Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills require the coordination of small muscles in the fingers and hands. Having strong fine motor muscles help build the skills needed to do tasks such as writing, cutting, eating with a utensil, putting together puzzles, zipping and buttoning, tying shoes along with many other tasks. Without strong fine motor development, children can present as weak, or unable to complete these tasks and may not have the skills needed to perform writing requirements presented in pre-k and kindergarten classrooms.

Children develop these skills through a variety of ways in our classrooms, our teachers provided many different opportunities throughout the day for children to strengthen their muscles. Fine motor activities also help children discover their ‘dominant hand’ along with how to use both hands together. By providing developmentally appropriate activities for each age group, children will develop the pincer grip needed to manipulate and hold forks, spoons, pencils, crayons, paint brushes as well as tie their shoes, button shirts and pants and open food containers.

Children with ‘typically’ developing fine motor skills will go through different ‘grips’ until the learn and use the pincer grip.

  • toddler-grips-1Children under the age of one will use the fist grip and will use their entire hand to “rake” items needed. They will use their entire fist to hold a utensil or a crayon
  • Children will then develop the four-finger grip as their hand muscles get stronger. With this grip, children use their four fingers to hold a smaller object against their thumb. This grip allows them to start to self-feed, pick up smaller objects and attempt to use a fork or spoon; this grip is more mature than then using their entire fist but still is slightly clumsy and inefficient.
  • As a child’s fine motor muscles finish developing, the pincer grip will emerge. A child who has a pincer grip is able uses only their thumb and forefinger to grab at smaller objects. Once a child develops this grip they are able to turn a page in a book, thread beads onto string, cut across paper, turn dials or knobs, use zippers and buttons and hold a pencil correctly.

Activities or materials you may see in our classrooms to help foster the development of students’ fine motor muscles:

  • Beads and stringimg_3866-1024x682
  • Lacing cards
  • Oversized tweezers
  • Scissors (in the older classrooms)
  • Mat Man from Handwriting Without Tears
  • Counting bears
  • Pattern blocks
  • Easel painting
  • Puzzles
  • Play Doh
  • Potato Head
  • Legos, Duplo’s and blocks of different sizes
  • Connecting links
  • Short broken crayons and small pencils (such as golf pencils)

Activities you can do at home to foster the development of these small muscles:


  •  Play doh
  • Provide small, broken pieces of crayons
  • Small pieces of food to encourage the use of the pincer grips
  • Allow your child to paint or draw on vertical surface
  • Paint in the bathtub on the wall (use either just water or bath time paints)
  • Use paintbrushes and water to paint the sides of your house
  • Paint a fence with water
  • Use chalk on a fence and then paint over it with water
  • Sort beads, buttons, colored cereal into smaller bowls

Here is a wonderful article explaining why you may see small, broken crayons in our classrooms and why I encourage you to do the same at home!