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Guest Column

Fine motor skills in Kids!

Womenlines welcomes Rupali Sarkhel Desai as a guest writer and is sharing her write-up about ‘Fine Motor Skills in Kids’ with its readers! 

Twiddling your Thumbs as a toddler can take you far in life! 

My recent experience with a bunch of kids at my creative workshop led me to write this article on ‘Fine Motor Skills’. The workshop also made me realize the stark gender differences between children. One major realization was that girls are much faster than boys when it came to finishing their artwork/tasks. (already proven fact!)  It’s very easy to make sweeping statements like ‘boys are not interested in artwork as much as girls are.’  ‘Boys are too lazy’ ‘Boys are interested in more physical activity compared to girls’ not being too convinced by these stereotypes, I decided to dig deeper.


It was very easy to understand one simple fact – girls were able to somehow fold paper very well (we did origami @ the workshop). Boys took twice as much time to do the same. The very basics of  origami – which meant folding paper, led them to delay at every other stage, which led them to be disinterested eventually in the ‘artwork’ It was very easy to discern the fact that the development of fine motor skills is so crucial and weaknesses of the same can eventually affect a child’s self esteem. Come to think of this, one of the student’s mother also mentioned to me that her son is slow in writing but exceptionally quick in reading!!!   

What is Fine Motor Skills? (FMS) 

FMS involves the small muscles of the body that enable such functions such as writing, grasping small objects and fastening clothing. FMS involves strength, fine motor control and dexterity. (1) FMS can be defined as small muscle movements those that occur in the finger, in co-ordination with the eyes. (2) Lack of the same, can affect a child’s ability to eat, write, fold paper, wear clothes, etc. Which can eventually affect his self-esteem? 

If you have already recognized that your child could be lacking in this area, you need not worry. These skills can be developed with the right kind of activities over a period of time, love and acceptance, and loads of patience. Following are some practical ways to develop the same:- 

1)   ‘Grasping in the mind’ – Let the concept of ‘writing’ fit into your child’s mind through his hands. Best way to do that is simply showing him how to write in the air. Can start with writing alphabets in the air. (for toddlers you can start with shapes, and for little bigger kids you can follow it up with short words). Also this can be turned into a fun play by taking it a step further. Writing in your child’s palm/hand/back can not only be fun at the same time quite interesting. Next you should now encourage your child to do the same to you! This activity will help to trace his fingers. Finger tracing is crucial step to writing. Kids can do this even on textured surfaces like sand, mud, etc. Give them a plate full of rice and let them draw alphabets on them!

2)   Puffed rice (toddlers)- A very easy way to develop the ‘pincer grasp’ is to give puffed rice, titbits, cereals, etc in a bowl as a daily/weekly activity to your toddler/child. This helps to pick up small objects using your thumb and forefinger thereby using the smaller muscles in the fingers.

3)   Exercise – Simple exercise like opening and closing of palm, moving your fingers – playing abracadabra , moving each finger at a time, playing inchworms etc. Also playing regularly with the ball – fetch and throw helps a lot to build up those small muscles. Twiddling your thumbs with your toddler can go a long way in his FMS development 😉

4)   Look out for toys/activities which claim to help in eye-hand co-ordination.

5)   Drawing /painting – Finger-painting is an excellent and fun way to work on the small finger muscles, which help in FMS. Fine tracing also can be introduced. All you need is a pencil, a book with good pictures and a tracing paper. Teach your child to trace objects from a book/magazine etc. This not only helps in learning to draw also helps to develop FMS. Spray painting with a toothbrush also is extremely effective. Try taking print-outs of template and cutting it out and spray painting on it. Can be fun activity. Lots of templates are available on the net. You can try for ex – http://www.dltk-kids.com/crafts/cartoons/zoo.html. This site has lots of templates of animals, cartoons, etc. Watch out for totally fun and crafty ideas !

6)   Placing and pasting activities –  place variety of forms eg blocks, felt, paper, string, yarn, cereal, cotton on outlines. Also you can encourage your child to match shapes, color, pictures to a page and paste them within the outlines.

7)   Dough/clay play – let your child squeeze, knead, pat, roll out dough. If you have moulds then it gets even more interesting for your child to try different veggies, food items, etc. A plastic toy knife can be more helpful to cut the dough (with adult supervision). A dough kit I have at home also has a mini extruder which helps to make spaghetti. My lil one finds this the most interesting of all.

8)   Everyday activities – this would include

  • 1. Buttoning shirts,
  • 2. Zipping pants, bags,
  • 3. Locking and unlocking door knobs,
  • 4. Tying and untying ropes, strings etc, tying shoe laces,
  • 5. Manipulating coins different sizes – piggy bank activity.
  • 6. Opening and closing lids of jars,
  • 7. Sweeping, washing dishes,
  • 8. Trying to use spoon, fork, chopsticks while eating their favourite maggie can also go a long way.
  • 9. Pinching bubble wrap between fingers…
  • 10.Playing the piano
  • 11. Playing with a squeeze/stress ball!
  • 12. Bead making, punching holes in paper and connecting them with yarn.

DOING ANYTHING THAT REQUIRES SPECIFIC FINGER MOVEMENTS. Get your child to be more involved in housework, indirectly you will help him in developing FMS!

9)   Typing – is also an excellent way to develop FMS for older kids…. so handover your laptop for a while, mums! Don’t we teach our children always to share their toys? It’s time to share ours 😉


Resources A very important guideline to parents is to make the right kind of resources available to the child. The quality of resources can make a real difference in the actual learning ability of a child too. Bad/sad/cheap quality of colour pencils/crayons/sketch pens etc can make the child disinterested in creative activities sooner than you think. Variety is also equally important.             

 Vertical chalkboards; easels for painting; flannel boards; lite bright; magnet boards (or fridge); windows and mirrors; white boards, etc. Kids can also make sticker pictures; do rubber ink-stamping; use reusable vinyl stickers to make pictures; complete puzzles with thick knobs; use magna-doodle and etch-a-sketch as well. The benefits for these include: having the child’s wrist positioned to develop good thumb movements; they help develop good fine motor muscles; the child is using the arm and shoulder muscles.

There are occupational therapists who also help to do the same, incase you think your child could do some good with extra help. 

With time, patience, positive assurance and encouragement your child will be on his way to grasp Fine Motor Skills!!!

Rupali Sarkhel Desai

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