Fine motor skills refer to the small, precise movements that we make with our hands, fingers and wrists. These skills are important for every day tasks such as writing, drawing, cutting with scissors, buttoning clothes, and tying shoelaces. These skills play a role in other areas of development, such as self-care, social skills and cognitive abilities too. Developing fine motor skills can be challenging for young children, but with practice and the right tools, they will improve and become more precise over time.
There are several ways to support the development of fine motor skills in children. Parents and caregivers can provide little ones with opportunities to practice using their hands and fingers with everyday household objects and by offering simple activities such as colouring, drawing and playing with stacking toys or blocks. Read on for some more ideas below.
STACK THEM UP
- Hand-eye coordination: When children stack blocks or other toys, they must use their eyes to guide their hands and place the objects precisely on top of each other.
- Grip strength: Picking up and placing small objects requires children to use their fingers and hands, which helps to develop grip strength and dexterity.
- Finger isolation: Stacking toys often involve picking up and manipulating small objects, which can help children develop the ability to isolate their fingers and move them independently.
- Spatial awareness: When stacking objects, children must consider the space between each item and how they fit together, which helps develop spatial awareness and visual perception.
- Problem-solving skills: Stacking toys require children to use trial and error to figure out the best way to stack the objects, which helps develop problem-solving skills and fosters a sense of persistence and determination.
A gorgeous wooden stacker from Qtoys provides lots of opportunity to practise fine motor skills, with a rocking base for an extra challenge. Image credit Ashley Jennings Photography.
ADDITIONAL FINE MOTOR RESOURCES WE LOVE
- Puzzles: Puzzles are a great way to develop fine motor skills, as they require children to use their hands and fingers to manipulate the pieces and fit them together. Start with simple puzzles with large pieces and gradually move up to more complex puzzles with smaller pieces as your child's skills improve.
- Beading: Beading involves stringing small beads onto a string or wire to create a piece of jewellery or decoration. This activity requires the use of small, precise movements with the hands and fingers, which can help improve fine motor skills. For a low cost option try pasta or buttons!
- Lacing Activities: Lacing and threading activities require concentration, hand-eye coordination and fine motor control. You can easily make your own resources - for example lacing cards are just sheets of paper or cardboard with holes punched around the edges. Children can thread a shoelace or piece of string through the holes to create their own designs and patterns.
This wooden lacing set is ideal for building fine motor skills as well as pattern making, colour matching and sequencing.
- Scissors: Using scissors to cut paper or other materials also requires the use of small, precise movements with the hands and fingers. This can be challenging for young children, but with practice, they can improve their fine motor skills and become more adept at cutting straight lines and curves. A simple google search will provide plenty of downloadable resources designed to hone those scissor skills (or draw your own!)
- Play dough: Play dough is a classic childhood resource that can be used to strengthen the muscles in the hands and fingers. Children can use their fingers to roll, pinch and squeeze the dough, which helps improve their hand-eye coordination as well as fine motor skills. They can also use various household objects like cookie cutters, wooden knives or natural treasures to create different shapes and patterns in the dough.
- Pegs: Pinching and opening pegs is a wonderful exercise for strengthening the hand muscles. You can have children use your household collection to clip onto a piece of cardboard or string up a clothesline to practice their grip.
- Stickers: Peeling and sticking stickers is a fun way to improve hand dexterity and hand-eye coordination. Provide children a range of stickers to stick onto paper - they can add their own drawings to create unique artworks or greeting cards.
- Drawing and colouring with pencils, crayons, and felt tips can help children develop their hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. You can encourage them to draw or trace shapes, letters or objects - fun for all ages!
A final tip - encourage your child to use their non-dominant hand to complete tasks whenever possible. This can help develop the muscles and coordination in both hands and improve overall fine motor skills.
Check out our go to play dough recipe that you can easily make at home!