Fine Motor Skill Development

What is fine motor?  

The coordination of small motor movements in the arms and hands for functional tasks, such as finger-feeding, coloring, writing, zippers, and playing with small toys such as legos.  This usually involves the use of vision in combination with motor movements (visual-motor integration).

Typical fine motor development milestone:

  • The foundation for fine motor development comes from the development of gross motor skills (large motor movements), such as crawling, sitting, walking, and jumping.
  • Early fine motor skills requires exploration and mastery of sensory skills, such as vision and tactile system.
  • Later fine motor skills require motor planning, memory, and attention skills.

  • Pokes or points with index finger.
  • Picks up small food or toys with thumb and index finger grasp.
  • Puts objects into containers for play.
  • Turns book pages one at a time when reading with parent.12 month
  • Holds large crayons with fingers and thumb (rather than entire fist).
  • Attempts to imitate strokes during coloring (circles, dots, lines).
  • Uses two hands during most play tasks actively and at the same time (bilateral play).
  • Builds block towers and other designs 2-6 blocks.
  • Strings large beads on a string.sticker picture 1
  • Holds a pencil with three finger- thumb, index, and middle finger (static tripod grasp).
  • Copies a few simple lines or shapes.
  • Snips with scissors (after help to learn how).
  • Completes puzzles with non-interlocking pieces.
  • Has the control to stack 10 small blocks and string small beads.
  • Eats with a spoon and fork with little spillage.
  • Most child have a clear hand preference by this age, but still frequently switch during tasks.3 year old
  • Holds a pencil with three fingers- thumb, index, and middle finger- with movement both using the whole hand and starting to move only with the fingers at times.
  • Draws a square (and other simple drawings) following a model.
  • Colors within the lines generally, but does not fill area and frequent marks outside of shapes.
  • Cuts across paper following a line.
  • Can do large buttons and zippers on front of clothing.
  • Children should have a hand preference for most tasks, but new or harder tasks still show hand switching.4 year old
  • Holds a pencil with a thumb and finger (tripod grasp) grasp consistently, using one hand (hand switching should be minimal now).
  • Draws simple, recognizable pictures (stick figure, face, sun, flower, house, ect.)
  • Writes first and last name from a model.
  • Writes the alphabet and numbers from a model.
  • Cuts out simple shapes, staying mostly on a line.
  • Draws diagonals (triangles, letters such as X, A, and V).
  • Colors more neatly, within smaller shapes with more control.
  • Completes interlocking puzzles with 12-36 pieces.
  • Opens most containers for food and toys.puzzle hand
  • Holds pencil in a tripod grasp with movement being dynamic (fingers doing the movement) some of the time.
  • Writes first name from memory.
  • Writes some letters and number from memory.
  • Writes on large guidelines with moderate accuracy with letter size and spacing.
  • Cuts complex shapes with accuracy.
  • Cuts food with a knife and fork.name example
  • Holds pencil in a tripod grasp with movement being dynamic (fingers doing the movement) most of the time.
  • Can write first and last name, all letters and numbers, and some simple words from memory.
  • Writes on medium guidelines, using correct space for capitals and lowercase letters and spacing between words.
  • Writing can be read by parent and teacher.
  • Speed of writing continues to increase, with formation of letter being automatic.
  • Endurance for writing and hand strength increase.
  • Ties shoe laces.IMG_20150725_134434
  • Pencil grasp should by dynamic, meaning that the movement comes from controlled, small motor movements within the hand, using the thumb and index finger primarily.
  • Writing should be a mostly automatic skills; the child does not have to think about formation of most letters.
  • Writing should be controlled and get smaller in size, with clear spacing between words.
  • Legibility should continue to increase.
  • Child should not complain of fatigue during fine motor tasks.
  • Pencil grasp should by dynamic, meaning that the movement comes from controlled, small motor movements within the hand, using the thumb and index finger primarily.
  • As work load increases, some children with weak grasps or poor grasping pattern may experience fatigue or hand pain.
  • Most work should be legible to any reader.
  • Children should be able to write neatly when asked to, but at other times have messy work when allowed.
  • Writing words and sentences should be an automatic process.
  • Problems tend to come up when the earlier skills are not mastered well and as school demands increase children are not able to keep up with peers and work load.
  • Children with problems with attention and/or executive function also struggle due to poor ability to self-monitor and correct their own work for errors and quality.
  • Underlying weakness or problems with joint stability can hinder writing skills in upper grades and beyond.

Concerned about your child’s fine motor development?  Check out my DIY, Fine Motor Program Kits for home or call to schedule an in-home assessment of your child’s needs.