational therapy can be helpful for children with fine motor difficulties, and OTs can provide exercises and activities to improve muscle strength and coordination. In addition, they can offer advice on how to adapt tasks to make them easier to complete. Children can develop the fine motor skills they need to succeed daily with practice and guidance.

What part of the brain controls fine motor skills?

The part of the brain that controls fine motor skills is the cerebellum. It’s located at the back of the brain and maintains movement. The cerebellum also helps with balance and coordination. Without the cerebellum, we would be unable to perform many of the tasks we take for granted.

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Fine motor skills examples. What are examples of fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills involve the use of the hands, wrists, fingers, and/or the muscles in the feet and toes to complete small, precise movements. Examples of activities that require fine motor skills include writing with a pen or pencil, using scissors to cut paper, assembling small puzzles, playing an instrument, and using a fork and knife to cut food.

More examples of fine motor skills include:

  1. Writing with a pen or pencil
  2. Using scissors to cut paper
  3. Threading beads onto a string
  4. Assembling small puzzles
  5. Drawing, coloring, and painting
  6. Buttoning and unbuttoning clothing
  7. Zipping and unzipping zippers
  8. Tying shoelaces
  9. Using a fork and knife to cut food
  10. Playing an instrument, such as a piano or guitar.

Many take these skills for granted, but they can be difficult for those with coordination issues or other muscle control conditions. 

What are the primary fine motor skills?

This section will outline the five primary fine motor skills. Where there are many different types of fine motor skills, we’ll cover the most important ones and give tips on how to help your child develop them. Here are the five fine motor skills examples for preschoolers.

Grasping.

One of the most important fine motor skills is the ability to grasp objects. This skill begins to develop in infancy and continues to improve throughout childhood. Grasping is vital for tasks such as picking up small things, holding a pencil, and turning a doorknob.

Manipulating.

Another essential fine motor skill is the ability to manipulate objects, including threading beads, turning a key, and using scissors. Manipulating skills begin to develop in infancy and continue to improve throughout childhood.

Pinching.

Pinching is another critical fine motor skill that develops in infancy and continues to improve throughout childhood. Pinching is essential for tasks such as picking up small objects, holding a pencil, and turning a doorknob.

Gripping.

Gripping is another crucial fine motor skill that develops in infancy and continues to improve throughout childhood. Gripping is essential for tasks such as holding a pencil, using scissors, and opening a jar.

Coordination.

Coordination is another critical fine motor skill that develops in infancy and continues to improve throughout childhood. Coordination is essential for tasks such as writing, drawing, and playing sports.

Developing fine motor skills in toddlers.

Developing fine motor skills – which involve the coordination of small muscles in the hands and fingers – is crucial for toddlers. These skills enable them to perform tasks like holding a spoon, turning pages in a book, or manipulating small objects. Activities like stacking blocks, scribbling, or stringing large beads can help develop these skills. Ensuring various such activities in their daily play can significantly aid the development of fine motor skills.

How to develop fine motor skills in preschoolers?

As children enter preschool, fine motor skills become increasingly important for writing, cutting, and buttoning clothes. Regular engagement in activities that encourage hand-eye coordination and finger dexterity can enhance these skills. This can include play-dough manipulation, tracing shapes, using child-safe scissors, or doing simple jigsaw puzzles. All these activities can foster fine motor skill development in a fun and engaging way.

Child with poor fine motor skills.

A child with poor fine motor skills may struggle with tasks that require coordination of the small muscles in the hands and fingers, such as holding a pencil or using scissors. This can impact their ability to perform academically-related tasks and self-care routines. Suppose you suspect your child has poor fine motor skills. In that case, it’s important to seek an evaluation from an occupational therapist or a similar professional who can provide a comprehensive assessment and suggest targeted interventions.

How to improve toddler fine motor skills.

Improving toddler fine motor skills can be achieved through regular practice with a variety of activities. Incorporate toys and tasks that require the use of hands and fingers in your child’s daily routine. Puzzles, building blocks, play-dough, and arts and crafts are excellent ways to build strength, coordination, and precision. Ensure these activities are fun and engaging so your toddler stays interested and motivated.

