Fine Motor Control

What are fine motor skills?

‘Fine motor skills’ is a term that’s used frequently but what exactly does it mean?

Basically, fine motor skills involve the small hand and arm movements that allow your child to play and learn. They consist of the small finger and hand muscles working together to perform precise movements such as pencil and scissor activities, construction games and doing up buttons.

Do you remember when your little one was a baby and used to grasp and release your fingers or pass objects between their hands?

This was the beginning of junior developing their fine motor skills!

From there, these skills continued to develop as little miss or mister learnt to use their fingers to manipulate and explore objects even further.

Now, as your child practices school-based tasks, their fine motor abilities will significantly affect the quality of their handwriting, speed with which they complete tasks and the quality of their schoolwork.

Fear not, though – there’s plenty you can do to help develop your youngster’s fine motor skills. Read on!

(NB: click on the image above to watch a vid for more fine motor info)

What do fine motor skills involve?

  • Hand strength and endurance – how strong the small hand muscles are
  • Finger dexterity and isolation – moving each finger one at a time
  • In-hand manipulation – moving objects within one hand without using the other hand to help
  • Hand arches – a variety of hand positions that enable them to grasp objects of different shapes and sizes
  • Thumb opposition – moving the thumb to the fingers to help grasp objects
  • Pincer grip – moving the thumb to the pointer (2nd) finger
  • Hand dominance – using a favoured or preferred hand
  • Bilateral integration – using both hands together, either in sync or by alternating movements
  • Crossing midline – crossing the imaginary vertical line down the centre of the body with the arms, legs or eyes
  • Proprioception or ‘joint body awareness’ – being able to feel or know where body parts are without having to look
  • Postural control – controlling their posture in a variety of positions
  • Coordination and motor (movement) planning – the planning and execution of a movement in a coordinated way

How do I know if my child is having difficulty with their fine motor skills?

Your child may have fine motor difficulties if they struggle with tasks such as:

  • Playing with jigsaw puzzles and construction toys
  • Using tools and cutlery (e.g. pencils, knife and fork, scissors)
  • Handwriting and drawing (e.g. using age appropriate pencil grip and controlling a pencil)
  • Picking up small objects such as coins and beads
  • Ball games
  • Self-care (e.g. dressing, toileting)

The fine motor skill subsets

Down to the nitty gritty: fine motor skills can be divided into three broad categories or subsets, which include:

  • Bilateral integration – the ability to use both sides of the body together in a coordinated way
  • Crossing midline – crossing the imaginary vertical line down the centre of the body with the arms, legs or eyes
  • Hand strength and finger isolation – the strength of the muscles in the hands and fingers, including in-hand manipulation (moving objects within a single hand) and finger dexterity (moving fingers one at a time)

 All of these subsets contribute to little miss or mister’s success with their fine motor skills so it’s important they’re all given attention.

Find out more about fine motor skills

Visit the bilateral integration, crossing midline, and hand strength and finger isolation pages to find out more about the fine motor skill subsets, including how to spot if your child might be having difficulties with any of them.

Don’t forget that becoming a PlayBiz member gives you access to a comprehensive library of activities that will help you help your whippersnapper develop their crucial foundation skills!

This includes 2-minute Play-a-Short videos that give you and junior a fun and entertaining ‘therapist style’ demonstration of how to develop specific fine motor skill through playful activities such as finding ‘treasure’ in playdough and using a spray bottle to move toys across the table. Not only will your tot have fun, but they’ll be developing their small hand muscles too!

There are also the 10-minute Play-a-Long videos that combine several foundation skills for optimum effect. Picture a fun and educational TV program like PlaySchool crossed with an occupational therapy session that’s chock full of strategies to help develop your little one’s essential foundation skills.

Ready, steady, learn!

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Combined Videos

Combining several foundation skills, our PlayBiz Play-a-Long videos run for 10 minutes or so. We’ve carefully ordered the activities so they enable your youngster to have an optimal learning experience and develop the skills they’ll need for school by joining in the ‘teachable moments’. Picture a fun and educational TV program like PlaySchool crossed with an occupational therapy session that’s chock full of strategies. Ready, steady, learn! Please note: The Play-a-Long videos don’t need to be viewed in any particular order.