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Developing Grasp and Fine Motor Skills

By Ashleigh Dalton, Occupational Therapist


Fine motor skills assist us to perform the essential and everyday tasks of daily living.  We each develop at different rates and have varying degrees of success, particularly in the early stages!

Fine motor skills are the those that we use to coordinate the smaller movements in our
hands and fingers, feet and toes.

Difficulties with fine motor skills may be observed in behaviours such as:

  • Avoidance and/or disinterest with tasks such as writing, using cutlery, getting dressed
  • A preference for activities with whole body movement
  • Interest in ‘passive’ activities such as IT (e.g. watching TV, using an iPad, and other activities that require a basic level of fine fine motor performance)
  • Little interest in drawing
  • Difficulty when using scissors
  • Delayed preference for a dominant hand
  • Often asking others for assistance – to draw, open a packet, tie laces..
  • Not persisting in the face of a perceived challenge
  • Waiting for parents/carers to for help to get dressed, brush teeth or cut up food

Some ideas to try at home to promote grasp and fine motor skills are:

  • Play!
  • Building blocks
  • Craft activities
    • collages
    • paper mache
    • cutting and sticking
  • Games
    • Checkers, Pick-up Sticks
    • Jenga, Operation, Tumbling Monkeys
    • Card games
    • Chess
  • Puzzles
  • Lego, Duplo or other construction toys
  • Origami
  • Finger painting
  • Dressing up using clothes with buttons, press-studs, zips and shoelaces
  • Playdoh
  • Mixing ingredients or rolling out dough when helping with cooking/baking
  • Folding washing to help out at home

It is also very important to allow extra time, opportunity to make mistakes without a negative consequence and positive feedback for effort.

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