As we continue to look at physical development this month, this week’s blog is exploring Fine Motor Development! Fine motor development refers to movements involving smaller muscles – like those in the hands, wrists and fingers used to manipulate small objects.
The development of fine motor skills allow kids to:
- Stack blocks
- Grip peg-puzzles
- Thread & lace beads
- Eat with a spoon, knife and fork
- Hold a crayon, pencil
- Scribble, draw, write or paint
Fine motor skills are seen as an important aspect of pre-school development and key for school readiness and academic achievement.
What does the normal progression of Fine Motor Development look like?
Very young babies have little control over their bodies – though by about 5 months they may begin to hold objects for brief periods.
Around 6 – 9 months, babies generally scoop objects up with both hands, grasp rattles and small toys, before progressing to using a thumb and index finger grasp by 9 months. This is referred to as the pincer grasp.
Scribbling usually starts after the first birthday – usually holding a crayon with a ‘fist’ or ‘palm’ grasp. By 18 months, most babies are accurately picking up objects with the pincer grasp, building small towers of blocks, and showing hand-dominance.
By 2 years, most toddlers can pick up and place objects neatly, turn pages in a book and build taller stacks of blocks (6-7 blocks).
Between 2 ½ to 3 years, toddlers start to hold a writing utensil in a tripod grasp – using the thumb, index and middle fingers. Many are also able to screw & unscrew lids.
Most 4 year olds can trace, draw and scribble, and by 5 years are holding a pencil correctly, and using scissors to cut and paste.
Around age 6, kids can usually cut with a knife, coordinate their fingers to hold a pencil correctly and tie their shoelaces.
How can toys help fine motor development?
During play, kids have the opportunity to explore and manipulate their environment with their hands – these interactions have been linked to developing fine motor skills.
A recent study by Suggate and colleagues (2017) of preschool children in Germany looked at specific fine motor activities to see which ones helped fine motor skills. They found kids who participated in more fine motor activities had better skills – particularly kids who did craft activities like threading and drawing, and kids who played with small toys that needed to be dressed using fine motor manipulations like buttons and clips.
When looking at toys to help practise fine motor skills, they don’t have to be the most expensive or fancy – they just need to be interesting to the child and meaningful!
our favourite ways to play to build fine motor skills
- Peg Puzzles
Peg puzzles are good for babies, especially as little ones have the tendency to put everything in their mouth it allows for practising grasping small objects but eliminates choking hazards as the peg is attached to a larger puzzle piece.
For toddlers, playing with blocks requires good manipulation skills and accuracy when picking up and placing objects.
- Arts & Crafts
Craft requires multiple skills including holding and controlling scissors, colouring & painting, pasting objects and manipulating play-dough or clay. These skills improve the muscles in the wrists, fingers and hands, strengthen hand-grip, and practise the coordination of different muscles to build dexterity.
- Threading & Lacing
Stringing and sorting beads and buttons are a great way to strengthen the thumb and index finger muscles and practise highly coordination movements required to hold and write with a pencil. Check out our tips on getting the most out of threading and lacing here.
- Playing with Small Toys & Pretend Play
Dressing small dolls is a great way to practice the complex movements required in daily life for dressing or using locks and clips. Also, pretend playing in the kitchen with cooking utensils and stirring or using tongs is great for building strength.
Council, H. C. (2015). Supporting Children with Dyspraxia and Motor Co-ordination Difficulties. Routledge.
Sprenger, M. B. (2008;2014;). The developing brain: Birth to age eight (1st ed.). US: Corwin Press.
Suggate, S., Stoeger, H., & Pufke, E. (2017;2016;). Relations between playing activities and fine motor development. Early Child Development and Care, 187(8), 1297-14. doi:10.1080/03004430.2016.1167047
Promote your child’s physical and fine motor development with these toys:
Here at Educational Toys Online we understand the value of educational toys in supporting healthy development. We have more than 300 items available in our shop, and offer free shipping for all product orders over $150. Contact us on 1300 33 11 13 or use our online contact page.