Areas of Child Development: Fine Motor Skills
This refers to the physical skills needed to make small movements i.e. the small muscles, specifically their hands and fingers. Fine motor skills start developing almost at birth as they grasp reflexively, followed a few months later when they place their fingers in their mouth, and by 6 months old, when they begin to grasp at objects.
Fine motor skills involve more precision to perform than gross motor skills (don’t tell a soccer player we said that though!) and requires a number of independent skills (like hand-eye coordination, hand control, body awareness, and patience) to work together to perform the task at hand (no pun intended) and do things like play with toys, dress themselves, feed themselves, draw and write.
Young children need time to practice their fine motor movement every day. Whether they're picking up cheerios to eat for snack or trying to pull up the zipper on their jacket, it might be tempting (and far quicker) to take over and do it ourselves, especially when we're in a rush, but we must remember that these are all essential activities for fine motor development. So take a deep breath and wait it out :-)
Why are fine motor skills important?
Fine motor skill development is a precursor to developing good handwriting skills. The more opportunities a child has to pick up small objects (pincer grip), and manipulate and exercise the small muscles in the palm of his hand, the better control and strength he'll have later on, when coloring, cutting and forming letters.
But it's not just about having neat hand writing! Little hands need to develop dexterity and strength to do every day things like tying their shoe laces, getting dressed, self feeding, etc. Think about your ever day life and how often you use your fine motor skills. Here are just a few examples:
tying a knot
threading a needle
sports (like pool or darts)
using a key
turning a door knob
playing musical instruments
playing video games
using a keyboard
turning pages of a book
picking up toys from the floor!!!
Tips to help promote fine motor skills include:
- Giving your child finger food so they can practice their pincer grip
- Playing with a variety of different toys which require fine handling or precision like building blocks, lacing beads, closing lids, pressing buttons, flicking switches, etc.
- Art – scribbling, painting, drawing, coloring, writing
- Self-care – zipping up jackets, doing up buttons, putting on gloves and socks
- For a full list, see our round up of best toys and activities to promote fine motor skills.