General Categories of Fine Motor Behavior

For fine motor development, you may want to use general categories of behaviors and give examples of behavior in that category. The general categories could include:

1. Self-help skills which would include zipping zippers, buttoning buttons, snapping snaps, using velcro, eating with utensils, dressing oneself, undressing, pouring from a pitcher

2. Using a writing or drawing instrument -- using pencil, markers, crayons, paint brushes

3. Cutting and pasting -- using scissors, glue, paste


4. Using manipulatives -- string beads, play with play doh, putting together puzzles, sorting small objects, inserting objects into openings

5. Building and constructing -- build with blocks, use legos, tinker toys, hammering nail, attaching nuts and bolts


6. Sensory perceptual integration -- synchronized use of sensory perceptual information and motor movements. Some illustrations are copying a picture or word, cutting around a picture, mimicking hand and finger movements, snapping to music or a rhythm, and tracing pictures.

 

Examples of fine motor skills

Self-help skills such as zipping a zipper, tying a shoe, buttoning buttons, snapping snaps.

Putting on shoes, socks, boots

putting on name tag

tying shoes or an apron

Dress or undress doll

Feeding oneself with fingers or utensils

writing and drawing/copying designs

trace around hand

string beads

put together puzzles

build with blocks/towers/bridges

cut with scissors

paste

paint with brush or finger paint

deal cards

turn pages of a book

pick up small pieces/manipulatives

sorting shapes with a shape-box toy/using a form board

fold paper into halves, quarters, or airplanes

build with legos, tinker toys, lincoln logs

turning door knob/turning light on or off

cutting with a knife

buckling a seat belt

clicking a mouse/using a keyboard

play dough sculptures

cooking/food preparation/measuring

turning screw-top lids on jars and containers

nuts and bolts/screws/hammer and nail

egg-beater/can opener/food grinder

locks and keys

citrus reamer for making orange juice

pour rice before pouring liquid

clean up with small sponge

picking up and inserting objects

puzzles, pegboards, stacking toys, lacing, sewing, weaving, sorting small items.

string differ kinds of pasta

coloring in coloring books/using markers

 


Things to watch for when observing fine motor skills


Dexterity -- refers to quick, precise movements and coordination of the hands and fingers. Level of skill in using hand and fingers.

Flexibility -- ability to bend or flex fingers and hand.

Precision and control -- accuracy of movement

Coordination -- use of fingers and hands together in a synchronized manner.

A useful source for fine motor development (and other developmental categories) is the appendix in:

McAfee, O. & Leong, D. (1994). Assessing and guiding young children's development and learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon. (starting on page 223)

Beaty, J. (1998). Observing development of young children (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Merrill.

Berk, L. E. (1999). Infants, children, and adolescents. Needham Heights, MA: Simon & Schuster.

 

 

Fine Motor Terms

Dexterity refers to quick, precise movements and coordination of the hands and fingers. Level of skill in using hand and fingers.

Flexibility - ability to bend or flex fingers and hand.

Precision and control -- Accuracy of movement

Coordination -- use of fingers and hands together in a synchronized manner.

Sensory perceptual integration -- synchronized use of sensory perceptual information and motor movements. Some illustrations are copying a picture or word, cutting around a picture, mimicking hand and finger movements, snapping to music or a rhythm, and tracing pictures.

Proximodistal -- control of the body tends to be gained from the center of the body to the extremities, such as fingers and toes.

Power grip -- grip used by young preschoolers on drawing and writing tools, with all of the fingers clamped fist-like around the implement. This does not give them much control over the marks they will make because the entire hand, wrist, and arm are involved in the movements rather than the fingers.

Supinate grasp -- the first stage in holding a writing or drawing implement; all four fingers and thumb wrap around writing instrument to form a fist, palm facing up. Writing is done with the entire hand. Implement is often grasped in the middle of the instrument rather than near the tip. (Similar to what Beaty calls a power grip).

Pronate grasp -- the second stage in holding a writing or drawing implement (happens between the supinate and tripod grasp); similar to supinate in that entire hand grips implement, but palm is down rather than up. Thumb and forefinger play an increasing role in writing and drawing.

Precision grip --- as preschoolers get older, they switch to a precision grip, holding the implement between the thumb and fingers.

Tripod grip-- mature grip on a writing instrument, between 3 fingers -- thumb, index finger, and middle finger; the third and last stage of writing grips. (Beaty refers to this as a precision grip).

Prehension is the ability to grasp or grip an object and to let go of it.

lateral dominance/handedness -- preference shown for left or right hand and foot. According to Beaty, but age 2, the child may begin to prefer to use one hand over the other. By 2 about 58% of children in the U.S. have established a dominant hand, and by age 3, about 70% have established dominance. By age 11, 94% have established a preferred hand and the remaining children are ambidextrous, or have mixed dominance.




