What is fine motor skills?
You may hear this term used commonly amongst therapists, doctors, and other medical personnel.
For most, we use our fine motor functions daily, like holding a cup of coffee, using our fingers to scroll on our mobile phones, or writing with a pen.
But if you have a child who experiences fine motor delays it may impact their ability to do certain things like grasp onto a toy, draw a picture or hold a fork to eat.
With that said, let’s explore fine motor skills further:
- What does it mean?
- What are some examples?
- How does fine motor differ from gross motor?
- What activities may enhance these skills?
- And MORE…
Let’s get started.
What Is Fine Motor Skills?
A motor skill is simply an action using your muscles.
Fine motor skills are the movements in your smaller muscles like the hands, wrists, fingers, toes, and tongue.
Children often rely on their fine motor functions for everyday activities like eating, coloring, and playing with toys.
Why Are Fine Motor Skills Important?
Fine motor functions allow you to perform important tasks like:
- Getting dressed
- Feeding yourself
- Holding a pencil
- Zipping a coat
Doing activities that allow your child the opportunity to fine-tune these skills and develop strength in their hands early on is important.
As your child develops and grows, these skills should naturally improve over time.
Now that you understand what fine motor skills are, let’s break down the difference between fine motor and gross motor skills.
Fine Motor vs. Gross Motor Skills
The main difference between fine motor and gross motor functions is when your body uses larger movements versus smaller movements.
Gross Motor Skills
When your body uses the larger and stronger muscles, you are developing your gross motor functions.
Some examples of gross motor skills and the bigger movements your body makes include:
- Sitting up
- Rolling over
Fine Motor Skills
When the smaller muscles are used like your hands and fingers, your fine motor skills kick into motion.
Examples of fine motor skills and the smaller movements your body makes include:
- Grabbing a toy
- Putting a puzzle together
- Building legos
- Coloring a picture
- Eating with a spoon or fork
- Tying a shoe
Gross Motor Develops Before Fine Motor Skills…
It’s important to know that gross motor functions usually develop before fine motor functions because the large muscle groups develop first (arms, legs, trunk).
Typically, a child masters their gross motor skills first like walking before performing smaller tasks like drawing.
The reason fine motor skills come after is that it requires control to do smaller tasks with your hands and fingers.
With that said, you may be wondering what fine motor activities may encourage control and development?
Let’s get into our top 8 recommended fine motor activities next.
8 Engaging Kids’ Fine Motor Activities to Try!
If you need some fun and engaging fine motor activities to try, here are a few of our favorites.
Develop your child’s fine motor strength by pushing lego pieces together and pulling them apart.
Make mealtime fun! Provide your child theme inspired feeding utensils, like this construction set.
Improve hand strength by playing with play-doh.
Doodle a picture with these wishbone-shaped pencils to support your child’s gripping skills.
Use scissors to cut paper to strengthen the wrist, fingers, and hand muscles. This makes a great fine motor skills preschool activity.
Kitchen tongs are a great tool to develop hand strength and control. Have your child use the tongs to pick up their smaller toys or while you’re in the kitchen, have them pick up pieces of their favorite snack to eat.
Playing with tape is a wonderful fine motor activity. Have your child try to peel the tape and place it on a sheet of paper. This activity takes some serious hand control!
Stickers are a fun way to inspire fine motor development. Peeling the sticky little pictures enhances grasping skills. With this ‘Backyard Sticker Activity’, your child is learning, playing, and enhancing their fine motor functions too!
When Do Fine Motor Skills Develop?
From infant up to two years old is when fine motor skills begin to develop.
Here is a general guide to reference regarding fine motor milestones your child should be demonstrating between the ages of 0-2 years of age:
3 Months Old
Holding objects in their hands.
5 Months Old
Begins to reach and hold toys.
6 Months Old
Follow objects with their eyes, reach or grab to put objects in their mouth, play independently.
10 Months Old
Can let go of toys, pick up small objects, or move objects from one hand to the other.
14 Months Old
Can turn pages of a book.
16 Months Old
Points with their index finger, use both hands to play, can build with a few blocks.
24 Months Old
Scribbles, turn a knob, can self feed with minimal assistance, hold and drinks from a cup independently, able to use signing to communicate.
Keep In Mind…
It’s important to know that every child develops at their own pace.
Do not be alarmed if your child is not meeting the above milestones in the recommended time frame (this is just a general guide to follow based upon the average age a child normally demonstrates these tasks).
But what if you notice your child’s development is delayed or something just doesn’t seem right?
Let’s get into developmental milestones and what you need to look for next.
Developmental Milestones (Ages 0 to 2 Years)
If you are concerned or are noticing that certain milestones are not being met by your child, then that could indicate possible implications are present.
If that is the case, let’s quickly cover some common signs to be on the lookout for:
0 to 6 Months Old
Delayed ability to play independently, poor muscle control and coordination, delayed sensory development such as showing delayed responses when interacting with toys.
6 to 12 Months Old
Finger strength is weak or poorly developed, difficulty grasping objects.
1 to 2 Years
Poor development of the hand and finger strength, delayed response when playing with toys or others, difficulty eating independently or bringing food to the mouth using fingers or feeding utensils.
If You’re Concerned…
Should you be concerned about your child’s development or motor functions it is best to follow up with your pediatrician quickly.
Your child’s pediatrician may recommend exercises or physical therapy to develop coordination and muscle strength.
If there is another underlying condition causing the motor delay, your pediatrician will most likely run further testing or refer your child to see a specialist like a pediatric neurologist.
It’s important to have your child work on strengthening their fine motor skills so they can move forward in their development.
Performing these small tasks and activities allows a child the opportunity to gain more confidence and independence!
We want to wrap up by extending our gratitude to thank you for being here!
What are your thoughts or questions surrounding the topic of fine motor skills?
We are curious! Let us know in the comments below. ♥
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About the Author
Lindsey is the co-founder of The LENN Foundation and content creator of the Intensive Therapy for Kids blog.
When she isn’t busy playing Godzilla with her son or chasing around her mischievous Rottweiler pup, she loves creating experiences and memories with her loved ones (traveling, watching a good flick, trying new n’ yummy restaurants). Speaking of restaurants, one of her favs is Taco Bell!
Most of all, she is grateful for her supportive circle of family, friends, and to live out her passion for helping kids with Cerebral Palsy (like her sweet nephew Lenny).
If you’re curious about The LENN Foundation, you may see the kids’ helped and feel-good content here. ♥
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