Fine Motor 101
What are Fine Motor Skills?
Fine Motor Skills or is the movements your child makes using the small muscles in her hands and forearms, usually synchronized with the eyes. Fine Motor Skills require precise muscle control, involve smaller actions, and require many independent skills to work together to appropriately manipulate the object or perform the task.
Fine Motor Skills encompass many things and include; academic skills, play skills, self-care, and even visual perceptual skills.
Note: Visual perception (accurately using vision, ‘seeing’ and interpreting) is not strictly a fine motor skill but directly supports fine motor skill performance.
Why Are They Important?
Fine Motor Skill development plays a crucial role in school readiness. Anything your kiddo does in the early years of school requires fine motor skills. It allows kids to perform crucial tasks starting at just reaching, grasping to using tools like crayons, pencils, and scissors. It also improves their hand-eye coordination.
What do I know?
Why should you listen to me about fine motor skills? I was a special educator who worked with many children with fine motor delays. When I taught special education kindergarten, all my students received Occupational Therapy services. It was important that I understood how to develop these skills, as many of my students were only receiving 30-60 minutes of service per week. I was trained on an intervention handwriting curriculum for kids who had delays, and worked closely with OTs to ensure I was helping my students make the most progress they could. I integrated a yoga program, implemented sensory diets, and incorporated many of the skills into their daily routines, with dressing, toileting, eating, and play. I tried to work on the skills in the most natural setting that would help them to be functional, give us daily practice, and not be something extra I needed to create.
My daughter Adeline started receiving Occupational Therapy for fine motor delays at 6 months old through infants and toddlers, and then we added private services at about 12 months. Most recently, we added another OT to her team just to work on eating. At 2.5 years old she currently still receives OT services from three different providers (in home, small group, & private setting) about 7 times per month to work on development of her fine motor skills, sensory processing, and feeding. She continues to make incredible progress and we are very proud of how far she has come. Almost every day I am working on increasing Adeline’s fine motor skills within our home, practicing the things we learned in therapy, all while having fun. Now I want to share what I’ve learned and practiced professionally and as a parent with all of you.
Fine Motor Skills Developmental Checklist
These are the skills your child should have at each age in the area of fine motor. These are a general guide, and obtained from a few different developmental checklists. This does not include every skill, and is used to help guide you with which skills to work on at which age, and to help you track your child's progress.
When to get an Occupational Therapy Assessment
All of these skills are good to know and work on even if your child if your child is typically developing. Understanding when a child is typically supposed to achieve a skill can help you track their progress. If you feel as though your child is not achieving milestones when they should be or they are not developing skills in order it is time to consider getting an OT evaluation.
Through private insurance, you can talk to your pediatrician about your concerns, tell them you would like an assessment, and have them refer you to a pediatric occupational therapist. If your child is under the age of 3, your child may qualify for early intervention services and in Maryland they refer to it as Infants and Toddlers. These services are free and can be rendered in your home or your child's daycare setting.
The earlier you start early intervention, the better. But that’s not the only thing you can do. There are tons of fun things you can do to help your child build their fine motor skills.