Fine motor activities
& early learning
Program, resources, workshops & OT services
my Fantastic Fingers®
Free Fine Motor Skills & Ability Check
Is my child's body fit for school? Do they have the underlying motor skills to write?
Use my motor based school readiness check below to see where your child needs extra input & what activity video tracks from my Fantastic Fingers Program® to watch. I've covered the theory behind this check in my free teaching video Fine Motor 101: How Fine Motor Skills Develop & How to Select Effective Activities. Also see my developmental checklists for important fine motor skill milestones for ages two to six years.
Instructions for the 3 step Fine Motor Skills & Ability Check Task (ages 4 to 6)
Set your child up to do any drawing, colouring & name writing activity.
The chair & table should suit their size so they can sit with elbows bent comfortably, forearms on the table & feet flat on the floor or some type of foot rest. Start them sitting this way.
Provide them with paper, thicker wax crayons & a thicker pencil.
Be enthusiastic! Provide ideas to help e.g. 'Let's draw a picture of Mummy, a house or a cat."
If needed, get them started by drawing & colouring-in yourself on your own paper.
When they have finished their drawing, have them colour in some of the small details, & print their name. If needed provide a written model of their name for them to copy or trace over. Watch for the following three areas...
Children with less well developed seated posture
can also tire easily & are less proficient doing written work
The solution is to strengthen
the large muscles & teach
the child how to sit by using the
activities from Tracks 1, 2 & 15
The correct height & size furniture must be provided or adapted to suit Fine Motor Foundations
Number 1: Observe how they sit at the table - upright seated posture is a prerequisite skill
We like to see: their back relatively straight with their neck not bent forwards more than 30 degrees
Indicators of concern are: leaning heavily into the table or onto their forearms, leaning too far over their work, resting their head on their arm or table, supporting their head with one hand, wrapping their feet around the chair legs, sitting with their legs under their bottom, shifting about, rocking, moving the paper excessively
You may also know: they tire easily on outings, frequently slouch, have low muscle tone (lower than average resting tension within their muscles), avoid being still for long, seem clumsy
Today due to a lack of physical hands-on play, lots of more children find it hard to sit optimally for table-top activities
Research shows: students with better seated posture tend to be more efficient at writing tasks (Rosenblum, Goldstand & Parush, 2006)
Children with fisted grasps & those who control the writing tool with shoulder
or wrist movements will tire more easily & produce less quality & quantity of work
The solution is to develop stability & strength in the arm, wrist, hand & fingers
using activities from Tracks 3,4 & 11; to train small coordinated finger movements with Tracks 10, 12-14: & teach pencil grip with Track 9
Number 2: Observe how they hold & control the pencil or crayon
We like to see: when drawing, writing or colouring in small details or areas, the movement to control the pencil/crayon comes mainly from their finger joints (this develops between ages 4-6 years) and the tool is held between the end pads of the fingers (thumb, index and middle finger or the side of the middle finger), forearm & wrist rest on the table surface
Indicators of concern are: if the child is 4+ years & manipulates the writing tool with mainly shoulder movements, if the forearm is not on the table surface, if the child is 4+ years & holds the tool in a fisted grasp
You may also know: they avoid pencil & paper tasks, complain of fatigue or of sore muscles, their end-product is not as tidy as their peers
Research shows: students spend up to 60% of their time in class doing fine motor tasks like writing, drawing & using a computer (McHale & Cermak, 1996)
Wobbly looking letters & letters drawn from bottom to top show that the child
needs more opportunities to develop their pencil control & more practice working from top to bottom & left to right (directionality)
First strengthen, then develop small coordinated finger movements & prewriting skills with activities from Tracks 10, 12-14 & Track 16 activities & worksheets
Number 3: Observe how they form letters & how their handwriting looks as they write their name
We like to see: the letter strokes are made firmly with adequate pressure with smooth & mostly straight lines, any vertical lines are drawn from top to bottom, & the movement to control the pencil/crayon comes mainly from their finger joints (this develops between ages 4-6 years)
Indicators of concern are: shaky & unevenly formed strokes (unlike their peers' work), excessive pressure, & faint pencil or crayon lines
You may also know: seems to struggle forming letters & numbers, they avoid pencil & paper tasks, complain of fatigue or of sore muscles
Many children today spend insufficient time developing their drawing, colouring & handwriting skills. They also do not develop good coordinated finger movements for controlling the writing tool. Before you focus on developing your child's fine motor coordination, do ensure that they have first developed sufficient strength in their large & small muscles.
As a guide, follow the order of the videos from Track 1 to Track 16, as the activities are presented in a developmental sequence. Also see pp12-14 of my Fantastic Fingers® program eBook. Click on watch videos to begin.
A final word: the above information is not intended to replace the need for an occupational therapy evaluation. Discussions with your child's early childhood educator or teacher can also be very helpful.