Children are always developing and working on new skills from birth forward, including many fine motor skills. You might wonder why are fine motor skills important; it’s important for parents to understand why these are so essential.
It’s amazing how every little thing is a learning experience for kids.
From picking up food with their fingers to rolling out Play-Doh, all of these little things work together to fine tune and develop little muscles throughout your child’s body. It’s easy to focus only on the “big” muscles, but the small muscles are essential to our life.
Let’s take a look at the importance of fine motor skills and why parents need to give their child access to activities that encourage these skills.
Why are Fine Motor Skills Important?
Fine motor skills are part of your everyday life, involving the use of the multitude of small muscles throughout your hand, fingers, and thumbs. These skills help children – and adults as well – perform essential daily tasks, such as feeding yourself and writing.
Self-care tasks are far easier with the help of fine motor skills.
Children start to develop these skills at a young age, and as children age and practice their skills, everything gets easier. If your child fails to develop these skills, they may become frustrated during everyday tasks expected at their current age.
Let’s take a look at some of the answers to why are fine motor skills important.
Developing fine motor skills are an essential part of your child’s physical development. Physical development includes a lot of aspects, such as:
- Fine Motor Skills (Small Muscles)
- Gross Motor Skills (Large Muscles)
- Hand-Eye Coordination
- Body Awareness
- Spatial Awareness
- Eye-Foot Coordination
It’s important to remember that skills are not independent in the body. All parts of your body must work together, and a lack of fine motor skills will cause a ripple of problems in other areas of development.
Greater Sense of Independence
Parents notice that their child has a greater sense of independence as they develop more fine motor control.
Infants require their baby to hold a bottle or feed them with a spoon. Toddlers struggle to take toys out of the boxes or fit a chunky puzzle together. A preschooler has a hard time unzipping his backpack to remove his crayons.
All of these are fine motor skills, and once mastered, each gives your child more of a sense of independence. It’s one less thing they require someone else to do for them.
No wonder the “I’ll do it myself” stage falls in line with the years when your child has quite a few fine motor skills milestones to meet! Children love when they feel a sense of achievement, whether it’s brushing their teeth for the first time or pulling up their pants.
Helps with Self-Care Skills
Something else that falls right beside the increased sense of independence is the ability to work on self-care skills. Almost all common self-care activities rely on small muscles throughout your body, especially those in your hands.
Here are some daily self-care tasks that require fine motor skills!
- Feeding yourself
- Tying shoelaces
- Brushing your teeth
- Washing hands
- Brushing your hair
Undoubtedly, we all want to take care of ourselves; it’s part of our development towards freedom.
Leads to Increased Concentration Span
Working on fine motor skill activities gradually increases your child’s concentration span. Most activities require your child to sit for a period, such as when they play with Play-Doh.
The more often your child works on these activities, the longer their attention span gradually becomes. Think of all the times in your life you need to focus on something; your child has to develop those skills over time!
Allows for More Daily Tasks
You need fine motor skills for more than self-care tasks! Many daily tasks require a combination of fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination to complete correctly.
Here are some daily tasks.
- Turning pages in a book
- Strapping on a seat belt
- Typing on a computer
- Putting groceries away
- Cooking dinner
- Tearing paper
More Play Activities!
Another answer to why are fine motor skills important is that it opens your child’s options for fine motor play activities.
As your child gets older, they want to work on plenty of activities, and many require a level of fine motor skills to complete. Your child will want to try new activities!
Leads to Writing & Drawing Skills
Drawing and art skills are crucial for childhood. You may not realize how important drawing is, but years ago, drawing was considered an essential part of education.
As your child ages, they progress through various stages of drawing, showing more increased ability and understanding. Your child’s drawings will show a better ability to control drawing tools and their understanding of the world.
Also, drawing is an important pre-writing skills. Before your child forms letters, they use crayons, markers, and chalk to create pictures.
Increases Academic Success
Do you know why are fine motor skills important for education?
Fine and gross motor skills develop together, and your child’s academic success relies on having control over their muscles.
Think of all the skills your child needs throughout their academic years.
Your body needs a strong core and proper posture to sit at a desk all day. Otherwise, your body would get too tired. They need to hold a pencil and form letters while writing, and their hands and eyes must work together to cut out projects.
One of the most important reasons why fine motor skills are important is that your child needs to learn how to write. Parents should never push their child to write before they are ready, but plenty of exposure to practices will encourage your child when he is ready.
