Developing fine motor skills helps your children to perform important tasks such as feeding themselves, writing, zipping clothes, and more. This article will give insights to parents about the importance of fine motor skills, what fine motor milestones children hit at various stages, and provide activities to strengthen this learning domain at home.
Grabbing Fingers and Toes: Why Are Fine Motor Skills Important?
Fine motor activity involves the use of small muscles that control the hand, fingers, and thumbs. Fine motor skills help children perform important tasks such as feeding themselves, grasping objects, and writing. The ability to accomplish self-care and everyday tasks by using fine motor skills helps a child’s self-esteem and confidence grow.
It’s important to work with children early on to help fine motor skills develop at a young age. Fine motor skills improve with practice, so the earlier the better!
Children who struggle with fine motor tasks become frustrated and upset if they cannot complete everyday tasks. As an example, a child might have a hard time holding scissors and cutting across a dotted line. This might cause them to feel frustrated and discouraged and to avoid cutting exercises since they feel like it’s too difficult for them. You can help them work up to it by starting some of the below activities early.
Fine Motor Skills Milestones by Age
A reminder to parents: your child’s development path is unique. Teachers at Vivvi partner with families to support each child’s appropriate pace, and we always encourage you to reach out to our pediatrician if you have concerns.
0 – 6 Months
Most babies will have a reflexive grasp at birth and around three months of age, they will start to reach for objects. They will also start to develop their voluntary grasp and 2 handed palmar grasps. At 5 months, they are typically demonstrating a 1 handed palmar grasp and at 6 months developing a controlled reach.
6 – 12 Months
From 6 to 12 months, most infants will start to reach and grasp for objects to put in their mouth, and will start to develop the ability to control their release of objects they are holding. They will also develop a pincer grasp and pick things up with this grasp (thumb and one finger). They will also be able to transfer an object from one hand to the other and be able to drop and pick up their toys.
12 – 24 Months
At 12 to 24 months of age, most children are interested in stacking using building blocks. They will also be working on being able to put rings on a stick, place pegs onto a pegboard, and turn pages a few at a time. They can also start to scribble, paint using their whole arm movement, shifting their hands and making strokes, and self-feed with little to no assistance.
Around the age of two, toddlers can start to string large beads, turn single pages, snip using scissors and hold crayons using their thumb and fingers (instead of their fist). They will also be able to use one hand consistently during most activities, and start to paint using their wrists, making dots, lines, and circular strokes. Your toddler will also be able to eat reliably with no assistance.
At three years old, your toddler will be able to build taller towers out of building blocks and manipulate clay materials by rolling them into balls, making snakes or cookies. You might also notice that they are starting to use their non-dominant hand to assist and stabilize the other when using objects.
At age four, most children will be able to continuously cut along the dotted lines on pieces of paper. They will be able to copy a cross or square shape while drawing and be able to write their name and numbers 1 to 5. They can copy letters and their handedness will be well established. They will also start to be able to get dressed all by themselves.
Best Activities to Strengthen Fine Motor Skills for Preschoolers
Here are some ideas of great activities you can do at home to help build your child’s fine motor skills. These activities are fun, engaging and they can help your child get over the frustrated bump of giving up.
Everyone knows that play dough is extremely popular with young children, and it can be a great toy for strengthening fine motor skills. Playdough is a malleable material that makes it fun for toddlers to investigate, and while they do so they build up strength in their small muscles and tendons, preparing them for other activities in the future such as handling scissors.
Threading is another great activity for your child to build up their fine motor skills. By having your child thread beads onto some pipe cleaners, they will use their concentration, thinking skills, and a pincer-like grasp which will help them be able to grip a pencil later on. Using pipe cleaners rather than a string is great for younger children age 2 and up, as it is easier to hold than string and you can twist and shape it during the threading which can be even more interesting for your little one.
Using yarn and cardboard can introduce your little one to the concept of sewing and weaving. Cut out fun shapes, like hearts, out of cardboard with a space in the middle so that your toddler can weave yarn through. It’s a great way for them to strengthen their hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills and it makes for great decoration.
At Vivvi, we believe in an inquiry-based learning model that helps children grow through interacting with the world around them. By engaging in activities that include sensory play, scientific inquiry, literacy, and more, children will develop the skills they need to progress in kindergarten and beyond. You can learn more about milestones and our domains of learning on our website.