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
- Uses scissors
- Establishes hand dominance
School Age—5 to 7 years of age:
- Dresses self
- Ties shoes
- 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.