From holding your finger to a pencil — how do kids' fine motor skills develop?
If you are a parent of a newborn or toddler, you've surely heard the words 'fine motor skills' a lot. While it's obvious that these skills have to do with movement, what exactly are they and how do they develop in a child?
In this blog, we will explore what fine motor skills are, what milestones to look out for, and how you can help hone these skills in your growing child.
Want to know more about gross motor skills too? Read this blog to find out.
What are fine motor skills?
Fine motor skills are your child’s ability to use their smaller muscles such as those in their palms and fingers. While these skills are mainly about gripping and manipulating objects, there's more to it than just moving their fingers around. To understand this better, let’s look at the key categories in fine motor skill development.
1. Hand functions: The most basic fine motor skills are the hand functions, beginning with developing finger strength and hand-eye coordination. The next stage would be honing the pincer grasp, or the ability to hold an object between the thumb and first finger.
Another fine motor milestone is midline crossing, where your child can use the hands and legs on one side of their body to work on the opposite side. This particular skill is necessary to understand which their dominant hand is and learn to use it accordingly.
2. Curling palms inward: Children are born with the basic ability to curl their palms inward. As they grow and the arches in their palms strengthen, they will have more control over this movement, helping them with tasks such as holding a pencil and unbuttoning clothes.
3. Tactile perception: This sensory skill also plays a vital role in fine motor development! Understanding the weight and texture of what they are holding is important for a child to manipulate an object.
A playdough kit with sensory tools is a super fun way to engage your child's developing tactile perception!
4. Posture control: While this may seem more of a gross motor skill, your child needs a good posture with sturdy shoulders to hold and use objects. If their shoulders are not strong enough, they will have to apply more force to use a pencil. This also increases tension in the shoulders, which can be painful.
5. Using both hands together: A child’s ability to use two hands together, where one is leading the other, is called bilateral coordination. This helps in activities such as cutting paper where one hand holds the sheet and the other uses the scissors, or in using a fork and knife.
6. Wrist Stability: Being able to comfortably move their wrists will allow your child to use their fingers deliberately and move their elbows and shoulders with ease. Most children will feel confident in their wrist movements by the time they are ready for school.
Fine motor skills according to age
Like all developmental skills, your child’s fine motor skills will naturally strengthen through everyday activities. From eating to playing to changing clothes, their skills will advance over the years as they practice grasping, gripping, holding, and pressing.
Children are born with a basic, primitive grip with which they can gently clutch your finger. Over the course of their first year, they will learn the pincer grasp, holding and dropping rattles, plush toys, and their bottles.
During this time, your child will begin playing. From stacking toys to blocks to scribbling, they will love exploring the world with their little fingers. By now, they will also be able to use a kiddy spoon to eat!
This is a big time for your child’s developing fine motor skills. From drawing circles and lines to improving their use of cutlery and switching to cups, they will have a lot of awesome firsts! They will also be able to put on clothes like t-shirts, turn doorknobs, and string large beads together.
Looking for ways to help your child explore the world? A Montessoi Toddler Tower creates the perfect space for a curious toddler to safely engage with their surroundings!
Your little one’s fine motor skills will be fairly well developed by this stage. They will be able to use kids’ scissors, draw various shapes, connect dots, and help you with simple kitchen tasks like mixing, stirring, and wiping. They will even be able to get undressed and put on new clothes easily.
A preschooler can colour between the lines, wash and dry their hands, and put a straw in their juice box. But their fine motor skills will continue to develop for a few more years. Soon, you will get to see them do complex tasks such as using a pencil to write, buttoning their clothes, and tying their shoelaces!
Hone fine motor skills through play
Play is an excellent way to help your child strengthen their fine motor skills. Simple, open-ended toys and DIY activities can do wonders for a child learning to hold and manipulate objects. We've listed some of our favourite classic fine motor toys and activities below!
1. Lacing activities
Lacing a string through a hole requires your child to have a good pincer grasp and overall hand strength. From using chunky beads with thick strings to smaller beads with delicate threads, age-appropriate lacing toys are fantastic to build fine motor skills. Lacing toys usually have funky shapes and colours, making them instant hits with any little one!
2. Arts and Crafts
A children’s drawing board or colouring books are wonderful to get your child to hold and use a pencil, sketch pen, or crayon — all skills that will directly transfer when they join school. Preschoolers will also love using stamps, scissors, and glue, which in turn will hone their bilateral coordination and middling crossing skills.
Hone your child's scissor skills with this simple and fun DIY activity. All you need is the stationary you have at home!
Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy stacking objects atop each other. Holding and moving the pieces and placing them in the right spot will hone their finger strength, grip, and hand-eye coordination. You can start by giving them paper cups and then move on to toys such as ring stackers, wooden arches, or children’s blocks.
Investing in a few age-appropriate puzzles is a great idea as these are engaging and hone multiple skills for a growing child. When it comes to fine motor skills, picking up a puzzle piece and placing it in the right spot requires a solid grip and precise hand-eye movement. From themed-puzzles and 3D puzzles to Chinese Tangram Puzzles, the options are endless!
5. DIY Toys
Craft, creativity, and pretend play – there’s so much to love in a DIY toy set! These sets typically come with pieces that need to be fixed together to build something such as a wooden play house or a chair and table. Paper DIY 3D sets are also an exciting choice as they give your child a chance to build their own scenarios and create stories within them. Attaching these pieces together will hone fine motor skills and keep your little one playing for hours!
Every child grows differently
As a parent, it’s incredible to see your child conquer one milestone after the other. But let’s not forget that each task takes a tremendous amount of effort for a little one and every child grows in their own unique way.
So stay patient with your child, cheer them on, and keep bringing them opportunities where they can exert their skills and grow!