The little skills that make a big difference

From brushing our teeth to typing, we utilise our fine motor skills every single day at home, work and on the go. For children, learning how to use these smaller muscle groups effectively and efficiently is a critical part of their early childhood development.

What are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills involve the smaller muscles of the body, generally in the hands, fingers and wrists. Activities that use fine motor skills include using a writing apparatus, building with blocks, opening a lunch box, tying a shoelace and doing up buttons.

Broadly speaking, fine motor skills can be split into three main categories:

  1. Academic (e.g. using a pencil or scissors)
  2. Play (e.g. puzzles, using technology)
  3. Self-care (e.g. dressing, eating, hygiene)

The building blocks of fine motor skills

  • Strength
  • Fine motor control
  • Dexterity

The benefits of good fine motor skills

Fine motor skills are essential for performing everyday tasks – academic, recreational and otherwise. If a child lacks the ability to use their fine motor skills effectively, this can have an adverse effect on their options for play, self-esteem and academic performance.

Signs that your child may have fine motor difficulties

  • Avoids or is uninterested in ‘fiddly’ finger skills
  • Prefers physical activity to sit-down tasks
  • Enjoys ‘passive’ activities such as watching TV
  • Relies on others to clean their teeth, dress them etc.

How you can help children develop fine motor skills

Developing sufficient fine motor skills will benefit children throughout their entire lives. The good news is that developing fine motor skills can be fun!

  • Encourage little hands to play with a variety of items to help them develop dexterity and strength
  •       Try out tasks that use just one or two fingers instead of all the fingers at once
  •       Encourage and reward any pen-to-paper activities

Toys that promote fine motor development

  • Different types of puzzles – peg puzzles, raised puzzles, block puzzles, jigsaw puzzles
  • Space, shape and colourtoys – 3D shapes, elastic boards, blocks, tangrams, beads and laces
  • Blocks and construction toys
  • Play dough and crafts
  • Drawing and painting tools

If you are still concerned about your child’s lack of fine motor skills, consider having them assessed by an occupational therapist, who will be able to determine the best course of treatment.

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