Fine motor skills

Fine motor control is the ability to use hands and fingers accurately whilst carrying out a skilled activity.

As children grow and develop, they begin to explore their environment.

This helps children develop:

  • body awareness or proprioception – where and how their fingers are moving in space
  • tactile awareness – the sense of touch which allows us to register heat and cold, pain and textures etc.
  • visual spatial perception – hand strength as well as the ability to visually judge the size, shape and distance from the body of an object they want to work with
  • motor planning – ability to organise, plan and carry out a sequence of unfamiliar motor tasks, e.g. writing, playing games and dressing
  • bilateral skills – co-ordinating the two sides of the body – hand dominance are particularly important when carrying out fine motor tasks

Children are required to master a variety of skills before their fine motor skills can be refined with increasing dexterity and precision.

If your child has not developed the necessary prerequisite skills, they will struggle to make any progress with their fine motor skills.

Developing fine motor skills

With experience, children progress from using a basic Palmar Grip to being able to release an object from their grasp (gross release). This skill is slowly refined through play and allows them to carry out activities such as stacking building blocks, putting objects into containers and eventually throwing a ball.

Skills build and the fine grasp is developed. This allows the child to control each finger independently and in relation to their thumb. First skills include pointing using the index finger and gradually progress with practice, enabling the individual to increase strength and manual dexterity.

Please also consider:

Do they have houlder and hip stability?

Do they slouch or lay across their desk?

Do they lean on walls or other objects?

Do they have good core or proximal stability?

Can the child cross midline?

Do they have good
hand-eye coordination?

If a child has poor core stability or a specific coordination problem, or both, then input from an Occupational Therapist or Physiotherapist should be sought, as this will have to be addressed before you can begin to look at developing fine motor skills.

Specific skills

Fine motor skills are important for many everyday skills, including:

Dressing and undressing

Dressing and undressing

Putting on socks

Using zips


Putting on shoes

Tying shoelaces

Eating and drinking

Drinking from a cup

Using cutlery

Knife and fork skills



Life skills

Teeth brushing

Sitting correctly

Things that can help

The Fine Motor Activity Kit created by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde provides a range of useful activities, exercises and ideas to improve fine motor skills.

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