10 ways to improve your child’s fine motor skills

Tuesday, 16 July 2019
10 ways to improve your child’s fine motor skills

You wake up, check your phone, eat some breakfast, make and pack some lunches, button your shirt or blouse, zip your pants, brush your teeth, comb your hair, pull on some socks, tie your shoe laces, turn the car key. So many things we do each day require fine motor skills that it's easy to take them for granted and forget how vital they are.

What are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills involve the use of small muscles in our hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Fine motor skills involve the movements of small muscles that require your child's brain to coordinate between the action and what they are seeing. Fine motor skills can impact things like holding a fork to eat or using a pencil to write.

Fine motor skills start to develop when a child uses the smaller muscles in their hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Developing those muscles includes actions like grasping, holding, pressing, or using a pincer grip (holding something between the fore-finger and thumb).  

For young children of preschool, kindergarten and early school age, fine motor skill development is extremely important. For a fun way to improve your child's motor skills when it's rainy outside, try making one of these 7 things with them.

Why are fine motor skills important?

Fine motor skills are vital for doing everyday activities like buttoning up a shirt, using utensils to eat, tying shoelaces, cutting with scissors and writing. As adults, we use fine motor skills so often in our daily lives that it’s easy to not realise that the task we are completing requires a certain skill set and the use of certain muscles.

If a young child is unable to do these everyday tasks, it can affect their self-confidence, ability to develop self-care and independence skills, and also their academic performance.

Below you'll find 10 ways to improve your child's fine motor skills. Once you have learned these 10 ways we recommend next reading about the important benefits of pretend play for young kids. You can out those benefits here.

Benefits of pretend play and how to improve your child's fine motor skills


10 ways parents can help children develop and improve their fine motor skills

These 10 techniques are especially effective for teaching pre-school or kindergarten aged children fine motor skills, but they are also necessary and useful for younger and older children's motor skill development.

Parents can help pre-schoolers develop their fine motor skills


Parents can encourage and help kids to improve their fine motor skills with simple, fun activities. If you’re stuck for ideas, try a few of the activities below.

1. Play-dough

Tactile play with good old favorite materials like play-dough is a great way for kids to experiment and build fine motor skills. To make this even more interesting you could make the play-dough with your child first before they play with it. Here's a video that shows you how to make your own play-dough.

playing with playdough can improve your childs fine motor skills

2. Puzzles

Do puzzles together. Picking up and moving puzzle pieces into place helps develop pincer grasp. 

Watching or helping your child learn how to complete a puzzles can sometimes be frustrating, they can be impatient and give up easily, lose pieces or put them in their mouth. But if you stick with it the rewards are worth it. Engage with and encourage your child as much as you can to compete easy puzzles at first and then progressively harder one's, doing this will improve their hand - eye skills, co-ordination and motor skills.

Watching the smile and sense of satisfaction that your child will get from completing a puzzle provides tremendous satisfaction for parents.  

See the top rated puzzles for kids here.

3. Drawing, colouring in and painting

Encourage your child to draw and paint. This helps not only their fine motor skills, but also creativity and imagination too. Try different types of painting and different mediums, like crayons, chalk, finger paints, brush painting or charcoal, to spark their interest and strengthen your child’s hand-eye coordination. Painting with a paint brush helps kids learn to hold a brush and gain greater control using things in their hands including pencils and other items. Paint-by-number can be an excellent form of brush painting for young children, Faber-Castell do an excellent version here.



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Drawing, colouring in and painting develops fine motor skills in children


4. Using kitchen tongs or tweezers

Create a game for kids can using a small pair of kitchen tongs or tweezers to pick up some small objects like sultanas, grapes, pasta, and buttons, coins into a bowl.

5. Cutting with scissors

Using scissors is a great way to strengthen fine motor skills as well as improve hand-eye coordination and concentration. You can draw shapes for your child to cut around. Make some paper snowflakes. Even cut play-dough. Make sure you use age appropriate scissors.

Why not try making this fine motor skills man with your child. Here's how.

Fine motor sklls man scissors activity to improve fine motor skills

6. Bath time play

Use cups to fill and pour out, sponges or squeaky rubber toys to squeeze. Try not to stress about water going on the floor, you can always wipe it up afterwards. 

Bathtime play builds finger and wrist muscles and develops fine motor skills in children


7. Sand play

Like bath time play, using cups to fill and pour and out is fantastic fun and also encourages sensory development. Scoop and dig with spoons. Use moulds. Draw pictures and build things. If you’re inside, magic or kinetic sand is a great alternative.

8. Build with blocks and Lego

Stack, connect and build things together with blocks and Lego. These activities encourage fine pushing and pulling movements. Lego is also great for fostering creativity. Building with LEGO is an effective way to work and develop your child's fine motor skills. As children build and even pick up LEGO pieces they will, build stronger muscles in their hands and improve co-ordination, this will help them to improve with other skills, such as learning to hold a pencil and learning to write.

