Hey Siri! Define Fine Motor Skills

 May 21, 2021

Parent and toddler practicing fine motor skills painting.

Answer: “Fine motor skills: generally refer to the small movements of the hands, wrists, fingers, feet, toes, lips and tongue. Fine motor skills are also commonly described as dexterity, or the coordination of movements — usually involving the synchronization of hands and fingers with the eyes.”

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Young toddler buttoning up his dress shirt.

Further Defining Fine Motor Skills

Essentially, fine motor skills are how we make movements happen with our hands and fingers and manipulate smaller objects so that we can have precise control of them. This is coordinated with our vision and visual information.

Here are a few examples of how we use our fine motor skills as they develop:

  • Using a pencil or other writing utensils to color, write, or draw.
  • Brushing our teeth or combing our hair.
  • Getting dressed — buttoning our shirts or tying our shoelaces.
  • During play– Putting together a puzzle or building with Legos.


Is Your Child Having Difficulties with Fine Motor Skills?

Adult observing toddler's fine motor skills.

Without properly developing fine motor skills, you will likely notice that your child will have difficulty performing every task (such as those listed above), and possibly even struggling with their academic skills. A lack of fine motor skills may even cause lower self-esteem in a child and limit their play options. Fine motor skills are also imperative to help a child build independence and form social relationships.

Here are several ways you can identify if your child is struggling with their fine motor skills at a glance:
  • Prefer physical activities versus sit-down tasks
  • Avoid activities where they have to use precise movements with their fingers and hands
  • Have a greater interest in passive activities, such as watching TV or using an iPad
  • Do not persist when facing a challenge (they may instead ask someone else to solve the problem for them)
  • They wait for a parent to help them get dressed or brush their teeth instead of trying it on their own


A Quick Motor Skills Test

One way to identify if your child’s foundation may not be as strong as it needs to be is if they are frequently slumped while sitting with a rounded posture.

You can also determine if their foundation might be weak by having your child lie on their stomach and asking them to stretch out their arms and legs (and fly like Superman!).

If they have difficulty getting into this position or struggle with maintaining it, then there may be weakness in their trunk, shoulders, or neck.


Activities to Try at Home

Parent practicing fine motor skill activities with toddler.

You can help your child build their foundation up by practicing some of these core exercises/playful activities:

  1. Wheelbarrow Walks. Hold your child at the knees or ankles while they walk with their hands and arms.
  2. Crab Walks. Sit on the floor and place your hands on the floor behind you and lift your bottom off of the floor by pushing up. Propel yourself around the room like a crab.
  3. Superman Stretches. Lie on your stomach and stretch out your arms and legs so they are off the ground.
  4. Sit-Ups. Support your child’s ankles and have them sit up towards you.
  5. Leap Frog. Squat, then hop, then squat again. Leap around like a frog!

If you would like more advice or information about pediatric occupational therapy to help build your child’s fine motor skills, please give Therapy Tree a call today.

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