Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills


Fine motor skills refer to the finer movements of the small muscles in the fingers, toes, eyes and hands.  In order to produce controlled fine motor movements, it is essential to have good gross motor skills. Difficulties with fine motor skills may make activities of daily living such as fastening buttons, tying shoe laces, handwriting, using utensils and other tools, more difficult and effortful. The child’s hands may tire easily and the quality of the movement may be poor, lacking precision.  This may lead to frustration and lower self esteem.


Guidelines for the Development of Fine Motor Skills

  • When doing tabletop activities, ensure appropriate height of table and chair and emphasise good sitting posture i.e. knees are at a 90 degree angle.
  • Allow the child extra time to complete activities of daily living that require fine motor control, such as fastening buttons, zips, laces, cutlery.
  • Grade activities or adapt equipment to allow the child to be more independent and to succeed. For example, easy grip scissors, pencil grips, Velcro fastenings, larger buttons. Its often easier to teach the child fine motor dressing tasks by allowing them to do it on a clothing piece in front of them rather than on them.
  • Time can be set aside to practice these skills when there is no pressure of time or peers.
  • Make sure your instructions are clear and simple, try to avoid using too many words.


Postural Control and Muscle Strength

In order to improve fine motor skills its also important to work on upper body stability and strengthening.


  • Shoulder spirals. The child holds both their arms out to the side and begins to circle them, initially making small circles and gradually getting larger and larger, then returning to small circles.  Movements should be controlled.
  • Drawing on a blackboard, easel or paper on the wall to increase shoulder stability.
  • Weight-bearing through the arms and shoulders -- swinging between monkey bars or trapezes, or wheelbarrow walking, crab-walking, bear-walking.
  • Jumping and hopping games like hopscotch and jumping around stepping-stones.
  • Exercise ball games, sitting and bouncing/rolling in a prone position on it.
  • Pushing and pulling games, like tug of war or push of war and wrestling.
  • Completing tasks in high kneeling forces you to use abdominal/postural muscles more than does standing on feet or sitting. Play Gameboy, X-box, or watch favourite TV shows while kneeling (keeping bum off the heels).


 Pencil Grip

  • Use tiny short crayons/ pencils for drawing and writing.
  • Show the child how to hold the pencil correctly.
  • Place blue tack, stickers or use a plastic pencil grip at the top of the pencil to help the child to know where to place his fingers.
  • Practice drawing on upright surfaces such as an easel or page stuck on a door – this promotes good positioning of the wrist and fingers when holding a pencil.


Practicing Shapes

Developmentally children learn to draw shapes in this order:


-vertical line                                     |                        

-horizontal line                                __

-circle                                              O

-cross                                              +

-right to left diagonal                       /

-square                                           🔲

-left to right diagonal                       \

-X                                                     X

-triangle                                          🔺


After they can form all of these shapes, they are then ready to move on to letters. Practice the simpler lines and shapes initially with the child.


Multi-Sensory Drawing

  • Practice shapes by:
    • Drawing with finger in sand, salt, flour, rice, sugar, etc
    • Finger painting
    • Shaving foam
    • Drawing on blackboard/whiteboard
    • Drawing in bubbles on side of bath or on a fogged up window or mirror



Fine Motor Activities


  • Try activities using both hands together for accuracy (e.g. Lego. Drawings, bead stringing), this promotes bilateral coordination.
  • For strengthening hand muscles, use therapy putty. Pinch, pull, roll, squeeze and cut to work these muscles.  Can be purchased from
  • Squeezing clothes pegs can also develop the small muscles in the hand and strengthen the pincer grip. Get the child to draw a face on a paper plate and then attach clothes pegs around the edges to make a sun.
  • Make a collage by ripping paper and rolling between fingers and thumb.
  • Craft activities involving cutting, gluing, finger painting etc
  • Rolling coins is a great activity to promote thumb stability and pinch.
  • Squirt bottles strengthen the thumb and index finger to promote pinch.
  • To improve written motor accuracy, colour inside lines, working larger to smaller, use stencils, mazes, dot-to-dots.
  • Peg boards.
  • Writing and drawing on a vertical surface, such as an easel or chalkboard, promotes wrist extension and stability.
  • Use tweezers to pick up cotton balls or other collage materials to make a picture.
  • Threading beads/Spools, you can begin with larger beads and spools and then progress onto smaller beads which are harder to grasp and manipulate.
  • Dress up, children always enjoy dress up and it a great way of introducing then to various size buttons, zips and fasteners that they find difficult to manipulate but because it is being done in a fun way they tend to persist with the task.
  • Using a spoon to move beans or rice from one place to another.
  • Popping bubble wrap


Fine motor rainbow clip beads to promote the child’s pencil grasp. You can also put the beads into the therapy putty and encourage the child to pull the beads  out of the therapy putty using the tweezers. 

Can be purchased from               



Therapy putty and pegs. Hide pegs in the therapy putty, ask the child to find them and with their dominant hand place them in the pegboard.               





Suckers to promote The child’s hand strength. Place suckers on the table and while the child stands on an uneven surface, encourage them to pull the suckers. If this is too challenging to begin with the child should stand on an even surface. You can also stick suckers to a mirror or window in addition to under a table, while the child is in a lying position encourage them to pull the suckers off a surface above their head.               


Tennis Ball Activity 🎾          

Encourage the child to use his thumb, index and middle finger to open a tennis ball and pick up small items like pom poms. The more successful the child becomes at this activity continue to make the ‘mouth’ smaller and smaller to make it more challenging.  Cut a straight line on a tennis ball, this can be used as a mouth to pick up small items like pom poms.                  







Can be used site wide on