By: Laura Bueche, Occupational Therapist
You have probably heard about fine motor skills from your child’s teacher, occupational therapist, or child development book. But what exactly are fine motor skills? Why are they important to develop? What should my child be able to do at their age?
What are Fine Motor Skills?
Fine motor tasks involve small movements of the hands and fingers and are necessary for performing many daily occupations.
Why Are Fine Motor Skills So Important?
Fine motor skills are essential to performing everyday tasks.
As your child grows and learns, fine motor skills are crucial in the education and participation in school. Your child will be learning concepts through using their fine motor skills to color, cut with scissors, and paint with a paintbrush. Later on, they will need more precise fine motor skills to write letters and numbers, operate a calculator, and type on a computer.
Play is also an area that requires fine motor skills, such as constructing legos, kenix, duplos, stringing beads, playing board games, manipulating play doh, and making crafts.
Self-care activities also require fine motor skills. Tying shoelaces, buttoning buttons, zipping up a jacket, and using a knife and fork to eat food, opening and closing containers, opening doors, all require fine motor control.
What Are Some Fine Motor Milestones?
The following list describes SOME activities that your child should be able to do at their developmental age level.
0-3 Months Can hold object involuntarily when placed in palm
2-4 months Swipes at objects independently
3-3.5 months Clasps hands together often
3.5 – 4 months Begins purposeful, visually directed reaching
3-7 months Can hold small object in hand
4-8 months Can transfer objects from one hand to another
- Accurate forward and side reach
- Rakes or scoops small objects to pick them up
- Intentionally releases object
- Transfer items from one hand to another
- Accurate forward and side reach
- Able to grasp small object with finger tips of thumb, pointer, middle finger
- Pokes and points with fingers
- Hold crayon with whole hand
- Emerging skill in picking up a small object with fingertips and moving it to the palm of the hand
- Take off socks
- Take off shoes
- Finger feeds self
- Scoops with spoon or fork and brings it to mouth
- Uses a fork and spoon well
- Holds utensil with thumb and all fingers, thumb pointing down
- Can draw and copy a vertical and horizontal line
- Snips paper
- Turns single pages of book
- String large beads
- Fastens Velcro or elastic laced shoes
- Completes simple puzzles (5-6 pieces)
- Build a tower of 9 small blocks
- Drink from cup with one hand
- Holds pencil with 3 fingers (tripod grasp)
- Copies circle, traces square
- Draws person with head
- Unbuttons small buttons
- Prepares tooth brush with toothpaste
- Obtains soap from dispenser
- Can cut straight, curved lines, and simple shapes
- Draw and copy a cross, square
- Folds paper in half
- Dominant hand has better coordination (no longer switches)
- Puts on and zips up jacket
- Uses a knife to spread, dull knife to cut
- Laces shoes
- Colors within lines
- Cut out complex pictures
- Draws a complete person
- Brushes hair
- Brushes teeth well
- Completes all dressing including fasteners and belt
- Unlocks and opens doors
- Can fasten a safety belt
- Complex puzzles
- Prints uppercase and lowercase
- Uses personal care devices such as contact lenses, glasses, hearing aids, and orthotics
- Folds laundry well
- Uses small kitchen supplies for meal prep
- Uses key to open door
How Can I Help my Child?
Besides the resources at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley, there are some great websites with ideas for home activities that work on fine motor skill development.
If you are concerned about your child’s fine motor development, an occupational therapy evaluation will be able to assess your child’s fine motor skills, and compare them with what is developmentally appropriate for their age. An occupational therapist can recommend ongoing therapy or a home program to help your child catch up to their peers.