Have you noticed your kids struggling with drawing skills, or self-help skills (i.e. buttoning clothes)? If so, this likely means they need to improve fine motor skills.

As parents and teachers, this gets to be simple. In this blog post, we’re going to cover the following topics to help you out:

  • What are Fine Motor Skills
  • Examples of Motor Skills
  • Fine Motor Milestones
  • Tips To Improve Fine Motor Skills
  • Toys and Games to Help Build Fine Motor
  • What are Gross Motor Skills
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What Are Fine Motor Skills

Easily stated, fine motor skills are the coordination of movement in small muscles, such as hands, wrists, and fingers with the eyes. 

More specifically, the coordination of these muscles effects functioning skills such as holding small objects, writing, cutting, and fastening.

13 Examples of How Kids Use Fine Motor Skills

1. Writing

Being able to hold a pencil, pen, or other writing utensils with a correct grip. 

If a child is not able to hold a pencil correctly, they will struggle with correct letter formation.  For example, it will be difficult to form straight and curved lines, and positioning letters correctly on writing lines.

2. Fastening Clothes

Fine motor skills are needed to complete self-help skills, such as fastening buttons, zippers, or snaps on clothing.

3. Tying Shoes

Learning how to tie shoes requires strong fine motor skills.  This preschool and kindergarten skill takes a lot of practice and repetition.

Check out these 10 Tips for Teaching Kids How to Tie Shoes.

4. Cutting

If you’ve ever seen a child struggle with cutting, it’s probably an indicator they need to build up their fine motor skills. 

The hand, wrist, finger, and eyes are all coordinating when cutting with scissors.

5. Opening and Closing Doors

To open and close a door, kids have to grab a handle and turn it at the same time. 

Furthermore, they are also learning how to use keys and lock doors, which also requires use of the small muscles in our fingers and wrists.

6. Playing Instruments

When playing an instrument, kids need to be able to position your fingers and hands in the correct location.

The hand-eye coordination is strong as they play and hold the instrument simultaneously.

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7. Coloring and Drawing

Controlling the pencil and crayons to stay within a small space

8. Building with Blocks

When kids are building with blocks and legos, they are gripping and manipulating the blocks to a certain position.

9. Using Technology

Kids now a days use a lot of technology. Even if they are engaged in educational apps, typing on a keyboard or tablet, or simply learning how to use a phone keypad, fine motor matters.

10. Self-Care

Fine motor skills are used when brushing your hair, brushing your teeth, for wiping after going to the bathroom, and hand washing.

11. Playing With Toys

Whether it’s dressing baby dolls or playing with wrestling figures, kids are using their fine motor muscles when playing with toys.

12. Eating

When I think of lunch time in the school cafeteria, I think about how many kids struggle opening their own juice box, unwrapping food packaging, or even opening their own lunch boxes.

They need the fine motor skills to open their own drinks and food packaging.

Completing a Puzzle

Working on a puzzle requires kids to hold, twist, and turn puzzle pieces to align into correct position.

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Fine Motor Milestones

Because this blog focuses on early childhood, the following are typical fine motor milestones from age 3 and up. 

If you are looking for fine motor skills for toddlers, search for baby and toddler milestones. These are for preschool and early school age children.

Ages 3-4

  • Put together a simple puzzle
  • Draw a circle
  • Draw people (stick figures with a head and hands)
  • Build a small tower of blocks (9-10 blocks tall)
  • Use playdoh to form balls
  • Open zip-loc baggies with little help
  • Trace over thick lines
  • Use non-dominant hand to stabilize objects
  • Get dressed independently (excluding small buttons and tying shoes)
  • Thread large beads onto a string
  • Begin to coordinate hands to brush teeth and hair
  • Start writing letters in name
  • Begin holding scissors, attempting to open and close them

Ages 5-6

  • Brush teeth independently
  • Copy shapes (not tracing)
  • Writing name independently
  • Copy letters and numbers
  • Tie shoes (between 5-7)
  • Color inside lines
  • Open baggies and lunch box
  • Complete a 20 piece puzzle
  • Cut and paste projects without help
  • Build their own design from blocks and legos

How To Improve Fine Motor Skills

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15 Tips for Building Fine Motor Skills

  • Pull and push pipe cleaners through a colander (strainer)
  • Fill a bucket of water, and have your kids use a turkey baster to pull transfer the water from the bucket to a muffin tin.
  • Play with playdoh
  • Fill a container with fuzzy pom-poms, and use kid tweezers to pull the pom-poms out and sort them by color/size.
  • Cut and tear paper into small pieces.
  • Peel the paper off of old crayons. Then, you can melt the crayons into shapes or use them for crafts.
  • Draw, color, scribble, and/or write using pencils, crayons, and markers.
  • Use a hold puncher to punch holes in paper.
  • Build with small and large blocks.
  • Practice fastening shirts and pants.
  • Q-Tip Painting
  • String beads on yarn
  • Put lids on and off of your tupperware collection
  • Let them help with meal prep (opening packages, stirring, and cutting depending on age)
  • Put rubber bands around a soup can, then take them off.

30 Toys and Games Good for Fine Motor

To help the kids, here is a list of toys and games that are good for fine motor development.

What are Gross Motor Skills

Similar to fine motor, gross motor skills reflect the use of muscles and movement.  However, let’s look at the difference between the two. 

We’ve already talked about fine motor skills involving the coordination of muscles in your wrists, hands, fingers. 

Gross motor skills, on the other hand, involve the use of larger muscles.  For example, using your arms, feet, legs, and entire body.

Examples of gross motor movements include walking, running, skipping, kicking, jumping, throwing a ball, walking up and down stairs, and riding a bicycle.

Conclusion

To sum things up, fine motor skills are an important part of early childhood development. 

Without practice building fine motor skills, difficulties in the basic skills listed above tend to come out during preschool and kindergarten. 

If you notice difficulties in early childhood developmental skills, such as fine motor skills, do some activities listed above, and discuss your concerns with a pediatrician or school’s occupational therapist.

Before you go, here are a few posts you will enjoy:

65 Easy Holiday Crafts for Kids

100 Things to Do At Home with Kids

15 Best Nursery Rhymes for Kids 

75 Best Yes or No Questions for Kids

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Fine Motor Skills