'Focus on' Friday: Fine Motor Skills

On Fridays from now on, I’ll be focus on specific topics relevant to the Early Years that I think are important.

Today I want to focus on fine motor skills.

I found this definition at http://k6.boardofstudies.nsw.edu.au/linkages/ContentLinks/links_fmskills.html and I think it sums these skills up beautifully.

"The components of fine motor skills can be considered to be:

  • Grasping -eg using a crayon, pencil, brush, glue stick, beater, blocks
  • Manipulating - eg playdough, clay, unifix, centicubes, paper, sewing, scissors, fingerplays
  • Hand-eye co-ordination - eg writing, cutting, threading, moving a cursor, using a glue gun"

I’ve always thought of fine motor skills as having two components –

  • strengthening and building up the muscles in the fingers, wrists and hands; and then
  • training the brain to manipulate those muscles effectively.

These muscles develop according to how much they are used and which means it’s really important to think of ways kids can use fine motor skills everyday. Of course, the best way to do this is through fun, open-ended play.

Some play activities that are beneficial to fine motor skills are quite obvious. Like






Using scissors

But there are loads of other activities that use fine motor skills too ...

Playing with plastic animals and toy cars

Playing with playdough

Digging in sand

Squelching messy goop, slime or yoghurt

Serving pretend ‘food’ with spoons and tongs


Putting on dress up clothes

Doing puzzles

Building with small blocks

Dressing dolls

Feeding dolls and giving bottles

Pouring water

Turning the pages of a book

Singing songs that involve actions like “Where is Thumkin?”, “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star”, “Open, Shut Them” and “Incy, Wincy Spider”

Doing puzzles

The best way to build fine motor skills is to practice, practice, practice and when this practice is linked in with a play scene, game or activity your child really enjoys, he won’t even realize he’s doing it.

Unfortunately, poor fine motor skills can have a devastating effect on your child’s self-esteem. The inability to write and draw along with friends or perform basic tasks like putting on jackets and doing up buttons can make a child feel terrible, I’ve seen this first hand. The best way to help a child overcome this is to get them involved in one of the play ideas above as often as you can and to find the help of an Occupational Therapist to assess your child and help him fine-tune his skills.

To get an idea of what fine motor skills are developmentally appropriate and different ages and stages, there’s a great “Fine Motor Development Chart” on the Sensory Processing Disorder website which you can look at here. The “National Childcare Accreditation Council” and “Fingergym” both have some more detailed info on fine motor skills if you’d like to read more too.

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