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Fine Motor Skills

If your child struggles with tasks like writing, drawing, and using scissors you may have heard people mention the term fine motor skills when describing the challenges. But what are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. Children rely on these skills to do key tasks in school and in everyday life.

  • Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists.
  • Children use fine motor skills to do many school-related tasks.
  • There are things you can do at home to help improve your child’s fine motor skills.

What are Fine Motor Skills?

Fine motor skills involve the use of the smaller muscle of the hands, commonly in activities like using pencils, scissors, construction with lego or Duplo, doing up buttons, and opening lunch boxes.

Fine motor skill efficiency significantly influences the quality of the task outcome as well as the speed of task performance. Efficient fine motor skills require a number of independent skills to work together to appropriately manipulate the object or perform the task.

We use fine motor skills to make small movements. These movements come so naturally to most people that we usually don’t think about them. Fine motor skills are complex, however. They involve the coordinated efforts of the brain and muscles, and they’re built on the gross motor skills that allow us to make bigger movements.

Fine motor skills aren’t specific learning skills like reading or math are. But they directly impact how well children can learn and show what they know. For instance, children need fine motor skills to circle an answer in a bubble on a test or write an essay or response.

What ‘skills’ do fine motor skills include?

Academic

  • Pencil skills (scribbling, colouring, drawing, writing)
  • Scissor skills (cutting)

Play

  • Construction skills using lego, Duplo, puzzles, train tracks
  • Doll dressing and manipulation
  • IT use (e.g. mouse and stylus manipulation)

Self-care

  • Dressing (tying shoelaces, doling up sandals, zips, buttons, belts)
  • Eating (using cutlery, opening lunch boxes and food bags)
  • Hygiene (cleaning teeth, brushing hair, toileting)

Note: Visual perception (accurately using vision, ‘seeing’ and interpreting) is not strictly a fine motor skill but directly supports fine motor skill performance.

Why are they important?

Fine motor skills are essential for performing everyday skills as outlined above as well as academic skills. Without the ability to complete these everyday tasks, a child’s self-esteem can suffer, their academic performance is compromised, and their play options are very limited. They are also unable to develop appropriate independence in ‘life’ skills (such as getting dressed and feeding themselves) which in turn has social implications not only within the family but also within peer relationships.

Building Fine Motor Skills at Home

Your child might be able to get support at school if fine motor skills are a challenge. But there are things you can do at home to improve your child’s abilities, too.

  • Discover multisensory techniques that can help.
  • Download free tools to help with handwriting.
  • Try fun activities that can help build fine motor skills.

If you’re concerned that your child is struggling with fine motor skills, contact us today. And get tips for talking to your child’s teacher about issues with motor skills. Together, you can come up with a plan to get the best support for your child.

Karin Visser

Biolink Attention Training Head Office