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When I mention fine motor skills, I'm sure you think of printing, cutting, and beading. You probably also think of arguing with a child to complete these tasks. Parents and teachers know that fine motor skills are important, but they dread working on them. They're hard, and a lot of the time, they're boring.

When fine motor skills are delayed, everyday tasks such as using a fork or putting on your socks can be challenging - and with taxing skills comes dysregulation. Children with fine motor delays often avoid these tasks, and prefer to play outside using their gross motor skills. You'll find them climbing on the jungle gym instead of beading a friendship bracelet. Fine motor skills require hand-eye coordination and precision, which begin to develop as early as 2 months of age. Here are some typical milestones to keep in mind:


_turns pages 2 or 3 at a time

_scribbles (fisted grasp is fine)

_holds and drinks from a cup independently


_turns single pages

_eats without assistance

_holds crayon with thumb and fingers (not fist)


_uses two hands (one to stabilize an object) _snips paper using scissors

_copies a circle


_copies cross and square

_handedness emerges and/or is established

_dresses and undresses independently


_can draw basic pictures

_cuts out simple shapes

_colours within the lines

Occupational therapists (OTs) are motor skills masters, which is why they are often called in for fine motor practice. A lot of people even refer to OTs as the Pencil Police. This is a title that I work hard to break free of. These days, you won't catch me working on beading or cutting unless the kiddo themselves requests it. In my sessions, the focus is on play and functional motor skills. Ask yourself, can they do the things they want and need to do in a day?

"These days, you won't catch me working on beading or cutting

unless the kiddo themselves requests it."


_line up toys

_pinch a sibling

_braid hair

_dress their dolls

_play a game on a tablet

_pick up a salty goldfish cracker

_turning on the lights (or off)


_pulling up pants

_latching the bathroom door

_school work, printing

_brush your teeth

_zip up your coat

_use an Augmented and Alternative Communication (AAC) device

_pick up food with a fork


While fine motor activities are a necessary evil, there are ways to make building these skills exciting.

1/ Think outside the box. Flinging pieces of potato with a balloon launcher or using a spray bottle to make drizzle art is a lot more exciting than making animals with play doh, but it works on the same skills.

2/ Focus on interests. If they love dinosaurs, practice picking up 'dino food' (marshmallows) with its mouth or with tongs. Build a straw airplane or use different keys to unlock clues in an escape-room scenario. I promise that the extra effort and prep will be worth it when they stick with the activity for more than two minutes.

3/ Build a foundation of core, shoulder, and arm strength. Bear weight through the hands, arms, and shoulders or hang from monkey bars to build up the precursors for fine motor skills. They'll be more excited to have a pillow fight or play Twister, and you'll know that they will have better control in printing as a result.

For more fun ideas, head to my Pinterest Page.

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