3 ways to help develop your child's Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor skills are important as our hands are important tools. We use them in almost everything we do. If we are unable to use them effectively it can cause significant struggles in everyday tasks.

At school Fine Motor Skills are important in order to develop appropriate grasps of tools, including a pencil, as well as hold and manipulate scissors. At home, efficient fine motor skills are important for holding and using cutlery, doing buttons, zips and shoelaces, opening containers and packets of food.

Here are 3 different ways that you can develop your child fine motor skills:

1. Crawling and weigh-bearing activities through the hands

This may seem a little weird - I mean... how can weight-bearing through the hands help to develop fine motor skills? Well in order to move and use our fingers independently of one another in order to manipualte objects within our hand and use our pincer fingers to grasp objects; we must first be able to dissociate the two sides of our hand. When we weight-bear through our hands and shift weight from the medial (thumb side) of our hand to the lateral side (little finger side), this helps us to dissociate the two sides of our hand and develops strong arches of our hand.

2. Work on your child's core strength and shoulder stability.

Strength develops in our body from the top down and middle out, and so in order to develop strength and control in the small muscles of our hands for fine motor control and precision, we must first develop strength and control in our postural muscles, followed by shoulders and so forth. So incorporate these type of activities into your childs daily activities:

  • Climbing, monkey bars
  • Activities in tummy lying position - watching TV, doing puzzles
  • Trunk twisting activities - place puzzle board or container, toy on one side of body and parts/pieces on other side and without propping a hand on floor, twist to place items retrieved into the toy/board/container.
  • Squatting and standing - place the tub on table and have child squat and stand to retrieve toys from ground to pack away into tub.
  • Wheelbarrow Walks
  • Animal walks - snake, bear, frog, duck, crab

3. Building hand strength and thumb stability

As already stated, in order to develop fine motor control and precision, hand strength is crucial. Although, a lot of children seem to demonstrate appropriate grip strength, they often demonstrate poor stability around their thumb. In order to develop a mature pencil grasp with thumb tip on pencil and in opposition with index finger, thumb stability is required. Help to develop this by:

  • Using plastic syringes and water droppers in bath/water play
  • Using tongs and tweezers - ensure held like a pencil with thumb in opposition with fingers
  • Popping bubble wrap
  • Using wooden castanets
  • Playdough and clay play
  • Peeling bananas and mandarins independently

If you are still concerned with your child's fine motor development, find your local occupational therapist and request an assessment.