Fine Motor Skills: What You Need to Know

By The Understood Team

 

At a Glance

  • Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands, wrists and fingers.
  • Kids use fine motor skills to do many school-related tasks.
  • There are things you can do at home to help improve your child’s fine motor skills.

If your child struggles with tasks like writing, drawing and using scissors you may have heard people mention the term fine motor skills when describing the challenges. But what are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands, wrists and fingers. Kids rely on these skills to do key tasks in school and in everyday life.

Read more about fine motor skills and how they can affect learning.

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

We use fine motor skills to make small movements. These movements come so naturally to most people that we usually don’t think about them. Fine motor skills are complex, however. They involve the coordinated efforts of the brain and muscles, and they’re built on the gross motor skills that allow us to make bigger movements.

Fine motor skills aren’t specific learning skills like reading or math are. But they directly impact how well kids are able to learn and show what they know. For instance, kids need fine motor skills to circle an answer in a bubble on a test or write an essay or response.

Kids need to use fine motor skills to do many school-related tasks. These include:

  • Holding a crayon or pencil
  • Drawing pictures and writing neatly
  • Stacking blocks and stringing beads
  • Using scissors, rulers and other tools

Kids also need fine motor skills to do daily tasks like getting dressed and brushing their teeth. (Watch an expert demonstrate how to help kids with motor skills issues learn self-care routines.)

Trouble With Fine Motor Skills

Kids develop at different rates. But there are milestones they generally meet at certain ages. This includes fine motor milestones. For instance, at ages 5 or 6, kids can typically copy shapes and letters, and use a fork and spoon with control. At 9 or 10, they can typically draw and use tools like a ruler without becoming too frustrated.

But some kids struggle with these skills for a long time. Ongoing trouble with motor skills might be a sign of developmental coordination disorder (DCD), which people sometimes refer to as dyspraxia. Kids with dysgraphia, a learning issue that impacts writing, may also have trouble with fine motor skills.

Difficulties with fine motor skills often aren’t identified until preschool when teachers see that kids are struggling. There are things schools can do to help, however.

Kids with weak fine motor skills might get occupational therapy (OT) through an  or a. (You can also pay for private OT or use private health insurance.) Another way schools might help is to provide  like pencil grips and wide-lined paper for writing.

Building Fine Motor Skills at Home

Your child might be able to get support at school if fine motor skills are a challenge. But there are things you can do at home to improve your child’s abilities, too.

If you’re concerned that your child is struggling with fine motor skills, learn about steps you can take. And get tips for talking to your child’s teacher about issues with motor skills. Together, you can come up with a plan to get the best support for your child.

Key Takeaways

  • Kids use fine motor skills to color, write and do other activities that help them succeed in school.
  • Ongoing trouble with fine motor skills could be a sign of developmental coordination disorder.
  • Occupational therapy can help kids improve fine motor skills, and there are fun activities you can try at home, too.

About the Author

Understood Team Graphic

The Understood Team is composed of writers, editors and community moderators, many of whom have children with learning and attention issues.

 

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