Fine motor skills for toddlers.

Fine motor skills are the abilities required to control the smaller muscle groups in the hands and fingers. Developing these skills is crucial for toddlers’ growing independence and cognitive development. Simple daily activities like stacking blocks, finger painting, or manipulating buttons and zippers all contribute to fine motor skill development. Each small achievement boosts their confidence and prepares them for more complex tasks as they grow.

Fine Motor Development Definition.

Fine motor development refers to the refinement of the small muscle movements predominantly in the hands and fingers, but also includes the toes, lips, and tongue. It involves performing tasks that require precision, such as picking up small objects, writing, and buttoning clothes. Developing fine motor skills is gradual, evolving from simple reflex actions in infants to highly controlled and deliberate actions in older children.

Why are fine motor skills so crucial for kids?

Fine motor skills lay the foundation for essential life skills, such as dressing oneself, eating independently, and writing clearly. Strong fine motor skills have been linked with academic success later in life. Children who can accurately copy shapes and letters tend to perform better in school.

According to a research study, “Do Gross and Fine Motor Skills Differentially Contribute to Language Outcomes? A Systematic Review“, developing both gross and fine motor skills helps improve language development from infancy to early childhood.

Children’s fine motor development is essential because it helps them build confidence and independence. By assisting children in honing their fine motor skills, parents can give them the tools they need to succeed in school, work, and life. 

Therefore, parents need to support their kids’ fine motor development by providing various fun activities that build coordination and strength.

How do I teach my child fine motor skills?

One of the best ways to help your child develop fine motor skills is to provide opportunities for them to practice. Cooking together, building with blocks or LEGOs, threading beads, and coloring are all great activities that can help to improve dexterity and hand-eye coordination. 

It’s also important to encourage your child to use their non-dominant hand for tasks like brushing their teeth or combing their hair. This will help to develop the muscles in that hand and improve coordination. 

Be sure to praise your child’s efforts and provide positive reinforcement – this will help them to stay motivated and engaged in the activity. You can help your child develop the fine motor skills they need to succeed with patience and practice.

How do fine motor skills affect learning?

Many everyday activities require fine motor skills, such as writing, fastening buttons, or scissors. For children, developing strong fine motor skills is essential for academic success. 

Activities that involve cutting, manipulating small objects, or drawing can help children to develop the hand-eye coordination and strength needed for writing. 

Good fine motor skills are necessary for completing tasks such as solving math problems or filling out bubble sheets on standardized tests. Therefore, it is clear that fine motor skills play an essential role in a child’s ability to learn.

Fortunately, there are many things that parents and teachers can do to help children develop strong fine motor skills. Providing opportunities for arts and crafts, puzzles, and other manipulative activities can give children the practice they need to hone their skills.

When do fine motor skills develop? 

Most babies are born with the ability to grip objects and move with their hands and fingers. As they grow, they gradually develop more refined motor skills. 

Birth to 3 Months.

During the first few months of life, your baby will start to develop fine motor skills. They will begin to reach for and grasp objects and start to bring things to their mouth.

3 to 6 Months.

As your baby grows, its fine motor skills will continue to develop. They will start to be able to pick up small objects and transfer them from one hand to the other. They will also begin to be able to use their fingers to explore different textures.

6 to 9 Months.

During this time, your baby will start to be able to use a pincer grip, which is when they use their thumb and index finger to pick up small objects. They will also begin to be able to stack blocks and bang two things together.

9 to 12 Months.

At this age, your baby will continue to refine their pincer grip, and they will also start to be able to use their thumb and index finger together in a more coordinated way. They will also begin to show an interest in using crayons or markers and may even start scribbling on paper.

12 to 18 Months.

As your baby grows and develops, its fine motor skills will continue to improve. They may start to be able to use utensils such as spoons or forks, and they may also begin using simple puzzles. Additionally, they may start showing an interest in art activities like painting and drawing.

