Let’s Learn Fine Motor Skills

Let’s Learn Fine Motor Skills

Have you ever wondered, we perform so many activities right from the start of the day till the end. We brush our teeth, wear our clothes, button our shirt, tie shoelaces, write, carry grocery bags, hand over change while exchanging goods for money, cut vegetables, play board games, etc.

All of the things mentioned above are part of our day to day life, there is one thing in common for all these activities and that is, they all require precise fine motor skills, isolated finger movements so that these tasks happen effortlessly for us.

Fine motor skills are when small muscles of the hand work together in a refined way to accomplish tasks like writing, colouring, buttoning, tying shoelaces, etc. There is controlled movement of the fingers and thumb while performing these tasks. These skills generally develop along with the development of the gross motor skills. Development of fine motor skills is heavily influenced by the development of trunk and core strength and by the proximal strength and stability of the child, as they engage in gross motor tasks such as sitting, crawling, cruising, etc.

Fine motor skills are necessary to develop good grasp, grip, strength and finger dexterity. Having good fine motor skills is important for schooling. From Preschool onwards, the child is required to use his/her fine motor skills for building blocks, using crayons, simple folding paper crafts, using fine finger movements for fixing lego, puzzles, using play-doh etc.

However, it is necessary to refine the skills and there might be times when the skills might be delayed. In such situations, it is important to help the child develop and improve the skills by performing various activities that will be fun and interesting for them.

Fine motor skills do not just mean the ability to use fingers, and there are many other aspects that are required to build the foundation of fine motor skills. They are-

  1. Core and proximal postural stability (Having good core strength and stability along with shoulder stability helps in maintaining an upright posture while performing fine motor tasks).
  2. Bilateral integration skills (ability to use two hands together in various tasks like cutting, folding, bead stringing, lacing, etc).
  3. In-hand manipulation skills (It is the ability to hold, manipulate small objects in hand, between palm and fingertips like using coins, marbles, etc).
  4. Tactile processing (Ability to perceive information using the sense of touch).

Let’s look at these in detail-

  1. The very first step to developing fine motor skills for kids is to strengthen and improve proximal and core stability (i.e) shoulder and core muscle strengthening. These weight bearing activities also help develop the arches and the intrinsic muscles of the palm and hand. Following activities can be done- Animal walks, obstacle courses, household chores, playing tug of wars etc. (Do refer to our newsletter from March 2020 for more ideas on improving core and proximal strength while at home).
  2. As postural stability develops, along with that, it is important to have good bilateral integration skills for fine Motor development. Bilateral integration simply means the ability to use both the sides of the body- left and right side together. Activities that will help in developing bilateral integration are-
    • Gross motor activities like ball catch and throw
    • Swinging with holding hands on the ropes
    • Balloon volleyball with hands clasped together
    • Batting while playing cricket
    • Jumping jacks, skipping, cycling, etc.
    • Table-top activities like lacing, bead stringing, cutting, construction games like legos, blocks, etc. also facilitate the development of bilateral integration along with fine motor skills.
  1. In-hand manipulation skills directly work with improving the strength and stability of small muscles of the fingers that assists in developing Fine Motor skills. A few activities that you can do at home are-
    • Pick a small object with the tip of the first two fingers and thumb (marbles, coin, beans, beads etc.) and translate it to the palm (“hide” it in your hand). Then pick up another and another.
    • Move one item from your palm and translate it to the first two your fingertips and thumb and place it down on the table.
    • Connect 4 game: hold 3-4 chips at a time within the palm while placing chips in the slots
    • Place coins in a Piggy Bank starting with several coins in the palm and shifting it from his palm to the first two fingers and thumb.
    • Craft activities – use punch, stapler, paper clips; tearing, crumpling, sticking and folding paper.

Pencil Games for in-hand manipulation-

  • Hold the pencil in the fingertips, ready for writing, then “walk” the fingers to the eraser end of the pencil, then back to the tip
  • Turn the pencil between the thumb and fingertips: try turning it like a windmill in one direction, then the other

Here’s one link you can use for the same-

  1. Working on Tactile Processing helps in better tactile registration, and will result in improved fine motor skills as well. A few activities you can do with kids at home for tactile play are-
    • Let kids help/participate in simple activities like making the roti dough with flour, water.
    • Do vegetable painting. If paints are not available, you can make a paste out of vegetables like beetroot, turmeric paste, tomatoes, etc. and use the paste as paints.
    • Do gardening in the form of digging mud, planting seeds, watering the plants, etc.
    • Play in the sand, mud and make a sand mountain, etc.
    • Play with water bubbles, shaving cream, fresh malai from milk, corn flour-water paste, etc.
    • Make a Sensory Bin- Fill a bin with rice or pulses. Hide small toys inside this bin. Kids can put their hands inside and using touch input with their hands, they can find the hidden toys without looking/or with looking.

Additional activities that are directly targeting fine motor skills-

Developing tripod grasp-

  • Use small short crayons for activities like writing, colouring. Using a short crayon facilitates holding it between the first two fingers and the thumb which will reinforce tripod grasp which is required for activities like writing, buttoning, tying shoelaces etc.
  • Use finger foods like French fries, small apple slices, or fruit loops by picking food using fingers and eating.
  • Using paints with dipping sponges, cotton balls, vegetables etc. helps in developing tripod grasp and also gives tactile feedback for the same.
  • Use clay, theraputty, play-doh etc. hide small manipulative in it and let your child run his fingers through it and find the hidden treasures from inside.
  • Tweezers work a lot in developing the tripod grasp. Use tweezers to pick small objects like cotton balls, tiny pieces of lego etc.

Developing fine motor control-

  • Use vertical surfaces like inclined desks, vertical walls, etc. to perform tasks like colouring, writing etc. Vertical surfaces help in developing shoulder stability and strength, facilitating wrist extension which also works for developing improved fine motor control.
  • Activities and games like scanning through mazes using crayons or pencils help in having controlled movements within the small spaces of the maze which helps in developing fine motor control.
  • Using small manipulatives like using mini legos, games like Mechanix and fixing to make a construction model requires control.

All of the above activities will help your child in achieving better fine motor skills. However, these are the skills which need many many practices to be perfected and need to be given time. We will not be able to see results within one day, but if you are consistently practising with your child, over a few trials, you will start seeing changes. Try and keep the activities fun for the kids and let them enjoy the process. Make it a part of their daily routine so that they have a natural environment to learn and imbibe these skills as a part of their routine.


Fine Motor Skills and Executive Function Both Contribute to Kindergarten Achievement- https://srcd.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1467-8624.2012.01768.x

Fine Motor Outcomes in Preschool Children Who Receive Occupational Therapy Services- https://ajot.aota.org/article.aspx?articleid=1862312