Getting A Better Understanding Of Fine Motor Skills

Getting A Better Understanding Of Fine Motor Skills | NHWS | Occupational Therapy Clinic in Tigard Oregon

You may have heard of motor skills before, but did you know there are actually two different types of them?

Gross motor skills refers to movements that involve the larger muscles in your body.

If you’re thinking “where can I find an occupational therapist near me?” it’s likely because you or your child are dealing with fine motor skills issues.

Let’s take a closer look at fine motor skills.

We’ll explore what they are, how they develop and how an occupational therapist for children can help when things go wrong.

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

Whenever you make small movements with your hands and wrists, you’re using your fine motor skills.

They’re important for accomplishing a variety of small tasks throughout the day, including:

  • Typing
  • Handwriting
  • Drawing
  • Painting
  • Using scissors
  • Dialing a number on the phone
  • Unlocking a door
  • Buttoning up a shirt
  • Tying your shoelaces
  • Brushing and flossing your teeth
  • Plugging and unplugging an electrical appliance
  • Using utensils to eat
  • Turning pages in a book
  • Playing most musical instruments
  • Building things out of Lego
  • And a lot more

What Does Fine Motor Skills Development Look Like?

Fine motor skills require some very specific coordination between the muscles in your hands and wrists and your brain.

When a baby is first born, they have very little in the way of fine motor skills.

However, as they develop, they should be able to gain greater control over the muscles associated with fine motor skills.

Every child develops at a different rate of course.

However, broadly speaking, there are some important fine motor skills milestones that your child should be reaching.

If they’re a couple weeks behind, and they are showing progress in that area, it’s not usually cause for concern.

However, if they begin to fall significantly behind, it’s a sign you should seek treatment from an occupational therapist.

It’s common for children with ADHD to have challenges with fine motor skills as well, according to this 2019 study.

As a result, occupational therapy for children with ADHD often includes working on fine motor skills.

This is also true with occupational therapy for kids with sensory processing disorder and occupational therapy for autism spectrum disorder.

However, fine motor skills delays can happen independent of these conditions as well.

Here are some of these fine motor skills milestones.

At Two Years Old

by your baby’s 2nd birthday, they should be able to:

  • Turn  knobs
  • Hold and drink from a cup
  • Stack a few blocks
  • Hold a crayon with their fist
  • Scribble on a page
  • Hold a spoon and bring it to their mouth
  • Turn a few pages at a time in a book

At Three Years Old

By your baby’s third birthday, they should be able to:

  • Hold a crayon or a pencil with their thumb and fingers
  • Open and close a pair of scissors
  • Eat without assistance
  • String beads on a string
  • Turn the pages of a book
  • Begin to show a dominant hand (eg left handed vs right handed)

At Four Years Old

By your child’s fourth birthday, they should be able to:

  • Build taller block towers
  • Make balls, snakes and other simple shapes out of clay
  • Cut paper using their scissors
  • Draw a circle, a cross, and other simple shapes

At Five Years Old

By the time your child turns five, they should be able to:

  • Cut a straight line
  • Write their name
  • Write numbers and letters
  • Dress and undress themselves
  • Draw squares and other more complex geometric shapes

Types Of Fine Motor Skills

The term fine motor skills is an umbrella term that actually refers to a wide variety of different individual skills.

Some of these skills include

  • Bilateral hand coordination – the use of both hands together
  • Gross grasp – holding something by squeezing fingers shut around it
  • Pincer grasp – the ability to squeeze objects between thumb and one finger
  • Tripod grasp – the ability to squeeze object between thumb and two fingers, like when holding a pencil
  • Open thumb web space – the ability to create the OK sign
  • Hand eye coordination
  • Spherical grasp –  the ability to hold round objects
  • Finger isolation – the ability to use one finger at a time
  • Development of a dominant hand
  • And many more

how can an occupational therapist help children develop fine motor skills | NHWS | Occupational Therapy Clinic in Tigard Oregon

How Can An Occupational Therapist Help?

If your child is having trouble developing their fine motor skills, an occupational therapist can help.

Your occupational therapist will begin with an evaluation of your child’s abilities, with the goal of determining the specific fine motor skills your child is struggling with and what’s causing them.

From there, treatment can begin.

Of course, every child is different, so your child’s treatment plan will be geared toward their unique needs.

Because these exercises are geared toward children, most of the treatment exercises will involve play.

Some possible treatment exercises, though, include:

1. Pincer Grasp Exercises

If your child is struggling with their pincer grasp, their occupational therapist may work with your child to:

  • Pick up small beads
  • Peel stickers and apply them to a page
  • String beads on to a string
  • Open and close clothes pins
  • Pick up toothpicks or other tiny objects

2. Tripod Grasp Exercises

If your child has difficulty with their tripod grasp, it may result in issues with handwriting, drawing, painting, and other activities involving a writing or marking implement.

As a result, your occupational therapist may work with your child to:

  • Draw pictures using crayons with a special grip
  • Remove beads from a ball of putty

3. Open Thumb Web Space Exercises

If your child has difficulty with web space development, it can cause difficulty with their learning to tie their shoes or button a shirt, as well as with handwriting.

Some of the activities your child’s physical therapist may work on with your child include:

  • Threading beads onto a feather
  • Applying pegs to a pegboard
  • Tearing small pieces of paper
  • Rolling clay into balls
  • Playing the board game Connect Four
  • Popping bubble wrap

Book Your Appointment With New Horizons Wellness Services Today

If your child is struggling with their fine motor skills, it can cause issues for them both now and later in life.

We can help.

At New Horizons Wellness Services, a pediatric therapy clinic in Tigard Oregon, we offer pediatric occupational therapy, pediatric speech therapy, and social skills group therapy for a variety of health concerns, including fine motor skills.

Book your appointment with New Horizons Wellness Services today.

Yours in Health,

New Horizons Wellness Services
13333 SW 68th Pkwy,
Tigard, OR 97223


New Horizons Wellness Services provides a true multidisciplinary approach to mental & physical health treatments for children, adults and families.