Are you unsure what fine motor skills to teach, and when children reach different fine motor milestones? Not only is it important for teachers and parents of young children to understand why fine motor skills are important, but it's so important to understand the wide variety of fine motor skills that children need to develop.
What are fine motor skills?
A child’s fine motor skills determines their ability to precisely control small muscles of the hand, thumbs and fingers. Where gross motor skills involve large muscles and hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills involve smaller movements of the hands. These skills work together to provide the coordination required for many daily tasks.
The importance of fine motor skills development
Fine motor skills are incredibly important for many everyday tasks, such as holding and gripping small items, buttoning clothing, eating, turning pages of a book, opening lunch boxes and more. Fine motor control is also important for skills such as writing, drawing, cutting and pasting, and using computer keyboards.
When a child starts school, fine motor skills become more refined. Children begin to develop the ability to cut more precisely with scissors. More refined pencil control allows children to write more precisely on lines, as well as write both letters and numbers more clearly.
Fine Motor Milestones
Just like gross motor development, children reach major milestones for fine motor skills at different rates.
Below is a general guide of the typical developmental milestones in the 4-7 age group.
By the time a child is 4-5, it is expected that they can cut on a line continuously, and copy a cross and square. They will be able to write their name and the numbers 1-5, as well as copy letters. It should be clear whether they are right or left handed by this stage, and they should be able to dress/undress independently.
By the time a child is 5-6, it is expected that they should be able to cut simple shapes and cut/glue correctly. They should be holding their pencil correctly and colouring within the lines. It is expected that they can draw basic pictures and copy triangles.
From 6-7 years old, children should be able to form most letters and numbers correctly and write consistently on lines. They should be consistently holding their pencil correctly, with adequate control of the movement of the pencil or writing utensil.They should have a decent writing stamina and be able to tie their shoelaces independently.
Different Fine Motor Skills Checklist
When selecting and creating fine motor Kindergarten activities, we need to develop a wide range of skills. Here are some examples of fine motor skills that we want to help children to develop in early childhood.IMPROVING ISOLATION OF EACH INDIVIDUAL FINGER
This is needed for activities such as typing, pointing, tying shoe laces, gripping a pencil and more.SEPARATION OF THE TWO SIDES OF THE HANDS
This is otherwise known as “disassociation of the two sides of the hands”. This skill is important for things such as holding a pencil and stabilising the hand on the table, tying shoes, holding multiple objects in the palm of your hand, cutting, unbuttoning and more. Children need to practise the intentional movement of bending the ring and pinky fingers in towards their palm (rather than stretched out away from the hand).HAND DOMINANCE
This is where children build up consistency in using their preferred hand.OPEN THUMB WEB SPACE
Open thumb web space ensures a functional grasp of writing utensils. We want students to make a round O shape with their thumb and index finger, rather than squashing that area of space. This impacts pencil grip, handwriting, and manipulating small objects to name a few. This ‘O’ shape is known as an open thumb web space.PINCER GRASP
This is where children can use the very tips of their thumb and pointer finger to pick up very small items.PINCH GRIP
This is used to hold items such as paper, a pencil, or small items.GROSS HAND STRENGTH
This is where children can effectively squeeze all their fingers shut around an object, and it is used for activities such as handwriting or using scissors. Students require stamina to keep their hand squeezed shut in order to complete the activity.THUMB JOINTS
Thumbs need to be able to be flexed and rotated to perform tasks such as pulling zippers, tying shoe laces, undoing and doing up buttons, manipulating small items and more.PALMAR ARCH
There are several arches in the palm of your hand. These arches support you in being able to grasp objects of different shapes and sizes. They control the power of your grasp and the movement of your fingers. They are important for manipulating small objects such as pencils and other writing utensils, using cutlery and scissors.
This is the ability to move a small object around in just ONE of your hands.
There are three parts to in-hand manipulation:
TRANSLATION: moving an object from the finger tips to the palm of your hand.
SHIFT: adjusting an object between the fingers and thumb to ensure it is ready to use e.g. positioning a pencil or a paint brush before you begin to use.
ROTATION: making alternating movements between the thumb and fingers to rotate an object (e.g. unscrewing a tooth paste lid).
This is the functional use of both hands in a co-ordinated manner together. The process of development is that chidden use both hands, then switch to using only their dominant hand, and then progress to finally using both hands together effectively.
Want to learn more about fine motor skills development?
Download my FREE Fine Motor Handbook. With over 50 pages, it so far includes the following areas:
- The stages of fine motor development
- All the different aspects of fine motor development and the various skills that should be worked on
- Pencil grip tips
- Hundreds of activity ideas for the home or classroom, with detailed pictures
- Fine motor craft ideas
- Ideas for early intervention
- Inspirational accounts to follow for more fine motor ideas