What do we mean by fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills are those small, intricate hand and finger movements.  Skill in using these muscles can take time to evolve as the brain builds important connections.  This is achieved through practice, with some children finding it easier to master the skills than others. 

wooden ten frame

Why are fine motor skills important?

Fine motor skills are an important factor in early writing.  Children need strong fingers to grasp a pencil and use it with control.  Plenty of opportunities to engage in activities which promote these skills is necessary in order to develop these muscles.  Moving to writing without strong fine motor skills can be detrimental.  Having the foundation of good skills is important so refining these in Early Years should be a priority, with writing coming second.  Writing is easier for children who have good strength and control of their hand and finger muscles.  We need to set them up to succeed.

wooden ten frame

However, having these skills is not just important for writing.  Think of all the things you accomplish using your fingers. 

  • Doing up a zip
  • Holding a toothbrush
  • Opening packaging
  • Tying laces
  • Knitting
  • Holding cutlery
  • Turning pages in a book
  • Using scissors
  • Doing up buttons

Fine motor skills are important in enabling children to achieve valuable life skills.

wicker mirror circle tray play ideas

Fine motor skills in your setting…

The development of these skills should be a critical focus in the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).  However, it’s not just a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  Just as we wouldn’t expect all children to be at the same level for their writing development, not all will be at the same point with their skills.  Careful observations will highlight where children are, where support is needed and where additional challenge is required.  Providing a range of play experiences can promote the development of fine motor skills but this is alongside knowledge, skilled teachers and practitioners.  We need to encourage independence, rather than stepping in the moment a child faces challenge.

mirror tray play ideas

Ideas for developing skills…

  • Threading – using pasta and string or pipe cleaners.  Encourage children to pick up the pasta with pinchy fingers rather than grasping.
  • Using pegs
  • Posting activities – pasta, letters, coins, buttons…
  • Block play
  • Playdough
  • Weaving
  • Tearing paper
  • Using tweezers and tongs
  • Pegs and peg boards
  • Woodwork
  • Cookery
  • Finger painting
  • Finger rhymes
  • Using scissors
  • Puzzles
  • Loose parts play
  • Water play
  • Transient art

Sharing information with families is a fantastic way to bring them on board with their child’s development.  Sometimes, we say ‘fine motor skills’ without realising that families might not understand what we mean by this.  Be clear with your language, sharing information through newsletters, your social media channels, website, learning journeys and letters.  You could even set up a workshop for families once Covid restrictions allow.  Share play ideas for families to try at home, impacting on the home learning environment and children’s play skills.

More activity ideas:

fine motor skills

Check out our full range of fine motor resources here.

Don’t forget to share your Fine motor set ups with us on our social media channels: @CosyDirect #CosyDirect #CosyClubIdeas 

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With thanks to The Cosy Creatives for this blog post and our Cosy Club Members for their input.

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