Supporting Fine Motor Skills in Young Children

Creating environments which stimulate the progression of motor development without causing frustration or anxiety is important for the overall development of a child. It i

educators to understand how children’s fine motor skills develop and to acknowledge that skills will emerge when a child is ready. If tasks are given before a child is ready, more damage than good may result. Large motor milestones emerge before the hand muscles can coordinate specific movements that require fine motor skills. The progression of motor skills occurs as a baby bats a toy, then later grasps or transfers objects from one hand to the other. It is necessary for the joints of the body to develop stability before hands can be free to focus on specific tasks.

Preschool children often spend lengthy periods of time using scissors, crayons, and markers. Although these tools are age appropriate, they should not be used as the primary focus for introducing fine motor skill development. Through the guidance and support of trained professionals such as Occupational Therapists, families and educators can provide better activities that strengthen the hand and finger muscles needed to correctly hold and use markers and scissors.

Did you know that the hand and forearm are comprised of more than 25 different muscles and that the fingers, wrist, and elbow movements are controlled by the forearm muscles? Refined muscles in the thumb and fingers are controlled by much smaller muscles in the palm of the hand. Often while working with families and preschool programs to develop fine motor skill building activities, children will be described as having a “strong hand grip”. Although important in the development process, grip strength is more closely associated with forearm muscle development. The smaller muscles in the hand only play a minor role in this type of grip strength.

If you suspect your child or your child’s preschool program could benefit from understanding how children’s fine motor skills develop, don’t hesitate to contact a licensed Occupational Therapist. If you find your infant is gripping and squeezing objects, but unable to coordinate the movement of individual fingers, this may be a Red Flag of underdeveloped small muscles of the hands.

Here are a few possible activities you can try at home to support fine motor skill development.

Newspaper Snowman

Materials needed: Newspaper, construction paper and three white trash bags

Procedure: Talk with your child about the sizes needed to create the three snowballs of the snowman. Start by having the child crumple newspaper in their hands. If this seems easy, see if they can use only one hand and really get those muscles working! Fill your trash bags and stack them on top of each other to create your snowman. Then use construction paper to cut unique and creative facial features.

Pipe Cleaners & Colanders

Materials needed: Pipe cleaners, colander turned upside down (the older metal ones work best!)

Procedure: Encourage your child to push and thread pipe cleaners through an old colander. Hours of fun and lots of small muscle hand work!

Intentional practice, observation and well planned environments provide rich opportunities to strengthen fine motor skills. We encourage families and teachers to reflect upon their understanding of developmental skills and always feel comfortable to reach out to trained, experienced occupational therapy professionals who can suggest focused attention activities. Call today to speak to one of Burke Therapy’s Occupational Therapists and find out how we can help in your home or preschool environment.

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