Fine motor skills are “refined movements and actions of the hands, fingers, and wrists that enable precision and dexterity.” It involves the coordination of small muscles in the hands and fingers along with the eyes. These skills are vital for performing everyday tasks for preschoolers, both simple and complex. This means picking a piece of paper to fastening shirt buttons or tying shoe laces to cutting various materials with a pair of scissors.
Fine motor skills versus Gross motor skills
Gross Motor Skills
These involve larger muscle groups and are related to activities such as walking, running, and jumping.
Fine Motor Skills
These involve smaller muscle groups and are related to activities that require precision and coordination, such as writing, drawing, buttoning a shirt, and using utensils.
Fine motor skills milestones
Fine motor skills development typically follows a predictable progression in children, starting with basic movements and gradually becoming more refined. Children develop at different rates depending on factors related to their family history, medical history and birth, but here is an approximate timeline of fine motor skill development in children:
Infancy (0-2 years)
At this stage, infants start developing basic fine motor skills such as grasping objects, holding a bottle, shaking a rattle and exploring objects with their hands. At 18 months, babies can start sorting shapes and stack 2-3 cups.
Toddlerhood (2-3 years)
Toddlers learn to fine tune their motor skills by stacking blocks, turning pages in a book, and attempting to use utensils or drink from an open cup. This is also when they start to make circles and horizontal lines. They also begin to help dress themselves and remove their own socks.
Preschool (3-5 years)
Fine motor skills become more precise during the preschool years. Children start to draw simple shapes, use scissors, and build with smaller building blocks. They may struggle but this is also a time when they learn buttoning buttons.
Entry to Primary (6-8 years)
Hand-eye coordination improves, allowing children to engage in more complex activities such as writing, drawing detailed pictures, and tying shoelaces.
Late Childhood and Adolescence (9+ years)
Fine motor skills continue to develop throughout childhood and adolescence. At this point, activities become more specialized, such as playing musical instruments, typing, and engaging in sports that require precise hand movements.
Types of fine motor skills
Fine motor skills are made up of various components that pose impact and significance on finger strength, manipulation of objects, tool use, and endurance. Some of these types are as follows:
Bilateral hand coordination. Use of both hands together or using one hand as stabilizer; the other as manipulating hand.
Gross grasp. Use of all fingers to squeeze with whole hand shut around an object like holding the handle of a bag.
Pincer grasp. Use of thumb and index finger to hold and pick up small objects.
Tripod grasp. Use of index finger, thumb and middle finger to grasp and manipulate objects like that of holding a pencil for writing.
Eye-hand coordination. Use of visual information to coordinate with movement of the hands. This impacts threading beads, coloring in lines, feeding, reading and throwing a ball.
Cylindrical grasp. Also known as gross grasp. This is the use of whole hand holding an object in a curved position with thumb in opposition. This aids a child to hold a broom, a baseball bat or simply, an ice cream cone.
Fine motor skills are not only important for academic success but also for activities of daily living and self care. Additionally, children who struggle with fine motor skills may face challenges in tasks such as handwriting. Developing fine motor skills is an essential component of pre-writing skills because if such skills are not fully developed, some children would struggle to even hold a pencil! Components such as hand-eye coordination, finger strength and grasp are crucial in handwriting.
Activities to Enhance Fine Motor Skills
Use of playdough
Playdough activities strengthen hands, improve hand-eye coordination, enhance strength and grip.
Use of beads and threading
Activities that use beads or other small objects enhances the pincer grasp, finger and hand strength, dexterity and precision.
Use of clothespins
Using clothespins instead of finger to pick up objects or crafts is a great finger strength and pincer grasp exercise.
Use of chalk
Activities that use chalk will help finger and hand strength and endurance. One can begin to draw and scribble using chalk before transitioning to a more precise handwriting tool such as pencil.
Use of lids and containers
Opening lids with hands help build hand strength and hand-eye coordination. This is essential in self-sufficiency in preschoolers when they are feeding themselves at school.
Use of scissors
Using scissors to cut various materials help them develop finger strength, grasp, and hand-eye coordination. Begin with cutting soft objects such as clay or dough then transitioning to plastic or paper straws and then actual paper itself.
Use of paper for tearing
Activities such as tearing paper can strengthen hands, improve hand-eye coordination, enhance finger strength and grip.
Fine motor skills and independence
Not only does enhancing fine motor skills will help your preschooler prepare for writing but it will also aid your child in terms of self-sufficiency. The ability to turn on or off a faucet to wash hands on his/her own, to open the lid of a drinking cup, to tie and untie one’s laces and button/unbutton one’s shirt are vital skills leading to independent self-care.
Other Source: Very Well Health