What are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands. Your child’s fine motor skills are  extremely important.  We rely on our fine motor skills for  daily life .

Examples of fine motor skills being used on the daily include:

  •  Getting dressed.
  • Buttoning a shirt.
  •  Tying our shoes. 
  •  Academic skills like writing and drawing.
  • Picking up , and handling small items.
  • Turning the pages of a book.
  • Playing with small objects.
  • Eating.
  • Cutting. 

Without strongly developed fine motor skills , a person will tend to struggle while trying to complete any of the above tasks. Before your child can hold a pencil or begin to write their name , fine motor skills have to be developed. 

The development of fine motor skills begins in infancy and continues to improve as your child grows. Here are some expected milestones for children between 3-5 years old in regards to their fine motor development. 

3 Years Old:

  • Able to draw a circle after  watching it be modeled.
  • Cut paper in half.
  • Add lace to  a card.
  • Fastens and unfastens large buttons.
  • Holding a crayon with thumb and fingers.
  • Using one hand consistently for most activities.
  • Imitating circular, vertical and horizontal strokes.
  • Eating without assistance.
  • Picking up small objects with your thumb and one finger.

4 Years Old: 

  • Able to cut along a straight line.
  • Gets dressed and undressed without help.
  • Can cut out big circles with scissors.
  • Can use a fork correctly.
  • Hold a pencil with their thumb and fingers on opposite sides of the pencil.
  • Capable of threading small beads onto a string.

5 years old

  • Able to continuously cut along a line. 
  • Able to correctly grasp a pencil.
  • Begin to print their name .
  • Able to  make a triangle shape. 
  • Able to put a puzzle together.
  • Able to  print letters and numbers 
  • Uses a preferred hand for most activities.
  • Able to complete cut and paste projects.

If interested in a more extensive list of milestones you can read more here.

While the milestones shared are expected milestones, just like any other area of your child’s development this will all be approximate. Your child may achieve these milestones sooner or later. If you are worried about your child’s fine motor skills , reach out to your healthcare provider. 

There are also ways that you can support your child at home to nurture and strengthen their fine motor skills.

  • Provide opportunities to use a zipper.  Most people own at least a few items with a zipper attached. Allow your child to have one of those items in their play area so they can use it as ample practice. When your child is getting dressed or putting the coats on , allow them the opportunity to zip it up themselves instead of you always doing it. 
  • Provide an opportunity to use a paint brush. Painting is an effective way to strengthen your child’s fine motor skills. It requires the use of a pincer grasp. The pincer grasp is the ability to hold something between the thumb and first finger. This lays the foundation for a good pencil grip .
  • Coloring with crayons and chalk – Coloring with crayons and playing with chalk is not just fun.  It also  helps to develop hand strength and is another way to offer practice for a good pencil grip.  
  • Puzzles also help  to develop the small muscles in their hand that allow them to grasp and move puzzle pieces with precision. If you haven’t done this yet , add a few puzzles to your child’s toy rotation.
  • Play-doh-  While your child is flattening,  squishing, rolling, creating all sorts of shapes and other fun things they are  developing the muscles in their hands. 
  • Threading beads or  pasta – This activity doesn’t just help to develop and strengthen your child’s fine motor skills but also , improves bilateral coordination (using both sides of the body at the same time) as well as hand-eye coordination ( the simultaneous use of our hands and eyes)
  • Blocks to use for building- The simple movements of your child reaching, lifting and stacking blocks all help to develop and strengthen not only your child’s fine motor skills but their gross motor skills as well. 

Fine motor skills are essential in our daily lives, that is why it is so important to be intentional about nurturing and strengthening your child’s fine motor skills.