The term 'fine motor' means 'small muscles'. Small muscles in the fingers, hand and arm are used when a child manipulates, controls and uses tools and materials. Hand-eye coordination is also an essential component of fine motor skills, as the child uses their vision to control the movements and actions of their small muscles.
Fine motor skills are essential for performing everyday tasks such as buttoning or zipping clothing, opening a lunch box, cleaning teeth, using cutlery, drawing, art and craft, writing, cutting and pasting.
Research has shown that due to the significant amount of time spent performing fine motor tasks, and the impact that difficulties in this area can have on a student, that development of fine motor skills are an essential component in a child's overall development. Studies have also shown that fine motor performance in kindergarten is a strong predictor of later math and reading achievement. Occupational Therapists can assist children who experience fine motor difficulties to flourish to their full potential and encourage engagement in the occupational tasks that are so important to being a student.
As in all areas of development, every child will develop at their own pace, however, there is a general pattern that fine motor skill development should follow. 'Typical' milestones at particular age ranges have different characteristics;
- By five months, can reach out for and hold objects for brief periods of time.
- By six to nine months, can hold and shake objects.
- By nine months, can transfer object from one hand to the other.
- Use a thumb and forefinger pincer grip to pick up small object.
- From 16 months to three years, children refine their fine motor skills, begin to stack blocks, make marks with drawing tools using a 'fist' grip.
- Begin to master tasks including buttoning, using scissors, begin to produce pre-writing patterns eg l - + O, and shapes. From approximately three years of age most children develop a hand preference.
- Enhancing fine motor skills, colouring and scissor skills, development of letters and number formations, become fluid with writing. Tasks become less taxing to complete.
If a child is having difficulties with fine motor control they may;
- Have an awkward or immature pencil grasp for their age.
- Display messy, slow or laborious drawing, colouring or writing skills.
- Have difficulty using scissors
- Have difficulty mastering letter formation
- Have difficulty manipulating small items such as lego or puzzle pieces
- Have difficulty completing self care tasks involving use of cutlery, buttons, threading or tying shoelaces
- Become tired quickly when engaging in fine motor tasks.
- Avoid or refuse to participate in fine motor tasks.
Occupational therapy intervention for a child experiencing difficulties with fine motor control will assist the child;
- Improve their ability and persistence with fine motor tasks required for day-to-day activities at home and school including self-care tasks.
- Increase school readiness and academic performance in colouring, drawing, writing, cutting and pasting.
- Avoid disengagement in an academic environment due to difficulties completing tasks.
- Maintain an