Have you ever wondered why your child avoids dressing themselves, drawing and table top tasks or using a knife and fork? Do they appear to be bossy and demand that you button their shirts, tie their shoes and zip up their jackets? Do they give up easily or become frustrated when unable to complete tasks using their hands? What if I told you that these behaviours might indicate your child is finding fine motor activities challenging and occupational therapy could help?
When occupational therapists talk about fine motor skills, this refers to strength, dexterity, finger isolation, thumb opposition and ‘in hand manipulation.’ These are all fine motor skills involving small and precise movements of the wrist, hands and fingers, coordinated by the brain, muscles and skeletal system. (National Childcare Accreditation Council 2008)
Fine motor skills are the basic building blocks required for future development and attainment of a variety of life skills. Through normal development we learn from an early age to use our hands both, individually and together in order to perform tasks such as reaching and grasping, manipulating objects, opening containers, writing, using scissors, zipping zippers and buttoning buttons. It is with the development of these skills that children also strengthen neural connections that support the development of cognitive skills (Curby, T and Carlson, A 2014). Therefore, the growth of strong fine motor skills early in life has a direct positive impact on children’s ability to perform academic tasks in the classroom.
The development of fine motor skills in early childhood allows children to participate better in academic tasks using their concentration and focus for learning of cognitive skills. Children with well-developed fine motor skills are able to focus on learning content of academic work instead of focusing on trying to comfortably hold their pencil or the process of forming letters and numbers.
It is important that children develop the strength, control and coordination that allows them to use their hands and fingers effectively, and automatically enables them to participate in: