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What are Fine Motor Skills?

So what exactly are fine motor skills and why are they important for my child’s development?

Let’s be clear here: Firstly what is fine motor? 

The term 'fine motor' literally means 'small muscles'. When we talk about fine motor we are referring to the small muscles in children's hands, fingers and arms.

The term 'fine motor skills' means the ability to which children manipulate and control different materials and tools. The level of 'skill' with this control develops with age but surprisingly varies greatly from child to child.

Why are fine motor skills so important?

In a nutshell, they help your child interact with the world around them. Fine motor skills start developing in young babies and continue to develop well into childhood. A very young baby will begin developing these skills by gripping mum's finger or reaching for a familiar face, holding a toy or shaking a rattle. Sounds basic but these are all emerging fine motor skills. As babies grow into toddlers their fine motor control strengthens helping them to complete small tasks giving them a sense of pride and achievement.

Practice makes perfect:

Like all skills, children need to practice using their fine motor muscles to strengthen them allowing them to complete more complex tasks. Think about playing an instrument, if you were handed a guitar with no musical experience, the act of learning the cords and strumming technique would leave your fine motor skills fatigued. With practice and time, slowly your muscles build as does your confidence and coordination allowing you to finally play your first song.

Well developed fine motor muscles can really give young children a great head start to their learning. Firstly, they develop confidence through the simple ability to play a certain game, thread an object or independently dress themselves. These 'little wins' mean that your child can hopefully avoid future frustrations when starting school where fine motor skills become pertinent. 

What can I do at home to encourage my child to build fine motor skills?

Luckily for you, fine motor skills are easy to practice at home. 


Here are a few simple examples: 👌

  • drawing using crayons, texta's, lead pencils, charcoal, chalk
  • play-dough moulding, kneading, rolling, cutting
  • pegging pegs onto a string or dolls clothes onto a line
  • picking up different sized objects and putting or counting them into various containers (stones, gems, shells, wood parts)
  • using jumbo tweezers to pick up objects
  • painting using a variety of brushes
  • threading beads onto a string or pipe cleaners into a colander
  • cutting paper and cardboard

What if my child doesn’t sit still?

Good news! Not all fine motor skills require a table & chair. There are lots of activities that will help strengthen fine motor skills outside whilst on the go!

  • water play - pouring water into funnels and different sized containers
  • sand play - digging, making wells and car tracks
  • collecting sticks, bark or shells and counting them out or placing them onto a sandcastle
  • painting a fence or wall with a big brush and water
  • hammering games - such as hammer the peg
  • nuts and bolts - screwing large nuts onto bolts (found at Bunnings or the back shed)
  • buttoning up their own clothes and zipping up their own jackets
  • Spray bottles, fill with water and spray the plants

The key to building fine motor is to let your child lead the way. Find something that interests them and use that interest to build their skills. Children love having their parents work with them but I strongly emphasise the 'work with' NOT 'do it for' your child. It's easy to take over especially when your child is developing skills that make them slow or an activity messy. Having patience can be hard but I promise it will pay off in the end, after all, patience is a virtue!


Want to read more? Check out this great article from the Department of Education Victoria. Click here!

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