Fine Motor Skills Development in Children
Date Posted:17 January 2020
Fine motor abilities allow for increasing independence in small, simple tasks such as the opening of doors, fastening zippers, brushing teeth, and more.1 Your child will gain confidence and increase their self-esteem when they succeed in these tasks.
Studies have also shown that there is a close relationship between fine motor development and academic achievement. Handwriting has been linked to better language, literacy, and cognitive development.2
Acquiring motor skills starts with gross motor development. Babies start developing movements in their arms to gain control of their limbs. As your newborn gets older, you’ll notice that they start to push themselves up using their arms. By 6 months, they start fine motor skills development. Your child will be grasping objects in their hands and transferring them from one hand to another. They will start picking things up with the pincher grasp (thumb and index finger) by the time they are a year old. From ages 1–5, they are able to stack blocks and manipulate more complex objects. This is also the stage in which they start copying shapes and writings.3
That 0-5 age period is the crucial developmental stage where these skills are acquired. How your child develops in this period will play a key role in how they progress through the rest of their life.
There are 3 stages that young children (0–5 years) go through to develop and refine their fine motor skills. Here are some activities you can do with your child to help them with their development:2
1. Whole arm development
This is the development of gross motor skills including strength of the shoulders, upper arms and forearms. Your child learns how to control their limbs which is an essential skill for further fine motor development.
Here are some activities you can encourage your child to engage in to help develop their arm strength and mobility:
- Playing on obstacle courses or climbing frames to allow them to train their upper body strengths and learn to pull themselves up
- Playing ball games with them to train their arm control
- Using shovels and spades to dig in the sand
- Playing with toys that test their arm control (e.g. the Happy Hammer set can train their arm control and strength)
2. Whole hand movement
The development of hand muscles is crucial for grasping objects and further finger movement coordination. Children start grasping at objects from a very young age — from grabbing your finger as a newborn to grabbing cups and drinking on their own as they grow. This is a very important stage of development for children; especially when they are at the age where they start learning self-care skills.
You can organise some activities that can help in the development of their hand muscles, such as:
- Rolling playdough in their hands using rolling pins and cookie cutters
- Squeezing the trigger on a spray bottle to water plants
- Playing with toys that will train wrist and hand movements (e.g. Educo’s Screwy toy will teach your child to identify and name certain shapes and colours while training their hands to screw the corresponding nuts and bolts)
3. Pincher and pincer grasp
The pincher grasp involves the thumb and index finger pressing together.
The pincer grasp involves the thumb, index, and middle finger to coordinate and manipulate objects together.
As your child grows older and learns how to control their arms and hands, learning to control their fingers is the last step to acquiring fine motor skills.
These are some activities you can do with your child to help them train their grasp:
- Making smaller objects and shapes with the playdough
- Picking up various objects with tongs and tweezers
- Threading with beads to make keychains or necklaces (if your child enjoys threading, they might enjoy Educo’s Vetrovorm game)
- Use tiny beads to create designs and images (your child can convert a 2-D image into 3-D picture with the Insert Mosaic game)
These activities can not only help develop your child’s fine motor skills, but will also facilitate creativity and improve their social skills.
These are life-long skills that should be acquired in early childhood so that your child can gain confidence and build self-esteem.
Don’t be alarmed if you find your child taking a longer time to acquire fine motor abilities. Children develop at different pace, and fine motor skills can be practiced over time. Engaging them in these fun activities will be enough to help your child train their motor skills.
- Developing Motor Skills. Parents. (Link)
- Fine Motor. Victoria State Government. (Link)
- Fine Motor Developmental Chart. Kid Sense. (Link)