Fine Motor Coordination


Fine motor coordination is the coordination of the small muscles in the hands and fingers, which are essential for school-related tasks in all age groups. In pre-primary school this includes various pre-writing skills such as cutting, pasting, drawing, colouring, finger painting, building block constructions and beading. In primary school it relates to writing skills.The development of the back and tummy muscles as well as shoulder and wrist muscles are extremely important to provide a stable base from which fine motor skills can develop.

The most common pencil grip is a mature three-point grip. Writers with this grip tend to be efficient writers who do not suffer from writers’ fatigue. The web space (space between the thumb and index finger) should be open while writing or drawing. This is important because it allows for more movement in the fingers, and a closed web space means the child is forced to use more wrist, forearm and shoulder movements to compensate. When children make use of an immature pencil grip, it may not only result in difficulty with legibility of their work, but later, most often from grade 2 onwards, also impact on work pace, endurance during writing tasks and fluency.

Pencil control relates to the way children manipulate their pencils, not only the grip. Some children tend to hold the pencil with their arm, wrist and hand off the work surface, others bend their wrist in an unusual way, for example hooking the wrist while writing and drawing. Sometimes children will hold their pencil too loosely or too tightly in the hand while writing or drawing, subsequently leading to too faint or dark lines on the page. When children hold the pencil too tightly, it results in fatigue when writing and they will either rush through their work to get it done quicker, or they will work very slowly and be unable to complete their school work within the desired timeframe.

Fine motor difficulties, such as an inefficient pencil grip, or poor pencil control can be related to a variety of challenges. Foundational elements such as muscle control, muscle tone, tactile discrimination or motor planning are needed for efficient fine motor control. Consequently, if children experience difficulty with fine motor coordination, only doing worksheets to improve eye-hand coordination or colouring in, will not suffice. Thus it is important to allow children to do exercises which increase their muscle tone and the strength of their shoulders (refer to Proximal stability home activities), wrists, hands and fingers.

Activities in the kitchen

  • Baking stirring, kneading, rolling out dough, pinching dough, beating or decorating (e.g. with icing tools, piping bags, icing pens)

  • Making home-made play-dough, rolling it out, using cookie cutters, or other play-dough tools).

  • Making salads, cutting veggies or fruit or peeling fruit. (Use knives with supervision).

  • Making cupcakes, and decorating these with small sweets. Instead of picking up sweets with fingers, use tweezers instead.

  • Pegging clothes, on the washing line.

Activities for bathtime

  • Playing with watertoys such as stickers for the tub, bath squirters, tub crayons and sponges.

  • Pouring water from one container to another, playing with teacups and watering cans.

  • Spraying/squirting water, water from water guns or spray bottles

  • Drawing in shaving foam on the tiled walls or shower door

Activities in the car or when travelling

  • Making loombands
  • Making paperclip chains
  • Popping bubble wrap
  • Tie and untie knots in thick rope
  • Making Scooby Doo wire bracelets

Activities for restaurants

  • Cutting
  • Colouring or drawing
  • Do mosaic pictures with stickers
  • Spinning tops
  • Make small figurines with modelling clay or Crazy clay.

Outside activities

  • Wheelbarrow walking:
    Practice walking on hands with an adult or another child supporting at the hips. Children must walk on their hands not their elbows. You can incorporate this activity into a game by having races with other children or by having the child retrieve objects scattered around the room while walking as a wheelbarrow.
  • Animal walks:
    Refer to the Proximal Stability home activity page or Pintrest site for instructions to doing a variety of animal walks.
  • Crawling through obstacle courses:
    Build obstacle courses with your child, with lots of opportunity to crawl through, over or under. The focus here is on weight bearing through the wrists and hands and improving proximal stability.
  • Jungle gyms and playareas:
    Climbing frames, monkey bars, ropes, ladders, sliding down the fireman’s pole or using both hands to pull themselves up the slide from to bottom to the top. All of these activities will make your child’s hands muscles stronger and thus improve fine motor endurance.
  • Water games in the garden:
    Games such as watering plants with a watering can or a water spray bottle helps to strengthen the muscles in the wrists, hands and fingers.
  • Pegging washing on the washing line:
    Children are encourage to help to hang out the washing regularly, or play peg races on the washing line. Other games can also be played with pegs. Writer numbers 1-10 or the alphabet a-z on wooden pegs using a marker pen, let your child peg them on in order on the washing line, or on the bottom of his duvet cover.

Please be advised that the activities suggested within this website are selected to develop and improve specific areas of developmental difficulty. Engaging in these activities only, cannot replace the valuable input and guidance an Occupational Therapist (OT) can provide you with.

In order to benefit optimally from these activities, it is best advised to do these activities with the guidance of your OT. Many parents and caregivers benefit from attending an activity demonstration consultation. Although the activities selected are games that children often play at home or at school, and are generally safe to engage in, the Therapists at this practice cannot be held liable for any injuries occurring while playing any of these games.

Children learn through Play and having fun!! Research has proven that children who have fun are more motivated to learn and have better retention of the learnt skill! Enjoy playing and learning with your child!

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