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Fine Motor Skills Explained

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Allison Christine, director and owner of Keystone Education Services, explains what fine motor skills are and how understanding them can help you and your young students.

Watch Allison on The Hampton Roads Show!Fine Motor Skills Chesapeake Bay Academy

What are fine motor skills and why are they important?
That’s a great question, because I think that this is a term people often hear, but don’t fully understand. Fine motor skills refer to small muscle movements and in education we are usually referring to children’s hands. These are the skills that children need to learn in order to draw, use scissors, write, and really grasp any small object appropriately.

What types of activities help to improve these skills?
There really are so many different types of activities children can do to improve these skills, However, just to name a few: letting children cut paper-they can cut whatever they want in whatever direction they want or have them cut out large objects, then move to smaller ones as they get better and better. Having children trace things with Mr. Pointer-trace lines, shapes, numbers, letters, and sight words and you can trace them in paint, in sand, in the air, or shaving cream on a table (then you’re cleaning your table too J) Playing with play-doh, using tweezer-like objects to pick things up, and stringing beads are also great activities for improving these skills.

What are some indications that there could possibly be a delay?
First, I would like to emphasize that it’s very important to look at the source when inquiring about this type of information. As a parent looking at other children, it can be hard to understand that children develop at different rates and there is a lot of information, some of which looks very legitimate, that is shockingly incorrect. Always, always consult your pediatrician for this question – the only trusting source I can acknowledge is the American Academy of Pediatrics at
Just to give a few developmental milestones though, these may be some red flags: If your child is 3-4 years old and cannot grasp a crayon between their thumb and fingers, or cannot copy a circle, you should consult with your pediatrician. If your child is 4-5 years old and struggles to take off their clothes, cannot independently wash and dry their hands, or brush their teeth efficiently, then you should consult with your pediatrician. Early intervention is key in diagnosing and improving any developmental delays.

What age should you begin working on these skills?
Fine motor skill development is something that you can start to work with your child on when they are still babies, it just differs as they get older. However, with your 1 to 2 year olds, give them the chance to scribble, with your 3 to 4 year olds give them the opportunity to cut up magazines or copy shapes (using crayons or short pencils), and with your 4 to 5 year olds allow them to copy and write letters, use their own fork/spoon, and dress/undress themselves.

For more information on fine motor skills and occupational therapy – contact Lauren Rice with the Dominion Education Center at Chesapeake Bay Academy.