Fine motor skills are what allow us to use the small muscle groups in the hands, fingers, and wrists in a controlled way. Humans begin demonstrating these skills in infancy, when we learn to grasp our parents’ fingers and, later, toys. We continue developing them during the toddler to school-age years, which are such a critical time for physical and cognitive growth. And of course, we continue to refine them throughout our lives.
Cultivating fine motor skills at a young age helps set people up for success personally, socially, and academically—so it’s important for parents to help children master them. In this post, discover the benefits of working on fine motor skills with kids—plus ways you can help your child improve their abilities using the printable activities below.
Benefits of Building Fine Motor Skills for Kids
Building fine motor skills helps children strengthen their muscles and coordination. It can also help them develop independence as they learn to complete personal hygiene tasks, play musical instruments, use utensils, write, and draw. Below are just a few of the benefits of building fine motor skills early on.
1. Helps children learn to use tools
Children need fine motor skills in order to use tools like writing implements or scissors, or to manipulate small items like buttons or zippers. As these skills develop, children will be able to do more tasks on their own, which will help their continued cognitive and physical growth.
2. Improves hand-eye coordination
In many cases, it takes visual input to effectively manipulate objects with the hands. Without the ability to coordinate hand and eye movements, people would be unable to perform the simplest actions. To catch a ball, place objects, play games, and write, children must develop hand-eye coordination.
3. Helps children become more independent and confident
When children struggle with performing tasks, they can become frustrated and upset. But as they grow to better understand how their bodies work, and as the muscles in their hands and fingers become stronger, they can complete more tasks on their own. Children who can grasp, hold, and pinch will soon be able to brush their own teeth and tie their own shoes. They also feel a confidence boost as their independence grows.
4. Promotes cognitive development
Improved fine motor skills may be a pathway to increased academic performance in young children. Multiple studies have shown that fine motor skills are involved in the development of cognitive abilities. Researchers at the University of Nottingham School of Psychology in the UK found that fine motor skills were a significant predictor of mathematical abilities in preschool-aged students.
Printables to Help Build Fine Motor Skills
Including fun activities in your child’s daily routine is a great way to help them improve their fine motor skills. Printable activities can naturally engage children’s creativity and dexterity. Below are four summer-themed printables that involve coloring, cutting, tracing, and placing objects, intended to help your child work on their motor skills through play. Download and enjoy!
Sea Animals Coloring Printable
Using crayons or markers to color can help strengthen and stabilize wrist muscles. Using tools like scissors can develop hand strength and hand-eye coordination.
Ice Cream Cone Grid Drawing Printable
Grid drawing helps children practice their observational and drawing skills. Compartmentalizing the drawing into smaller units also helps children understand how shapes relate to each other proportionally and how to more keenly observe detail.
Beach Trip Line Tracing Printable
Line tracing is a great exercise for children who are just starting to print their letters. By tracing the lines on this sheet, children strengthen the fine motor skills they need to start writing.
Rainbow Placement Printable
Working to pick up, grasp, and place small objects (such as buttons) can be a valuable precursor to writing. This process strengthens small muscles and engages hand-eye coordination.
Working on fine motor skill activities is a fun way for children to develop the skills they need to succeed. However, many children struggle with these skills at first, due to neurological or physical differences. If this describes your child, it may be helpful to see an occupational therapist (OT), who can assess any developmental issues and work with your child on activities customized to their particular needs.
How to Improve Fine Motor Skills as an Adult
Adults who suffer neurological injuries from stroke or other causes may experience loss of or damage to fine motor skills. OTs work with adults to help them improve their fine motor skills so they can regain the ability to perform activities of daily living (ADLs), such as dressing, bathing, brushing teeth, etc.
The following activities can help adults improve fine motor skills:
- Folding clothes or hanging them with a clothespin
- Squeezing Play-Doh, clay, or pastry dough
- Opening bottles and containers
- Using scissors
- Threading objects onto a string
- Sorting and stacking coins
Using fine motor skills is an important aspect of independent living. Occupational therapists can help people across the lifespan improve or master these skills by diagnosing the problem and developing an effective treatment plan.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) offers hands-on Master of Occupational Therapy (MOT) and Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD) degrees. Practice with mock patients in our state-of-the-art simulation centers and learn anatomy with our high-tech tools. Prepare for clinical practice with patients across the lifespan, as well as advanced roles in research, practice leadership, and policymaking. Residential and Flex (online/weekend) paths are available. We also offer an online Post-Professional Doctor of Occupational Therapy (PPOTD) program designed for working clinicians and healthcare educators, with optional on-campus immersions and an annual interprofessional trip abroad.