occupational therapist & child development specialist

Tag: fine motor skills

Activities to Promote Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills

Writing on a vertical surface such as a wall is a wonderful way to develop fine motor skills. It puts the wrist into an extended position and facilitates coordination in the thumb, index, and middle fingers, while building strength and stability on the ring/index finger side of the hand. It also helps to develop the arches in the hand and helps with shoulder and elbow stability. Here are some fun ideas:

  • write or draw with chalk on a chalkboard.
  • place stickers on a vertical surface. 
  • trace or stencil on a piece of paper taped to the wall.
  • color on a piece of paper taped to the wall or on an easel.
  • paint on an easel or on a large piece of paper taped to the wall.
  • play with magnets on a vertical magnetic board.
  • make shapes or designs on windows or the refrigerator using “wikki stix”.
  • draw on a magnadoodle propped up against a wall.
  • you can also tape a piece of paper to the underside of a low table and have you child draw and color a picture while lying on her back. This is very therapeutic and kids love this!

Skills Needed for Handwriting

Writing is a multifaceted activity in which a child has to pay attention to many separate tasks at one time. Initially, a child has to think of a topic about which he is going to write, or formulate an idea for the text. He has to remember how to form each letter, and make sure to write the letters in the designated space and in the correct sequence on the page. Finally, there are the rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation that must be attended to- all of this while staying focused amidst the many distractions that might occur. Considering all of these components, it’s no wonder that many children find handwriting to be a challenging task. 

The foundation for good fine motor skills is postural control, so this is usually the first area that I assess when a student is referred to me for poor handwriting skills. If core weakness is present, the child will most likely have difficulty sitting at a desk with a proper “handwriting posture.” 

Once I know that postural stability is being addressed, I typically look at some of these basic hand skills: 

  • Can the child rotate a pencil with one hand to use the eraser?  
  • Can he bring coins from the palm out to the fingertips, as if putting money in a soda machine? 
  • Can he perform that same task, with several other coins held in the palm, while bringing each coin out one at a time?  
  • Can he pick up a handful of change from a table, one coin at a time, bringing each coin into the palm and storing it while picking up the rest? 
  • Is he able to rapidly and sequentially touch the tip of each finger to the thumb? 

If the child has problems with any of these skills, it might be an indication that there is weakness in the muscles of the hands and fingers. In my next post, I will share some activities that are great for strengthening the muscles of the hands and for improving fine motor coordination. 

The Development of Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills are the way that we use our fingers and hands to manipulate small objects. They are very important when we go to school and it’s time to work with pencils, crayons, and scissors. However, fine motor skills begin to develop long before school age. At around 3 months old, babies begin to use their hands to grasp objects and their arms to swipe. Between 9 and 12 months of age, most infants can pick up a small object with the thumb and index finger, which is called a pincer grasp. 

Pincer Grasp

At two years of age, a little one can color with whole arm movement and holds a crayon in a fisted position with the thumb facing upward. By age 4, most children can imitate a cross and trace a diamond and a triangle, and by age 5 they can hold a pencil with 3 fingers, which is called a tripod grasp. This is the optimal grasp to have when writing, although there are others that are acceptable. Hand dominance is typically established by this age as well. 

Tripod Grasp

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