What are Fine Motor Skills?
Lots of parents hear the word ‘fine motor skills’ during parent/teacher meetings or on occupational therapy reports, so what does it mean?
Fine motor skills refers to the coordination between small muscles, like those of the hands and fingers, with the eyes. Fine motor skills are essential throughout your life & their necessity becomes especially apparent during the school-years when kids begin to write, use scissors, learn to dress themselves, complete art & craft projects, maybe learn a musical instrument etc.
There are also lots of fine motor skills that are very important for self-care skills & for kids to become independent with things like managing cutlery, opening lids & packets, brushing & tying up hair, brushing teeth, wiping after the bathroom, washing their hair etc.
Sometimes, gross motor skills (larger movements including the body) are given more practice & time than fine motor skills but they are equally important. However, lots of parents report finding it easier to motivate some children to create an obstacle course than colour a picture, hence why their gross motor skills gets more practice. I think fun, creative and engaging fine motor games are essential to motivate kids to practice their fine motor skills. That's why I created motor skill programs that are playful, themed and very FUN! You can learn more about my Preschool Program (3-6 year olds) & School Aged Program (Octobox for 5-9 year olds) by clicking on each of them.
Let’s see if we can list the fine motor skills necessary for a child to be fully independent with effectively brushing their teeth:
The child must be able to hold the toothbrush with the correct grasp and isolate their wrist & forearm movements in order to turn the toothbrush.
He/She must have the strength and dexterity to open & 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 how can I develop my child's fine motor skills?
Like any skill, FINE MOTOR SKILLs can be improved with practice but the task must be appropriate to the child's developmenal stage & graded to the child’s ability. This will allow the child to feel success while developing the underlying skills necessary to master the bigger task.
So how do I choose developmental appropriate activities? I discuss the developmental stages of fine motor skills including activities & toys that can used at each stage on My OT University which you can access by clicking here. You can also see the first part of this video series in the Free Resource Kit which you can access by clicking here.
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 your child gets stuck,then you work from that point until they are successful.
Let’s practice grading with the skill of cutting with a scissors:
- The child must have the muscle tone to maintain postural control while seated. Learn more about muscle tone in my other blog post.
- The child must have a dominant hand and the bilateral integration to be able to hold one page while cutting with the other.
- The child must have the strength and dexterity to hold the scissor and open and close it.
- The child must have the wrist isolation to turn their wrist so their thumb is on the top and the scissor is straight.
- The child must be able to cut straight lines.
- The child must be able to cut straight shapes.
- The child must be able to cut curved lines.
- The child must be able to cut small unusual shapes.
So if your child is stuck on step 1- you need to work on their postural control & ability to process sensory input. This can be advised by an Occupational Therapist (OT). You can also learn about these areas through My OT University.
If yourchild is stuck on step 2- you need to practice activities that encourage bilateral integration & crossing the midline until they develop a dominant hand. Activities are listed in my blog post here.
If the child is stuck on step 3- you need to work on the child’s hand strength and dexterity. My motor skill programs are full of fun activities that work on strength, dexterity & scissor skills. Learn more here.
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 Steps 5-8, the child should be encouraged to practice those lines before moving onto the next. The scissor skills booklet on my Free Resource Kit moves through each of these steps nicely; you can access it here.
Hope you found this blog post helpful, let me know if you have any questions,
Get practicing ✂️
CONTENT DISCLAIMER: Jessica Kennedy is a Certified CORU Registered Occupational Therapist. All information on the website is for informational purposes only and is not a replacement for medical advice from your physician. Please consult with a medical professional if you suspect any medical or developmental issues with your child. Do not rely on the information on the website as an alternative to advice from your medical professional or healthcare provider. You should never delay seeking medical advice, disregard medical advice, or discontinue medical treatment as a result of any information provided on the website. All medical information on the website is for informational purposes only. All activities outlined on the website are designed for completion with adult supervision. Please use your own judgment with your child and do not provide objects that could pose a choking hazard to young children. Never leave a child unattended during these activities. Please be aware of and follow all age recommendations on all products used in these activities. My OT & Me is not liable for any injury when replicating any of the activities found on this blog or website.