All About Fine Motor Skills

What is meant by Fine Motor Skills?

Fine motor skills involve the use of our arms, hands, fingers & eyes and can be defined as the ability to co-ordinate the action of the eyes and hands together in performing precise manipulative movements.

Fine motor skills develop after gross motor skills. Gross motor skills utilize larger muscle groups for the movement of the whole body and require less precision. However it is important to remember that the acquisition of gross motor skills affects the ability to perform most fine motor skills. As your baby learns to roll he is developing his body awareness and helping to integrate the two sides of his body for co-ordinated movement. When he is crawling he is weight bearing through his arms, this is one of the key ingredients for hand co-ordination and fine motor control. Trunk stability, muscle tone & strength, and balance all play a part in the development of fine motor skills.

Why are fine motor skills important?

Fine motor skills are essential for performing everyday skills like cutting, self-care tasks (e.g. managing clothing fastenings, opening lunch boxes, cleaning teeth) and pencil skills. Without the ability to complete these everyday tasks, a child's self-esteem can suffer and their academic performance is compromised. They are also unable to develop appropriate independence in life skills (such as getting dressed and feeding themselves).

Building blocks necessary to develop fine motor skills include:

·         Bilateral integration: 

Using two hands together. One hand is leading e.g. opening a jar lid; and the other hand is helping e.g. stabilising the jar.

 ·         Crossing Midline: 

The ability to cross the imaginary line running from a person's nose to pelvis that divides the body into left and right sides.

 ·         Arm, hand and finger strength: 

            Co-ordination and strength of the muscles in the arm, hand and fingers.

 ·         Hand eye coordination/ Vision: 

This is known to play an important role in fine motor control. The eyes need to work in a co-ordinated way to quickly localise and track objects.  The ability to process information received from the eyes to control, guide, and direct the hands in the carrying out of a given task, such as handwriting.

 ·         Hand Dominance: 

The consistent use of one (usually the same) hand for task performance, which allows refined skills to develop.


 ·         Hand division: 

Using the thumb, index and middle finger for manipulation, leaving the fourth and little finger tucked into the palm not participating.

 ·         Object Manipulation & Motor Planning: 

The ability to skilfully manipulate tools, including the ability to hold and move pencils and scissors in a planned and controlled manner. The ability to sequence movements to use everyday tools such as a toothbrush, hairbrush, and cutlery.

 ·         Proprioception: 

This is information that the brain receives from receptors in our muscles, joints, tendons, and skin to make us aware of body position and body movement. Good awareness of how hands and fingers are moving is very important for the development of fine motor skills.

Early Activities that can help build Fine Motor Skills:

Early activities to help build a basis for fine motor skills include gross motor skills like rolling and crawling. Encouraging your child to hold her own bottle will help develop bi-lateral co-ordination skills. Banging toys together, clapping games as well as push together pull apart toys will also begin to develop these skills. Some early toys to promote these skill are shown below and can be found with many more in "First Toys" category of our website. Remember your child learns to pull apart and knock down before she learns to push back together or build. If your child is not enjoying the activity the challenge may be too hard and an easier challenge where she can experience success should be offered.  

Connects - BabyBaby BeadsFishiesGeokid - First Links STAR LINKSTobbles NeoTiger - First FriendsRainbow Stacker


Follow On Activities that can help improve fine motor skills include: 

·         Threading and lacing: Start with an easy lacing task and gradually over time increase the difficulty

·         Chopsticks or scoops: to pick up objects

·         Manipulation games:  ‘Avalanche’, ’Chairs’, ‘The Wall’, 'Connect 4' and many more on our website     

.         Pegboards                

·         Play-dough and Modelling clay

·         Construction Toys and Marble Runs

·         Storing materials in jars with screw lids

·         Craft:  Be sure to include cutting in the activity.

.         Theraputty: If advised by an Occupational Therapist 

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