Buttoning, zipping, gripping, eating, cutting, writing, tying—pretty much all things accomplished with the fingers, hands, and arms—are perfect examples of our fine motor skills in action.
Involving the use and coordination of these small muscles, fine motor skills are important for many life skills as well as the self-help skills children need to complete daily tasks.
Not surprisingly, these skills also support the development of literacy and numeracy for children underscoring participation in a variety of activities such as games, arts and crafts, musical instruments, and, eventually, educational exercises on digital devices.
Fine Motor Milestones for Toddlers and School-Age Children
As with all areas of child development, there are certain fine motor milestones to watch for at all age ranges.
Toddlers—16 months to 3 years:
Stacks blocks and toys
Draws with crayons or markers using a firm fist grip
Uses spoon and fork to feed himself
Preschoolers—3 to 5 years:
Manipulates buttons and fasteners on clothes
Traces, draws and writes shapes and letters
Establishes hand dominance
School Age—5 to 7 years of age:
Prints letters, numbers and words
Cuts on the lines
Colors inside the lines
Fine Motor Skill Activities for Kids
There are a variety of simple at-home activities you can introduce and implement to help your child build hand strength and hone his fine motor skills as he grows. Some activities you can do incorporate into playtime on a daily basis include:
Set up an activity with small, soft pompoms from a craft store and a muffin tin. Ask your child to place the pompoms in the muffin tin. Older children can also sort them by color or make color patterns.
Get to Gluing
Put dots of glue on a piece of paper and ask your child to stick small objects such as beans, buttons, or beads on the glue dots. Watch your child closely during this activity to ensure the small objects are put on the paper and not into the mouth.
Place a variety of small items in a bowl, muffin tin or ice cube trade and ask your child to pick them out with tweezers.
Bring on the Beads
Using colorful pipe cleaners and assorted beads, encourage your child to make a bracelet or necklace. Ask your child to string the beads by size or by color. Do keep a watchful eye on your child during this creative project to make sure the beads are not placed in the mouth.
Pull Out Playdough
Playing with playdough offers a great opportunity for children to strengthen their fine motor muscles. Ask your child to squeeze and stretch playdough into various shapes. Hide small objects in the playdough for your child to find and pick out.
Finger paintings are much more than a messy masterpiece! The process of finger painting helps a child with dexterity as well as hand-eye coordination to support fine motor skills.
Broken Crayon Coloring
Brand new crayons are great, but using small, broken crayons will encourage your child to firm up his grip and hold the crayon correctly.
Fine Motor Control Concerns
If you are concerned your child may not be meeting certain age-appropriate fine motor milestones, you should consult your pediatrician. A referral to a licensed occupational therapist may be recommended to assess your child’s fine motor abilities further and determine if he could benefit from therapy to increase his skills.
National Autism Awareness Month is underway, and it’s time to “Light It Up Blue” to increase understanding and acceptance for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and provide support to their families.
A neurological and development disorder caused by genetic and environmental factors, autism is characterized by a variety of issues including social and relational challenges, speech and non-verbal communication deficiencies, and repetitive behaviors. Estimating that 1 in 68 children in the U.S. has autism, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention affirms that:
There is often nothing about how people with ASD look that sets them apart from other people, but people with ASD may communicate, interact, behave, and learn in ways that are different from most other people. The learning, thinking, and problem-solving abilities of people with ASD can range from gifted to severely challenged. Some people with ASD need a lot of help in their daily lives; others need less.
As with most disorders, early diagnosis and intervention are key to helping improve a child’s prognosis. Though it is becoming more common to diagnose autism spectrum disorders earlier and earlier, the most obvious signs and symptoms of autism emerge between 18 months and three years of age.
Signs of Autism
The symptoms and effects of autism may vary widely from child to child. While some children may have only a few, mild symptoms, other children may be faced with more severe challenges. Either way, autism is a lifelong condition which affects people of every race, gender, and background.
While there are many warning signs to watch for as your child develops, the most common autism red flags include: impaired social skills, communication struggles, and behavioral difficulties.
Autism: Social Difficulties
A child struggling with autism spectrum disorder social and relational difficulties may demonstrate the following:
Appears to be distant, in his or her own world
Does not frequently respond to his or her name when called
Lack of warm, joyful facial expressions such as smiles
Difficulty playing with others or making friends
Aversion to being cuddled or touched
Trouble engaging in pretend play or using toys in abstract ways
Autism: Communication Difficulties
A child struggling with autism spectrum disorder verbal and non-verbal communications difficulties may demonstrate the following:
Avoids eye contact
Difficulty communicating simple needs and wants
Offers no spoken words by 16 months
Echolalia or “parroting” questions and words offered to him or her without comprehension of the communication offered
Trouble understanding routine directions or simple questions
Uses few gestures such as pointing, waving or reaching
Does not understand facial expressions
Appears sensitive to sounds, smells, and textures
Autism: Behavioral Difficulties
A child struggling with autism spectrum disorder behavioral difficulties may demonstrate the following:
Self-stimulatory behaviors such as rocking, hand-flapping, moving fingers in front of his or her eyes, spinning, or head banging
Appears to be inflexible with routine
Difficulties adapting to changes in routine or environment
Arranges objects or toys in certain ways such as color, shape, or size
Seems fixated on certain toys or strange objects including light switches, rubber bands or keys
The Modified Checklist for Autism in Toddlers—Revised with Follow-Up (M-CHAT-R/F™)
The M-CHAT-R/F is a checklist tool that pediatricians use to identify children who may need a more thorough assessment of possible early signs of autism or developmental delays. If the results of initial screening indicate the need for further evaluation, parents will be directed to contact the local Children’s Developmental Services Agency to begin the process of evaluation and therapy as warranted.
Does My Child Have Autism?
If you are concerned that your child may be exhibiting signs of autism, contact your pediatrician to schedule an appointment to voice your concerns.
Your pediatrician will speak with you about observations and conduct an assessment of your child as well to determine next steps.
Incommunicative and acutely sensitive to lights and sounds as a child, Jory Fleming paved a path to become a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England.
He spoke with Sunday TODAY Reporter Harry Smith about his first year at the prestigious university saying, “It just has opened up for me more than anything, that while there may be many paths to get there, if you know where you’re going you can make a start.”
Jory’s story is an inspiring reminder that an autism diagnosis and sensory challenges shouldn’t stand in the way of a child’s future successes.