Tag Archives: fine motor skills

What are Fine Motor Skills?

By: Kelly Nesbitt, Occupational Therapist

If you’re a parent, you know how busy your child’s hands are 24/7. Kids are constantly using their hands to pinch, squish, pull, draw, and manipulate toys and objects in their environment; all thanks to fine motor skills that they have developed over months of play and exploration. But what are fine motor skills exactly, and why do they matter?

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Fine motor skills typically refer to the ability of the hands (through development of the small muscles of the hand and experiential learning) to manipulate objects in order to accomplish specific tasks. Without fine motor skills, your child would have trouble zipping up their coat, buttoning their jeans, tying their shoes, pinching finger foods during dinner, writing with a pencil, scribbling with crayons, opening containers to get a snack, pushing LEGO® together, or turning pages in their favorite bedtime story.

How do fine motor skills typically develop? While every child develops fine motor skills at different rates, children typically develop fine motor skills in this general developmental sequence:

Babies: Learning to reach, grab, and pinch!

  • 1-2 months old:
    • Bat arms inaccurately toward a toy placed by them and will occasionally struggle to grasp onto toys in an intentional manner.
    • Babies at this stage (from birth to approximately 4-6 months old) have a reflexive grasp, meaning that if an object is placed in their palm, they will automatically grasp around the object.
  • 3-4 months:
    • Grasp onto objects in the palm of their hands without their thumb helping them hold onto the object.
  • 5 months:
    • Reach and grasp onto objects placed by them with greater accuracy.
    • Begin to use the thumb more in grasping with their palm of their hand around 4-5 months. This is called a “palmar grasp
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    Photo by Lauren Vitiello

    6-8 months:

    • Reach accurately to items they want.
    • Start using their first 3 fingers (thumb, index, and middle fingers) to hold items in the palm of their hands. OT’s refer to this type of grasp as a “radial palmar grasp
  • 9 months:
    • Start to primarily use their fingers to hold onto objects. For example, they may hold a block between their thumb, index and middle fingers around their knuckles and not with the very tips of their fingers. OT’s refer to this kind of grasp as a “radial digital grasp
  • 10-11 months:
    • Develop an “inferior pincer grasp” in which they can use the pads of their thumb and index fingers to “pinch” onto objects
    • Become interested in dropping objects into containers for play
    • Starts scribbling on paper while coloring

Toddlers: Learning to manipulate, grasp, and cut with scissors

  • 12 months:
    • Develop a “superior” or “fine pincer grasp” in which they can use the very tips of their thumb and index finger to pinch onto smaller objects. Think about how you would pick up a tiny bead with your thumb and index finger; that’s the superior pincer grasp!
    • Move small items in one hand from their fingertips to the palms of their hand. This is referred to as “finger-to-palm translation.” A good example of finger to palm translation is the action of picking up multiple coins, one-at-a-time, with the fingers and moving them into the palm of your hands.
    • Color using their whole hand to grip onto markers and crayons with their palms facing up, known as a “palmar-supinate grasp.
  • 15-18 months:
    • Kids are able to stack 2 cubes on top of each other
    • Kids are able to put large puzzle pieces into a puzzle
  • 2 years:
    • Develop the ability to move small objects from their palm to their fingers, also known as “palm-to-finger translation.”
    • Start motion of twisting caps on bottles with their fingers tips, called “simple rotation.”
    • When drawing, copies an adult in making horizontal, vertical, and circular marks
    • Unbutton buttons
  • 2-3 years
    • Color using a “digital-pronate grasp” where the palm faces down and whole fist is wrapped around the marker or crayon, with one or two fingers “pointing” on the utensil.
    • Start to use scissors to make small little cuts into paper.
  • Marita Blanken_3_MG_9081A3-4 years
    • At 3, kids can copy a pre-drawn vertical and horizontal line and circle
    • Thread medium sized beads onto string
    • Color/write using a “static tripod grasp”, which means that kids use their thumb, index, and middle finger to hold onto a pencil with the tips of their fingers and use their wrist to move the utensil.
    • Uses scissors to cut straight lines and simple shapes like squares and triangles. At this point, cutting out circles is pretty tricky.
    • Around 4 ½ years, kids may begin using a “dynamic tripod grasp” which involves the thumb, index, and middle finger to hold a utensil with the tips of their fingers and use the motion of their fingers to draw
    • Around 4-5 years old, a child is able to write some letters and numbers and may be able to write their own name
    • Can copy a cross when drawing

Kindergarten

  • 5-6 years
    • Further development of the dynamic tripod grasp occurs from 4 ½ -6 years old
    • Cuts out complex shapes with scissors and is able to more neatly cut out circles
    • Able to copy a triangle
    • Copy most uppercase and lower case letters
    • Print their name
    • Tie shoes

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Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of the fine motor skills that kids display at different ages. But, this list will definitely give you an idea of what skills you should see in your little one in time.

 

If you have any questions about your child’s fine motor development or any concerns get connected with an occupational therapist. The Occupational Therapy team at Easter Seals DuPage & Fox Valley offer a depth of knowledge and range of certifications to assist children with autism or physical challenges at any level of involvement. Because each child’s needs are different, we create an individualized treatment plan based on parent concerns and the most current treatment approaches. Click here to learn more. 

References

[1] Case-Smith and O’Brien (2015). Occupational Therapy for Children and Adolescents (7th ed.). Saint Louis, MO: Elsevier

[2] Rita P. Fleming-Castaldy (2014). National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam Review & Study Guide. Scranton, PA: TherapyEd.

[3] Lurie Children’s Hospital (2018) Fine Motor Development Milestones. Retrieved from: https://www.luriechildrens.org/en-us/care-services/specialties-services/occupational-therapy/developmental-milestones/Pages/fine-motor-skills.aspx

 

 

 

 

[1] Case-Smith and O’Brien (2015). Occupational Therapy for Children and Adolescents (7th ed.). Saint Louis, MO: Elsevier

2 Rita P. Fleming-Castaldy (2014). National Occupational Therapy Certification Exam Review & Study Guide. Scranton, PA: TherapyEd.

3 Lurie Children’s Hospital (2018) Fine Motor Development Milestones. Retrieved from: https://www.luriechildrens.org/en-us/care-services/specialties-services/occupational-therapy/developmental-milestones/Pages/fine-motor-skills.aspx

 

 

 

 

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Fine Motor Fun

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. 20150320_ES-LegoRoom-22.jpg

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

4-10 months

  • Accurate forward and side reach
  • Rakes or scoops small objects to pick them up
  • Intentionally releases object

Age 1

  • 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 fingersNicholas_T

12- 18months

  • Hold crayon with whole hand
  • Emerging skill in picking up a small object with fingertips and moving it to the palm of the hand

Age 2

  • 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

Age 3

  • 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

Age 4

  • 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)

Age 5

  • 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

Age 6

  • 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

Age 8

  • Uses personal care devices such as contact lenses, glasses, hearing aids, and orthotics

Age 9

  • 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.