Fine Motor Skills

By: Alycia Arroya, COTA/L, CCPAM

Fine motor skills are those that involve a refined use of the small muscles which control the hand, fingers and thumb. With the development of these skills, a child can complete important tasks such as writing, feeding oneself, shoe tying, buttoning, and zippering. Fine motor skills start to develop when a child uses the smaller muscles in their hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Developing those muscles includes actions like grasping, holding, pressing, or using a pincer grip which is holding something between the fore-finger and thumb.

Why are Fine Motor Skills are important?

Little hands need to develop dexterity and strength. Toys, clothing fasteners, safe scissors and play dough are all tactile examples that facilitate fine motor development. Even doing age appropriate tasks in the kitchen such as stirring and kneading dough are great ways to help build hand strength and fine motor skills. These types of “play” activities and manipulation skills will help prepare a child for the future. The ability to do so is the first step in learning to color, draw and ultimately write.

How do Fine Motor Skills help my child?

When your child develops their fine motor skills, your child’s ability to have independence to perform life skills is increased.   Fine motor skill efficiency significantly influences the quality of the task outcome as well as the speed of task performance.  Fine motor skills are essential for performing everyday skills as outlined above as well as academic skills. Without the ability to complete these everyday tasks, a child’s self-esteem can suffer, their academic performance is compromised, and their play options are limited. They are also unable to develop appropriate independence in ‘life’ skills (such as getting dressed and feeding themselves) which in turn has social implications not only within the family but also within peer relationships.

How can I help my child practice Fine Motor tasks?

There are many ways in which you can improve your child’s fine motor skills.  Practicing shoe tying, doing handwriting tasks with schoolwork, tracing and completing pre-writing shapes (circle, square, diamond, etc.) are all great ways to practice Fine Motor Skills.  Some fun crafts and ADL tasks that you can complete with your child are:

  • Stringing beads on pipe cleaners crafts (
  • Handprint art using paint (
  • Sponge painting (
  • Zippers, buttons, and snap buttons
  • Utilizing forks, knives, and spoons
  • Shoe Tying


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