18 to 24 Months.

By age 18 to 24, your child should develop fine motor skills very well. They will likely be able to use scissors and crayons in a coordinated way, and they may even show an interest in more complex art projects like painting or drawing with watercolors. Overall, this is a crucial time for fine motor skill development, and it is essential to encourage your child’s natural curiosity and playfulness as they explore their growing abilities.

As your baby grows, its fine motor skills will also continue to develop. Whether they’re picking up small objects or starting to use crayons, there are many ways that you can help support this development and encourage your child as they explore their world through their hands.

Fine motor skills and child development stages.

Fine motor skills gradually develop through each child development stage and become more refined. This is especially true for the preschool and school-age years when children develop the skills they need to succeed in school.

Stage 1: Infancy.

During infancy, babies begin to develop their fine motor skills. These skills involve using small muscles in the hands and fingers. Babies develop these skills when they can reach for and grasp objects. 

As they grow and develop, they learn how to use their hands and fingers to pick up small objects, turn pages in a book, and build towers out of blocks.

Stage 2: Toddlerhood.

Toddlers continue to develop their fine motor skills as they learn how to use utensils, dress, and brush their teeth. They also begin to develop their gross motor skills, which involve using large muscles in the body. 

Gross motor skills allow toddlers to walk, run, and climb. As they continue to develop these skills, they also learn how to ride a bike and kick a ball.

Stage 3: Preschool.

During preschool, children refine their fine motor skills as they learn how to write their names, tie their shoes, and button their clothes. They also continue to develop their gross motor skills as they know how to skip, jump rope, and play tag. 

Stage 4: Kindergarten and school-age.

As children enter kindergarten, they typically develop the most fine and gross motor skills they will need for the rest of their lives. However, they will continue to refine these skills as they grow older. 

They will learn to write in cursive handwriting and tie more complex knots. Additionally, children will continue to develop their gross motor skills as they participate in sports and other physical activities.

Why does my child have poor fine motor skills?

If your child has difficulty with fine motor skills, or if they have a lack of fine motor skills, you may wonder why this is the case and what you can do to help. Here are some of the causes of poor fine motor skills in children and some tips for improving these skills.

Lack of practice.

One of the primary reasons why a child may have poor fine motor skills is that they haven’t had enough practice. Fine motor skills require a great deal of coordination and practice to develop. If a child has yet to have many opportunities to use their hands and fingers for tasks such as coloring, drawing, or building blocks, they may have difficulty developing these skills.

Poor muscle tone.

Another reason why a child may have poor fine motor skills is that they have poor muscle tone. Muscle tone refers to the amount of tension muscles can maintain. If a child has low muscle tone, their muscles are less able to maintain tension, making it difficult to perform tasks requiring precise movements, such as holding a pencil or using scissors.

Limited range of motion.

A child may have poor fine motor skills because they have a limited range of motion in their joints. This can be due to conditions such as cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy, or it can simply result from tight muscles. A limited range of motion can make it difficult for a child to perform tasks that require them to move their hands and fingers in a specific way.

Poor hand-eye coordination.

Another common reason for poor fine motor skills is poor hand-eye coordination. This means that the child has difficulty coordinating the movement of their hands with what they see. This can make it difficult for them to perform tasks such as buttoning a shirt or tying their shoes.

Sensory processing disorder.

Sensory processing disorder (SPD) is another condition that can cause poor fine motor skills. SPD occurs when the brain has difficulty processing information from the senses, making it difficult to coordinate movement. Children with SPD may have problems with tasks such as writing or scissors because they cannot accurately process what they see and feel.

ADHD.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is another condition that can lead to poor fine motor skills. Children with ADHD often have difficulty sustaining attention on one task, making it difficult to complete tasks requiring precise movements. Additionally, children with ADHD may be more likely to fidget and squirm, which can interfere with their ability to perform fine motor tasks.

Anxiety.

