How to work on my child's fine motor skills?

Lots of parents hear the word ‘fine motor skills’ during parent teacher meetings or on school reports so what does it mean? Fine motor skills are skills that require the use of your hands and the necessity of these skills remains vital throughout your life especially in school where we have to write neatly, sharpen our pencil, open our lunch and bottles, fasten buttons, tie our laces, zip our jacket, cut with a scissor and paint with a brush, glue small pieces, tear crepe paper in craft, play the tin whistle......

So basically there are a lot of skills and these continue to improve as we become an adult but unfortunately can regress again as we become elderly. 

There are also lots of fine motor skills that are important at home like using cutlery, tying up hair, dressing, drawing, brushing our teeth......

Let’s see if we can list the fine motor movements & skills necessary for brushing our teeth:

The child must be able to hold the toothbrush with the correct grasp and isolate their wrist movement to turn the toothbrush 

He/She must have the strength and dexterity to squeeze the toothpaste

He/She must be able to turn on and off the tap

And thats just the steps that require fine motor skills- we haven’t even considered all the other components. 

So what can you do? 

Like any motor skill- fine motor skills can be improved with practice but they must be graded to the child’s level. This will allow the child to feel success while developing the underlying skills necessary to master the bigger skill. So how do I grade an activity? Well firstly, you need to consider all the small steps in a task and figure out at what point that child gets stuck- then you work from that point until they are successful. Let’s practice grading with scissor skills:

  1. The child must have the posture to be able to sit upright or be in supported sitting
  2. The child must have a dominant hand and the bilateral integration to be able to hold one page while cutting with the other
  3. The child must have the strength and dexterity to hold the scissor and open and close
  4. The child must have the wrist isolation to turn their wrist so their thumb is on the top and the scissor is straight. 
  5. The child must be able to cut straight lines
  6. The child must be able to cut straight shapes
  7. The child must be able to cut curved lines
  8. The child must be able to cut small unusual shapes

So if the child is stuck on step 1- you need to work on their core strength and trunk control first and adapt their seating. Activities such as wheelbarrow walks, Superman pose and trampoline. 

If the child is stuck on step 2- you need to work on lots of bilateral hand activities and crossing the midline until they develop a dominant hand i.e driving a truck across the midline, drawing across the page, crawling through a tunnel etc.

If the child is stuck on step 3- you need to work on the child’s strength and dexterity i.e theraputty exercises, opening containers, threading, buttoning etc.  

If the child is stuck on step 4- you need to work on the child’s wrist isolation i.e twisting a sponge, twisting theraputty, opening jars and lids and zipping.  

With the other steps you just need to continue working on that step until it improves. 

If your finding it hard to improve on these steps- a referral to an OT is always helpful! 

Get practicing ✂️ 

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