What Are Fine Motor Skills? Why Are They Important?

Like most things in our world, classrooms are becoming more technological. Kids and teens spend much of the day hunched over a computer, flexing their fingers across the keyboard and clicking with a mouse. When they’re not studying on the computer, they may be playing catch or creating their next masterpiece with pen and paper. One thing makes all these activities possible: fine motor skills.

What Are Fine Motor Skills?

Fine motor skills are a child’s ability to make dexterous movements and manipulate objects with their hands and wrists. There are more than 30 muscles in the hand, and every single one of them contributes to a child’s fine motor skills. Whether your kiddos are gripping a pencil or slicing through paper with scissors, these skills are a necessity.

Why Are Fine Motor Skills Important?

Fine motor skills gradually develop along with gross motor skills (the skills needed for broader movements like walking and jumping), giving children the ability to accomplish tasks and live independently. Little hands need a strong foundation in fine motor skills to accomplish necessary tasks like the following:

  • Gripping objects
  • Writing with a pen or pencil
  • Cutting with scissors
  • Coloring
  • Drawing
  • Folding paper
  • Typing on a keyboard and cellphone
  • Using a mouse
  • Using a phone (even a kid-friendly Troomi phone)
  • Building with blocks and LEGOs
  • Eating with silverware
  • Snapping and buttoning up clothes
  • Manipulating zippers
  • Tying shoelaces
  • Brushing teeth
  • Opening doors

The self-reliance that comes from developing fine motor skills helps kids develop a higher sense of self-esteem and boosts their academic performance.

How Can I Help My Child Hone Their Fine Motor Skills?

Since so many basic actions require them, fine motor skills typically develop on their own as kids learn and play. This isn’t the case for every child, however. Some kiddos have a hard time using their hand muscles and need hands-on help to develop these skills. The best way to help your child develop their fine motor skills is to continually expose them to tasks that require dexterity and gently correct them when they make a mistake. As with most things, practice makes perfect!

Here are a few ways you can help your child hone their fine motor skills:

  • Get crafting. Crafts encourage kids to work with their hands, improving both their dexterity and creativity along the way. Making a necklace using thread and beads, for example, requires pretty dexterous hands.
  • Fold some origami. Origami is a great way to use fine motor skills and have a fun time doing it. Your kids will love using their hands to create three-dimensional shapes out of flat paper.
  • Write letters to family and friends. When it comes to communication, we tend to err on the side of texting these days, but writing an old-fashioned letter with pencil and paper is a great way to practice handwriting skills.
  • Play with Play-Doh. Encourage your child to create wild sculptures with Play-Doh and get their little hands working!.
  • Practice putting on jackets and using buttons. Getting dressed is often the first thing we do each morning, and it relies pretty heavily on fine motor skills. Practice using zippers and buttons with your child so they can practice the movements.
  • Get your kid in the kitchen! Cooking with kids is a great way for them to practice grasping things, unscrewing lids, and pouring liquids. The meal you make together also doubles as a built-in reward for your child’s hard work!

Does My Child Struggle with Fine Motor Skills? 

Fine motor skills come more naturally to some than they do to others. According to VerywellFamily, if your child exhibits any of these behaviors, they may be experiencing problems developing fine motor skills:

  • Frequently dropping things
  • Difficulty holding a pencil correctly
  • Difficulty using scissors and other school supplies
  • Inability to tie their shoes

If your child has a hard time using fine motor skills, contact a health professional to determine how serious the issue is. If left untreated, poor fine motor skills can cause difficulty writing or typing, a lack of independence, and potential anxiety about poor academic performance. To fix the problem on all fronts, make sure to reach out to your child’s teacher and create an action plan that will help your child practice these skills both at school and at home. 

Put Down The Phone And Go Play!

Texting and playing games on a phone is a great way to practice fine motor skills, but too much screen time can be detrimental to a child’s mental and physical well-being. If your child is spending too much time on tech, encourage them to step back into the real world and use their hands to catch a ball or climb a tree.

Smartphones from Troomi Wireless can help your kids balance tech and real life. Our kid-friendly, parent-approved devices have eliminated addicting games and anxiety-inducing social media, and inspire kids to spend more time playing outside and practice their fine motor skills. Click here to learn more about these awesome phones.
And keep an eye on the Troomi blog for more parenting tips and tricks!