Anxiety is another common mental health condition that can cause poor fine motor skills. Anxious children may have difficulty concentrating on one task, making it difficult to complete tasks requiring precise movements. Additionally, anxiety can lead to physical symptoms such as shaking or sweating, which can interfere with fine motor skills.

Fine motor activities for preschoolers and toddlers, ages 1 to 6.

If your child has trouble with fine motor skills, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many kids have difficulty with tasks that require small muscles in the hands and fingers. Developing fine motor skills in toddlers is straightforward. There are lots of fine motor activities you can do to help your child improve:

Help them practice holding a pencil correctly.

One of the best ways to help your child improve their fine motor skills is to help them practice holding a pencil correctly. The proper way to hold a pencil is to grip it with the thumb and first two fingers, with the index finger resting on top of the pencil. This grip will give your child more control over the pencil and help them write more neatly.

Encourage them to use both hands equally.

If your child tends to favor one hand over the other, encourage them to use both hands equally. This will help to develop the muscles in both arms and will also help your child to be ambidextrous, which can come in handy later in life.

Give them plenty of opportunities to practice cutting with scissors.

Cutting with scissors is another excellent way to help your child develop fine motor skills. Start by giving them simple tasks like cutting straight lines or circles, then move on to more complex tasks like cutting out shapes from construction paper.

Help them practice using tweezers.

Using tweezers is another excellent way to help your child develop fine motor skills. Start by having them pick up small objects like coins or beads and then move on to larger objects like cotton balls or pieces of paper.

Encourage them to play with clay or Play-Doh.

Working with clay or Play-Doh is an excellent way for your child to develop fine motor skills. It allows them to use their hands to mold and shape the material into different forms, which can be both fun and challenging.

Help them practice tying knots.

Tying knots is another excellent way to help your child develop their fine motor skills. Start by having them tie simple knots like shoelaces or neckties, then move on to more complex knots like fishing or sailor’s knots.

Help them practice buttoning and zipping clothes.

Buttoning and zipping clothes is another excellent way for your child to develop fine motor skills. Start with simple tasks like buttoning a shirt or a jacket, then move on to more complex functions like buttoning pants or zipping a dress.

Encourage them to play musical instruments.

Playing musical instruments is an excellent way for your child to develop fine motor and coordination skills. Instruments such as the piano, guitar, and drums all require precise movements of the hands and fingers, which can help your child develop these critical skills.

5 best and cheap fine motor toys for preschoolers and toddlers.

Like most parents, you’re always looking for affordable activities to help your toddler develop their fine motor skills. Here are five great options that won’t break the bank.

1. Wooden Blocks.

Wooden blocks are a classic toy that helps toddlers develop fine motor skills. They can stack the blocks, knock them down, and build towers. Wooden blocks are also relatively inexpensive and can be found at most toy stores.

2. Nesting Dolls.

Nesting dolls are another classic toy that helps toddlers develop fine motor skills. They can stack the dolls, nest them inside each other, and carry them around. Nesting dolls are also relatively inexpensive and can be found at most toy stores.

3. Peg Boards.

Pegboards are a great toy for toddlers to help them develop fine motor skills. They can place the pegs in the holes, stack them on top of each other, and make patterns with the pegs. Pegboards are also relatively inexpensive and can be found at most toy stores.

5. Magnetic Tiles.

Magnetic tiles are an excellent toy for toddlers to help them develop fine motor skills. They can stack the tiles, connect them, and make patterns with the tiles. Magnetic tiles are also relatively inexpensive and can be found at most toy stores.

5. Play-Doh.

Play-Doh is a great toy for toddlers to help them develop fine motor skills. They can squish it, mold it, and make shapes with it. Play-Doh is also relatively inexpensive and can be found at most toy stores.

Fine Motor Skills are essential for kids, toddlers, and preschoolers.

Fine motor skills are essential for toddlers as they develop hand-eye coordination and dexterity. These skills will help them with writing, tying knots, and buttoning clothes. 

There are many different ways to help your child develop their fine motor skills, including playing musical instruments, using tweezers, and building towers of wooden blocks.

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