Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills

What are fine motor skills?

Movement skills are also known as motor skills and can be broken into 2 broad areas: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. The two are not mutually exclusive – gross motor skills are necessary for a child to be able to produce fine motor control movements. 

Fine motor skills refer to the coordination between the small muscles, especially in the fingers, hands and eyes. These small muscles of the body are necessary for more intricate movements such as writing, grasping small objects or fastening clothes. They are involved in the manipulation of objects within the hands which can produce the small movements required for dexterity. Fine motor skill efficiency significantly influences the quality of the task as well as the speed and accuracy of task performance.

For fine motor skills to be successful a number of independent skills are required for them to be effective. These include:

  • Bilateral integration this is our ability to use both hands together, with one hand leading and the other assisting e.g. opening a jar with one hand turning and the other holding the jar.
  • Crossing Midline This is the ability to be able to cross an imaginary line running from a child’s nose their tummy that divides the body into left and right sides.
  • Hand and finger strength This child must have the ability to exert force against resistance using the hands and fingers.
  • Hand eye coordination Refers to the ability to process information received from the eyes to control, guide, and direct the hands to achieve a task such as handwriting.
  • Hand Dominance
    This is when there is a consistent use of a preferred hand.
  • Object Manipulation
    This is the ability manipulating small objects within the hand, including the ability to hold and move pencils and scissors with control and use of everyday tools such as a toothbrush, hairbrush, and cutlery. It requires finger awareness, isolation and opposition while also relying on tactile feedback.
  • Proprioception
    This is information that the brain receives from our muscles and joints to make us aware of body position in space.

How would I recognise fine motor difficulties?

  • Children that have difficulty with fine motor skills will typically struggle with handwriting and find activities such as buttons, zips, laces and cutlery, difficult. They may present with one or more of the following:
  • The child may present with an awkward or immature pencil grasp
  • Their Messy or slow drawing, colouring or writing skills may Messy or slow
  • The child tires quickly when writing, drawing or typing, often complaining of sore wrists
  • The child may struggle with using scissors, even if can manage simple “snipping” it can untidy and ineffective
  • They may have difficulty doing precision tasks, such as doing up buttons, threading, zips or tying shoelaces).
  • The child may express a dislike of precise hand and eye coordination tasks even those which would appear fun e.g.  Lego
  • They may struggle self-care tasks independently
  • The child may be reluctant to sit at a table and engage in activities that require precise movements. The child may become stressed, frustrated and angry if they are  made to complete these types of tasks
  • School may report that the child is falling behind their peers in handwriting
  • If problems with fine motor skills are not addressed (noticed and treated) at an early stage they can cause problems with self-esteem and confidence; academic performance; and independence in activities such as feeding and dressing.

How therapy help with fine motor difficulties?

In order to work on fine motor skills the therapist will assess what areas the child is struggling with and help them work on these specific issues. They may include working on:

  • Hand dominance
  • Bilateral Integration
  • Finger Isolation – By working with your child to practice activities that use just one or two fingers – not all the fingers at once for example ‘poking’ games, and finger painting.
  • Hand Finger Strength – working with the child to improve their finger strength by using specific therapeutic mediums such as theraputty and therabands. There are lots of fun and engaging games and activities that can help improve your child’s fine motor skills. Here are some activities that can used:
    • Threading and lacing: with a variety of sized laces.
    • Tongs or teabag squeezers: to pick up objects (e.g. putting marbles down a marble maze). Manipulation games: such as ‘Pick up Sticks’ and ‘Connect 4’.
    • Play-doh: Using the fingers, not the hands as whole to make shapes or figures.
    • Construction games: these require pushing and pulling with the fingers for example Lego. Storing games in jars with screw lids that need to be opened and closed as needed.
    • Craft: Make things using old boxes, egg cartons, wool, paper and sticky or masking tape.
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