Fine Motor Skills Milestones By Age
As I mentioned, it takes time for fine motor skills to develop. It’s similar to a layering affect; as your child learns one thing, then they learn another. Each skill is often a precursor to another skill.
Babies have a reflexive grasp at birth. Parents notice that babies grab and hold their fingers tightly immediately.
Around three months of age, babies start to reach for objects, batting at objects above their heads. This is a great time to introduce a play gym so they can smack at objects.
Around 5 months, some infants start to work on their one-handed palmer grasp. Throughout the next months, this will continue to get better.
From six months to one year old, babies reach and grasp for objects to put in their mouth. This is the traditional time when babies begin to self-feed and pick up finger foods.
Babies develop their pincer grasp at this age, which is when they pick up items with their thumbing and one finger. It’s also a time when babies learn how to transfer and object from one hand to the other hand.
Now that your child is a year old, their fine motor skills seem to take off at light speed.
You’ll notice your baby stacking toys like building blocks and putting rings on a stick; that’s why these are classic toys. Peg stacking and turning pages are two other fine motor skills that develop between 12 and 24 months old.
It’s a great time to introduce painting and coloring since these use a grasps and whole arm movement. Plus, their ability to self feed accelerates, so your child should be able to feed with little assistance.
Two Year Olds
Your child continues to add to their list of fine motor skills when they are two years old. Skills like turning single pages, start using scissors, holding crayons, and stringing large beads become progressively easier. Using one hand for activities is easier than before, and during art time, you may notice more wrist movement while connecting dots and making lines.
Three Year Olds
At three years old, children build taller towers, often with smaller blocks, and learn how to use clay and play dough. This age is when kids start to use their non-dominant hand for assistance, like stabilizing objects while stacking.
It’s also a great age to introduce cutting. This takes more fine motor skills than you may realize and takes considerable focus for a little kid.
9 Activities to Help Strengthen Fine Motor Skills
As I mentioned, developing fine motor skills takes time and practice. Over the years, your child develops new skills, but you can help this by offering activities for ample practice.
The more they practice, the sooner they master the skill!
Babies start to learn how to feed themselves as fine motor skills develop. Give your baby soft finger foods like Puffs to practice picking up with their pincer grasp.
Over time, your child will be able to accurately pick up food with their two fingers rather than with their palm and fingers.
Playing with Play-Doh
Grab some containers of Play-Doh and let your child have fun. It’s a great sensory toy for strengthening fine motor skills, and it keeps their attention.
As your child rolls, pulls, and builds with the Play-Doh, they build strength in their small muscles and tendons. It’s an overall great activity!
Related: 10 ADHD Hand Toys Little Kids Love
Toddlers and preschoolers generally shouldn’t pick up a needle and try to sew, but yarn and cardboard introduce the back and forth motion needed in weaving and sewing.
Cut out shapes in the cardboard, and leave a space in the middle so your child can weave yarn through. Another idea is to punch holes around the edges so they can “sew” along the sides.
Threading is another great activity for your young child. Start by letting your child thread beads on pipe cleaners since they stay straight. It’s great practice.
As they get older, they can use string, which will increase their fine motor skills and concentration. I like this threading set by Melissa & Doug!
Using scissors requires hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills. Not only do they have to watch where they cut, but they have to use muscles in their hands to open and close the scissors repeatedly.
Coloring and Drawing
As I mentioned when we discussed why are fine motor skills important, coloring and drawing are both ways to develop these skills. Your child has to grasp the crayons or pencils and draw.
These activities never get old; kids love to draw and color. The more they practice, the better their art becomes, and the more they feel encouraged to practice.
It’s a win-win!
Using Buttons and Zippers
Using buttons and zippers take the use of finger muscles, which is why little kids struggle to use these items. However, understanding them gives your child freedom to get dressed without any help.
Try this set of busy boards with zippers, laces, buttons, snaps, and more!
Help Getting Dressed
From an early age, allow your child to help you dress them. Dressing themselves is a state of mind and encourages your child to try to do other things on their own.
For example, you can show your child how to push their leg through the pant leg or how to remove shoes or socks. Removing clothes is a skill as well!
The actual act of reading is not going to help with fine motor, but the action of turning the pages of a book are a fine motor action.
The more comfortable your child feels with books, the more likely they are to pick them up in their free time. Plus, your child has to take care with books, avoiding ripping or bending pages.
It’s easy to see how important fine motor skills really are! Make sure you take time to offer plenty of activities for your child to practice and perfect the skills they need to learn.