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14 July 2020 - 5 min Read
Fine Motor Skills


What are fine motor skills?


Enter any early childhood classroom and you are sure to hear the words “fine motor” mentioned! These skills underpin so many aspects of a child’s development, but what exactly are they?

Fine motor skills are the ability to use (with control) the small muscles in the handfingers, and wrist. These skills develop over time in a linear way, and closely mirror the development of the bone structure within the hand. As you can see in the image created by Tam @misslearningbee, as a child ages the bones and structure within the hand becomes more refined, enabling them to complete more complex tasks.


Fine motor skills are used and impact a range of different areas of a child’s development… 

  • Academic skills: these include pencil and scissor control and technology use (e.g mouse and stylus control) 
  • Play skillsconstruction (eg lego), dolls and role play (dressing toys, doing up buttons etc) 
  • Self-care: dressing, eating, hygiene (teeth/hair brushing, toileting) 


What’s the big deal? 


Fine motor skills are necessary for performing everyday academic, play, and self-care skills. Poor fine motor skills can impact on a students self esteem and confidence to attempt tasks independently.  

Did you know that there have been studies which suggest a close relationship between fine motor development and other aspects of language, literacy, and cognitive development? Of course this is not *always* the case, however when tasks that should be automated (eg holding and controlling a pencil) require dedicated attention and energy it obviously reduces the attention that can be given to other aspects of the task (eg what to write, how to sound the word out, how to form the letters etc). 

It is a fair conclusion to make that fine motor skill efficiency impacts of the quality, speed and independence of the task completion. As educators we want all students to feel that they are capable and independent learners, and so it is vital that we provide them with the skills required!


Big muscles make a big difference! 


Students who struggle with their fine motor skills will often be reluctant to participate in activities which practise these skills. It is important that practise of these skills are kept short, sharp and fun! We will be sharing lots of ideas for this in our next blog post, so make sure you check that one out for lots of tips and tricks! 

Before embarking on rigorous practise of these fine motor skills, take the time to evaluate what may the root cause of the students limited fine motor skills. Is it a lack of exposure to tasks that require refined fine motor control? Or could it perhaps be poor core strength? Quite often core strength and gross motor skills are overlooked. However, in order to control the small muscles of their body and child must first be able to control the large muscles. Running, skipping, jumping and ball skills (just to name a few) are a great way to get those big muscles moving.


So how do you know when something is wrong? 


Signs of difficulty with fine motor skills can be as obvious as a lack of ability to complete tasks alongside their peers (eg cutting, drawing, name writing). Or may be more subtle, such as task avoidance, getting their friends to “help” complete tricky components, interest in passive activities or not persisting with tasks that challenge their fine motor skills. 

As with all things it is always best to inform your students parents and keep them as involved as possible. Keep a note of any observations you make, even better if you can collect samples so that a comparison of their progress over time can be made. If progress is not being made, or you feel that their fine motor skills are impacting other areas of their learning it may be worth investigating a referral to an Occupational Therapist. All schools have different processes for this, so chat with your admin team about the best way to move forward with this. 


Make sure you check out our next blog post which will include lots of fun ways to incorporate fine motor skill practice in your class. If you’d like to check out some of our hands on fine motor activities simply click here.

You can check out Tam’s Instagram page @misslearningbee here.






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