What are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our wrists and hands. These skills are developed and refined from birth to eight years of age. In children, fine motor skills are needed for everyday activities, such as play, school-based learning and self-care tasks.

Fine motor skills include:

  • Holding a pencil
  • Using scissors and other tools 
  • Construction with blocks such as Duplo and Lego
  • Completing puzzles
  • Brushing teeth
  • Getting dressed
  • Manipulating buttons and zips
  • Using a fork and spoon
  • Opening food wrappers and containers

As you can see, fine motor skills are super important. So, when a child has delayed fine motor skills it can impact on areas such as their opportunities for play, academic progress, and independence.

Below are some signs that your child might have fine motor difficulties. You may notice that your child: 

  • Is slow when drawing, colouring, or writing or their work is difficult to decipher
  • Has difficulty cutting smoothly along lines or curves
  • Finds it difficult to manipulate objects, such as tying shoelaces or threading
  • Tires easily when using a computer
  • Struggles to complete self-care tasks appropriate for their age independently
  • Is slow to master new fine motor tasks. 

If you have noticed some of these signs, don’t panic! The good news is that occupational therapy can help to develop your child’s fine motor skills. Your therapist is also likely to give you some fun activities to practice at home.  With this targeted support, kids can begin to develop greater independence which, let’s face it, is a win for them and a win for their parents!

Yvette Zevon is a psychologist based at The Northern Centre for Child Development, who is completing the registrar program in educational and developmental psychology. She is passionate about working with young people and families and is grateful for the daily opportunities to express her playful side.

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