Fine Motor Skills – what are they?

24 Aug, 2020

Fine motor skills are the coordination of small movements in the wrists, hands and fingers.

These skills are required to complete tasks like dressing, grooming, cooking and handwriting. Below are some of the specific skills children need to develop their fine motor skills.

Core Strength and Stability

Core stability is being able to stand and sit upright without support. Without developing this skill first, it becomes harder to focus and develop fine motor skills as the focus is instead on staying upright.

Activities to help improve core stability and strength are:

  • Bear walks: walking on hands and feet

  • Crab walks: sit and put hands behind you. Liftoff the ground and crawl

  • Snake walk: commando crawl on the stomach along the ground


Finger/hand strength

Developing finger and hand strength is an important element in developing a child’s fine motor skills. As a child gets older, the small muscles in their fingers and hands become stronger, which allows for better control and increases their endurance when completing fine motor activities.

Activities to develop finger and hand strength includes:

  • Using tongs to sort marbles or Lego
  • Manipulation of playdough or theraputty
  • Building Lego
  • Practising use of scissors, buttoning and any activity that requires hand use.


Dexterity is defined as one’s ability to make coordinated hand and finger movements to be able to grasp and manipulate different objects. Developed dexterity allows for in-hand manipulation, which is the ability to hold onto and move an object around within one hand. These skills are important for developing appropriate grasps for handwriting, manipulating toys and self-care tasks like dressing.

Activities to help develop dexterity includes:

  • “Piano playing” on a table.
  • Pencil walks
  • Holding different coloured marbles in one hand and asking the child to bring a different coloured marble to their thumb and pointer finger only using the one hand.
  • Rolling play dough into balls using thumb, pointer, and middle fingers.


Grasp is how we grab and hold items. A dynamic tripod grasp is the most effective for handwriting as allow for easy control of the pencil without putting too much pressure through the finger joints. There is a pattern for developing this grasp as children’s hand strength and dexterity develops.

Activity to help develop tripod grasp:

  • Clothes peg trick
  • Attach a clothes peg to pencil. Child wraps ring and pinky finger around the peg. This supports the hand and allows formation of tripod grasp.

Prewriting shapes:
The ability to draw shapes is a developmental milestone for handwriting, as the strokes learnt in drawing shapes forms the basis of handwriting.

Assist in developing shape drawing through:

  • Providing dotted lines to follow
  • Encouraging more complex drawing e.g. stick figures, people, flowers with round petals.



Written by Courtney & Lauren

pre-writing shapes

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