Develop Your Child's Fine Motor Skills

Article supplied by Melissa Joyce van Oordt of EduHelp

© 2009 This material is Copyrighted and CAN NOT be used without the direct permission of the Author.

What are fine motor skills and how are they relevant to our daily lives?

Fine motor skills are our smaller movements and we use the smaller muscles to control that movement. Fine motor-skills involve strength, dexterity and fine motor control. This includes activities like writing, grasping small objects, buttoning and tying shoelaces. Fine motor skills are crucial in several school activities, as well as, in general life skills.

This skill allows the individual to be able to eat, write legibly, use a computer, turn pages in books and perform personal care tasks, which include grooming and dressing1. So you can just imagine how valuable these activities listed below are to your three to six year old child in becoming a competent, stable and independent adult.

A child with fairly strong co-ordination and fine motor skills should be able to dress themselves, tying shoelaces, buttoning their shirts and zipping their clothes. All children will battle with these originally, it is essential that as a parent you instil independence in them and let them dress themselves, originally with assistance, then with minimal assistance and finally independently.

Never focus on several things at once, if you are teaching a child to button a shirt, then assist them with their shoelaces and zipping. Once they have accomplished buttoning then always allow them to button, then you move onto zipping, once that is accomplished then shoelaces, eventually the child will be dressing themselves.

Remember for a child it is even difficult to find the correct holes in clothing to insert their heads, arms and legs, how to identify the front from the back and whether it is inside out or not. So start slowly and build up their self-confidence simultaneously. Small achievements are far more rewarding than trying to accomplish huge goals.

Luckily there are many rewarding activities for a child to do in order to enhance the fine motor skills.

Be aware here that if a child does not enjoy a particular activity or complains of being bored this is a true sign that their hands have become tired and they do not have the necessary strength, dexterity and fine motor control that is necessary for them to progress effectively through school yet. If the child does complain rather set smaller time periods for the activity and build the time up as the progress by adding a minute or so, every few days. A child should be able to do one of these activities for 20 minutes without difficulty, unless they have impaired concentration or weak fine motor-skills. My suggestion is start all activities between 5 and 10 minutes, and adjust according to your child. Start with easier materials such as games and then progress onto harder materials for example writing sheets.

Games that will develop your child's fine motor-skills are Jenga and Pick up Sticks.
To add to their benefits both of these games involve logic and planning. The child has to plan and determine which piece to remove first and then they are required to make small movements, using fine control and their dexterity to remove the piece they have selected without collapsing the rest. The longer they can play these games their strength, dexterity and control will improve and another added bonus is so will their concentration and logic skills. The use of hands in both games is perfect to enhance fine motor-skills.

If you find your child tends to be creative than logical perhaps attempt Origami first.
Origami is another great favourite amongst children, especially amongst artistic children, the fine control skills used to create these tiny little paper works will truly enhance your child's motor ability. Creative children will truly enjoy this pass time as they develop tiny works of art from paper, this will stimulate their imagination and their artistic side. Do not limit your child to simply doing Origami you can also cut and paste, to create other forms of artwork.

Cutting is fantastic for co-ordination.
For younger children there are even purely plastic scissors available, these scissors can only cut through paper. Furthermore, similar to the games mentioned above these exercises will also develop concentration. So remember not to pressure your child and build the time up slowly, adding a few minutes every day or so, aiming for 20 minutes fixed concentration on one activity.

A game that involves both logic and creativity that enhances fine motor skills is the puzzle.
Puzzles are ideal for several reasons, they involve small movements, piecing intricate pieces together, logic and creative skills. The use of a child's hands in puzzles is primary to the development of their motor-skills. It involves grasping small objects and connecting them together. Puzzles not only develop fine motor skills but they also develop your child's logic, visual perceptions, visual comprehension and analysis abilities, puzzles truly are ideal in so many ways, and the blessing is that there are even two piece puzzles for your three year old, so there is no reason not to start developing your child's education from an early age. Remember even using building blocks (in younger children) and Lego will achieve similar levels of abilities as using puzzles.

There are even more other materials you can use with younger children, such as, dough.
For children ages 3 to 5 use dough, for 6 and older use model clay. This also involves a little judgment if you feel your 6 year old's motor skills are weak, use dough first. Using these assists in strengthening the child's hands. The child will learn to have better control over their hands, and as their skills increase, the results will show in their artwork. Remember when working with these materials, the child must pinch, squash and squeeze the dough or clay. To ensure they are working the entire hand. Rolling and small insignificant movements are not going to develop their fine motor-skills, but pinching, squashing and squeezing will.

Dough and clay can also assist in their creativity, see what they are making and ask questions: “What is this?” “Where does it come from?” “Does it have a name?” “Is it a girl or a boy?” “Is it happy or sad? How do you know?”. This will develop their imagination and comprehension skills. Also by asking questions on the end product we are furthering their interest in their own development and art work. It is extremely rewarding for a child when an adult asks questions about their activities, the child perceives this questions as interest in them, thus building selfconfidence and self-worth.

Painting, chalkboards and colouring in are beneficial in the development of a child's creativity, education and fine motor-skills.
Be sure to alternate between stubby and thin paint brushes during a painting session , the thinner paintbrush focuses on finer controlled movements in the so-called writing fingers (thumb, index and middle), whilst the larger brush requires the entire strength of the hand original to maneuver. Its is preferable in younger children to do activities like painting and chalk boarding standing up and using a vertical upright easels, flannel boards and chalkboards.

When your child is colouring or drawing ensure that they hold the pencil, crayon or chalk in the tripod grip2. The equal pressure between the thumb, the index finger and the middle finger around the pencil allows for easier, quicker writing and the use of the tripod grip avoids physical problems in the hand, fingers and wrist. Similarly, when using dot to dot patterns and writing sheets, the pencil grip must be correct. It is important to try not lift the pencil or crayon when doing dot to dot patterns as this strengths control and techniques. These will serve the child greatly when they start writing. Writing sheets start with patterns the objective is to complete an entire row without lifting the pencil, using the correct pressure and copying the pattern (size, height and width).

Good luck in developing your child's fine motor skills so that they can fulfill their role in society!

Every child deserves a chance, and providing them without the right foundations will certainly give them that extra boost.

Remember fine motor skills are the base to good writing, and good writing is key to being able to communicate! What better gift to give your child other than the gift of EXPRESSION!


1 Logsdon, Ann. 2009 “Fine Motor Skills; Learn about Fine Motor Skills and How to Improve Them” About.Com: Learning Disabilities The New York Times Company accessed on 16 November 2009

2 The Tripod grip is when the writing utensil is located between the thumb, index and middle finger, the tip of the writing utensil's foundation is on the middle finger, whilst the end of the writing utensil falls in the area between the thumb and the index finger
Article supplied by Melissa Joyce van Oordt of EduHelp
© 2009 This material is Copyrighted and CAN NOT be used without the direct permission of the Author.