Other skills children can learn from playing with Lego include persistence, a sense of accomplishment and an improved ability to solve puzzles.

Building with Lego and blocks develops fine motor skills in children

9. Eye dropper tests

Put some water a few glasses. Pour a few drops of food colouring in each glass, so that you have different coloured water in each glass. Have a couple of empty bowls and glasses where kids can use an eye dropper to experiment with mixing different coloured water together. Try using vinegar instead of water, and have a bowl of bicarbonate soda that will fizz up when the coloured vinegar is dropped in.

10. Threading and lacing

Thread different size pasta or beads onto strings, laces and pipe cleaners. Tie knots and bows in the string. Finger knitting is easy and fun too!

Learning to brush teeth is good for your child's motor development

It can be difficult to teach young children to brush their own teeth, especially to get them to brush properly, but doing so will help their find motor skill development.  Click here to learn 10 ways to improve your child's teeth hygiene and improve their teeth brushing competency.

What to do if you’re concerned

Issues with coordination and balance may not be noticeable until kids reach school age. But if you’re concerned about your child’s gross motor skills, we have Children’s Occupational Therapists who can help. Our specialists support pre-school kids and their families to develop basic sensory awareness and motor skills to help them with self-care skills and get ready for school. Call 9028 0153 to make an appointment.

 6 ways to tame tantrums


About Inspiro

Inspiro is a local, non-profit community health service that provides dental, dietetics / nutrition, podiatry, physiotherapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, diabetes education, counselling, exercise physiology, social and family support services from our Lilydale, Belgrave and Healesville clinics and various community venues. 

We have dentists to look at your teeth, health professionals to help get you moving and active, health services for children and older people, support if you are living with ongoing illness, podiatrists to look at your feet, someone to talk to about your mental health, and many other services to help you reach your own health goals.

See our range of health advice from our local clinicians here.


INSPIRO LILYDALE: 17 Clarke St, Lilydale

INSPIRO BELGRAVE:  1616-1624 Burwood Highway, Belgrave

INSPIRO HEALESVILLE: 333 Maroondah Hwy, Healesville

Call us on 03 9028 0153

Inspiro local services for kids and and young adults

Inspiro offers a range of services for kids and young adults including:

1.  Free youth and family counselling

Inspiro provides a free youth counselling service for young people aged between 12 to 25 years who live, work or study in the Yarra Ranges. Our counsellors help young people who may be dealing with depression, anxiety, bullying, harassment or difficult relationships, to gain the confidence and skills to do things differently.

2.  Space4Us

A peer support program for young people age 13 to 18 years, who have a family member with a mental illness.

3.  Autism Spectrum Kids: 

A social development skills program for young people age 12 - 17 years on the Autism Spectrum,

4.  Occupational therapy for children

Child occupational therapists support children to become more independent in everyday activities. Our therapists help children with hand skills (holding a pencil, cutting), body skills (balancing, catching a ball) and self-care skills (dressing, toileting and sleeping). They can also help if a child has trouble with concentration or managing the information they receive through their senses.

5.  Speech therapy for children (and adults)

Inspiro provides speech therapy for children. We are based in Belgrave and Lilydale. Our Children's Speech Therapist works with children aged up to school entry who are experiencing speech related problems.

These may include articulation (speech sounds); fluency (stuttering); use of expressive language; and understanding language. 

6.  Free dental care for children age 12 and under

Give your child the best start in life with good dental care. It will help protect their teeth for decades to come and help prevent painful fillings and costly special dental work.

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Inspiro provides child paediatric occupational speech therapy and child and paediatric occupational therapy to the outer east and outer south eastern suburbs of Melbourne including but not limited to: Badger Creek, Bayswater, Bayswater North, Belgrave, Belgrave Heights, Belgrave South, Boronia, Chirnside Park, Coldstream, Croydon North, Croydon, Croydon Hills, East Warburton, Emerald, Ferny Creek, Healesville, Heathmont, Hoddles Creek, Kallista, Kalorama, Kilsyth South, Kilsyth, Launching Place, Lilydale, Lysterfield, Macclesfield, Menzies Creek, Millgrove, Monbulk, Montrose, Mooroolbark, Mount Dandenong, Mount Evelyn, Narre Warren East, Olinda, Ringwood, Ringwood North, Sassafras, Selby, Seville, Seville East, Silvan, Tecoma, The Patch, The Basin, Tremont, Upper Ferntree Gully, Upwey, Wandin, Wandin North, Warrandyte South, Warranwood, Warburton, Wesburn, Wonga Park, Woori Yallock, Yarra Valley, Yarra Glen, Yarra Junction and Yellingbo.