Fine motor skills, are skills that involve a refined use of the small muscles controlling the hand, fingers, and thumb. The development of fine motor skills allows one to be able to complete tasks such as writing, drawing, and buttoning. Many factors are involved in fine motor development:
Ø Upper body strength - Upper body strength (neck, shoulders, trunk, arms) is the foundation for hand skills. Lying prone on elbows (on stomach with elbows propped) or sitting in a sidesit position (leaning on one hand) when playing games, reading books, or watching television can help to build upper body strength & stability. One can also color or draw on a vertical surface (easel, etc.)
Ø Gross motor skills - Gross motor skills are the abilities required in order to control the large muscles of the body. Encourage playing and climbing on jungle gym sets at home or at the park, as well as, doing tasks that involve larger bilateral coordination movements (symmetrical and asymmetrical movement patterns) as this will help to foster such development as cutting and drawing.
Ø Hand and finger strength – A great way to improve hand and finger strength is by offering opportunities to work with playdoh, clay, making cookie dough, or by wringing out wet sponges, washcloths. Using construction sets (Legos, Tinker Toys, Kinex, etc.), spray bottles to water plants, hole punches during crafts, clothes pins to clip to alphabet/color/number index cards, popping bubbles in packing materials, using playdoh, clay or theraputty and scrunching paper into a ball with one hand are other wonderful, fun ways to improve strengthening.
Ø Vision – Vision is not essential, but is extremely helpful when accurately performing fine motor coordination speed and dexterity tasks. One’s eyes guide the hand movements.
Ø Dexterity/grasping patterns – The way a child picks up or grasps objects will vary depending upon the size and weight of the objects. Small objects require a more refined, mature grasp such as a two or three fingered grasp, while bigger, more weighted objects like wooden blocks require a full handed grasp. When possible, encourage the use of two or three finger grasps by stringing items (beads, cut up straws, macaroni, etc.), playing games with small pieces (Trouble, Perfection, Sorry, etc.), sorting beads, marbles, coins into containers, using clothes pins to hold matching cards, and using broken crayons to color.