Fine Motor Development
The term fine motor development refers to how small muscles in the body develop. Although there are many small muscles that give us motor control around the face and eyes, fine motor development skills typically refer to muscle development in the hands.
classroom, even in preschool, is fine motor based. There are many research articles that evaluate aspects of fine motor development. Below are some fine motor milestones that are required for proficiency with fine motor activities.
Fine motor: Ages 0-1
During this stage of life there is so much to accommodate to. Motor development begins in the trunk or core of your body. First the infant learns to tolerate pressure on his body (remember he has been floating in water all this time). Then infants learn to move their bodies against gravity. Some examples include the neck muscles learning to hold the head up or pushing up on arms while on their tummies to look up and interact. They also learn to stabilize their trunk while in a seated position.
Crawling, clapping, and swatting should be seen as a precursor to fine motor development. Fine motor milestones that parents and teachers may see at this age include toy manipulation as well as use of a pincher grasp to pick up cereal.
Fine motor: Ages 1-2
Babies at this age are learning how to respond to routine and react to the environment. They are crawling, walking, rolling around on the floor and getting “into everything”. They begin to understand cause and effect with their hands. They are clapping, hitting toys, pushing balls, and walking strollers. They are learning to control both their arms and legs to complete a task.
Fine motor skills mostly develop around feeding and getting solid food to their mouths. Often you will see these babies walking while holding a cup or a ball. Music is a fun way that babies learn to clap, make hand movements, and use their fingers. Musical instruments will also stimulate fine motor skills.
Fine motor: Ages 2-3
Toddlers will continue to develop cognition, fine motor skills, and gross motor skills simultaneously. A toddler crawling through a tunnel requires problem solving (cognition) and whole body movement (gross motor).
Toddlers will use a pincher grasp without difficulty. Toddlers typically enjoy making marks on paper. They may show a hand preference but it is also typical for them to use both hands to make marks. Toddlers also like to imitate what they see. They may want to play “shopping” or “baby”. This is a great way to foster fine motor skills. Dressing or undressing a baby doll, taking pretend food off of a shelf to put in a cart, or walking around talking on a play phone is fun and good for motor skill development.
A child laying with a puzzle is both cognitive and fine motor skill based. No skill component is exclusive during play or a functional task. Manipulatives such as blocks are important for developing fine motor. Play is the child’s work and will lead to development of fine motor skills and gross motor skills.
At this preschool age, we recommend using the Strokes, Shapes and Scenes program [left]. The visual demonstrations and fun rhythmic songs are a great way to model how to make shapes, and also encourages drawing.
Fine motor: Ages 3-4
Three and four year olds are learning every day. A “typically” developing child enjoys running, jumping, riding tricycles, and manipulating playground equipment. Although these are considered “gross motor” activities, they are building core and trunk muscles which will aid in fine motor development.
3-4 year olds will sit and perform a craft, manipulate playdough, and finish a puzzle. Crafts are a wonderful way to address fine motor development. Those in a preschool may be introduced to letters.
Mastery of grasping a writing utensil may be an unrealistic expectation for this age group. However, handedness, or a hand preference, should be clearer around this time. Most 3-4 year olds will have a specific hand they like to hold the paintbrush or fork with. To aid in your child's learning of the alphabet, it is a good idea for parents and teachers to sing the alphabet while showing the visuals of the letters.
Our Alphabet Beats handwriting program [left] is a great resource to encourage letter recognition, letter formations, vocabulary, fine motor skills, and more. This easy to implement program can be used at home or in the preschool classroom.
Fine motor: Ages 4-5
Children in preschool are often learning how to write their first name. They are participating in both unstructured and structured fine motor and gross motor play activities.
A great way to offer some structured fine motor and gross motor play activities in preschool or kindergarten is by using the Fun Foundations for Handwriting program [right]. This program can also help teachers assess development milestones. The fine motor and gross motor activities modeled are perfect for classroom or home use.
Kids viewing the fun activity will be motivated to reenact the skill afterwards. Research has proven that video modeling is a great motivator for young children as well as for those with special needs.
Writing upper case letters is a common expectation for this preschool age group. The uppercase letters are easier to make from a fine motor perspective.
After building confidence and control with uppercase letters, a child's development in fine motor is usually improved enough to start learning lowercase letters. See our tips on handwriting practice to make fine motor lessons easy and fun! Teachers and parents should try to encourage fine motor activities that will help build strength and dexterity.
Ultimately, the child should develop enough fine motor skills to be comfortable using pencils, scissors, and crayons in the kindergarten setting.