The Development of Fine Motor Skills in Early Childhood

(Note: The skills are listed in the approximate order of difficulty within each age period.)


37-38 months

approximates circle

cuts paper

pastes using pointer finger

builds three-block tower

builds eight-block tower

draws 0 and +

dresses and undresses doll

pours from a pitcher without spilling

 

49-60 months

strings and laces shoelace

cuts following line

strings ten beads

copies figure X

opens and places clothespins (one handed)

builds a five-block bridge

pours from various containers

prints first name

 

61-72 months

folds paper into halves or quarters

traces around hand

draws rectangle, circle, square, and triangle

cuts interior piece from paper

uses crayons appropriately

makes clay objects with two small parts

reproduces letters

copies two short words

Source: Santrock, J. W. (1998). Child development (Eight Edition). Boston: McGraw Hill.



Changes in Fine Motor Skills During Early Childhood

 
Age Dressing Feeding Other
2-3 years Puts on and removes simple items of clothing;

Zips and unzips large zippers

Uses spoon effectively Opens door by turning knob;

string large beads

3-4 years Fastens and unfastens large buttons; Serves self food without assistance Uses scissors to cut paper;

copies vertical line and circle

4-5 years Dresses and undresses without assistance Uses fork effectively Cuts with scissors, following line;

copies triangles, cross, and some letters

5-6 years   Uses knife to cut soft food Ties single overhand knot; around age 6 ties shoes;

Draws person with six parts;

Copies some numerals and simple words.

Source: Berk, L. (1999). Infants, children, and adolescents (3rd ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

 

 

Stages in the Use of writing instruments

By 2-3 years: Most children grasp writing implement with whole hand or fist; jab at paper; make scribbles with movement of the whole arm; copy vertical and horizontal lines.

By 3-4 years: Most children try a three-point grasp but position on instrument is inconsistent; copy a cross and a circle; scribble with spots of intense color; use horizontal and vertical lines, crosses, and circles in pictures.

By 4-5 years: Most children use correct hand grasp but position on instrument still inconsistent; copy a square and some letters (from first and last name); draw suns; draw human figures, a head with facial features (placement of eye, nose, mouth may not be correct); draw human figures with stick arms and legs and facial parts in correct place; scribble with repeated features and on a horizontal line (looks like writing); scribble leaving space between "words."

By 5-6 years: Most children can form written letters (many inverted or mirror images); color between lines; draw buildings, cars, and boats (proportions incorrect -- people are larger than buildings); trees and flowers; draw with correct proportions; incorporate letters into scribbling; write letters of first name (may not write letters in a line); write letters of last name (may not write letters in a line); draw rectangle, circle, and square.

Source: Mcafee, O. & Leong, D (1994). Assessing and guiding young children's development and learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.


Scissors, Paste, and Glue

By 2-3 years: Most children snip paper easily (cuts at edge of paper); scissors and paper held incorrectly; use large globs of paste or glue with little control.

By 3-4 years: Most children make one full cut with scissors (cuts one length of scissors); hand position may be incorrect; makes two full cuts (two lengths of scissors) have trouble cutting on straight line; use globs of paste or glue but have more control; use index finger to apply paste.


By 4-5 years: Most children cut on a straight line and a corner (90-degree angle) moving paper hand forward; use correct hand position; keep paste and glue in right spot and use reasonable amount.

By 5-6 years: Most children can cut on a curve; cut out geometric figure; cut interior angle (inside angle less than 90 degrees); cut out obtuse and acute angles; cut out a complex figure from a magazine; use scissors and paste/glue to make designs.

Source: Mcafee, O. & Leong, D (1994). Assessing and guiding young children's development and learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

 

Self-help Skills


By 2-3 years: Most children can eat with spoon; hold cup in one hand; put on a coat (unassisted); unbutton clothes.

By 4-5 years: Most children can eat correctly with fork; button and unbutton clothes; zip zippers haltingly; put coat on hanger.

By 5-6 years: Most children can button/unbutton clothes; zip zippers; eat with knife and fork; dress/undress; comb and brush hair; tie shoelaces.

Source: Mcafee, O. & Leong, D (1994). Assessing and guiding young children's development and learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.



Manipulation/Manipulatives


By 2-3 years: Most children place simple geometric shapes in puzzle; string large beads; turn pages of book; work four-piece puzzle; use pegboard with large pegs; stack small wooden blocks; do a fingerplay (fingers not independent); roll, squeeze and pound play dough.

By 4-5 years: Most children can string small wooden beads; work a five-piece puzzle; use pegboard with small pegs; use fingers more independently; make balls and use tools with play dough (use cookie cutter).

By 5-6 years: Most children can work a twelve-piece puzzle; build complex structures with small blocks; braid; use fingers independently in fingerplays; attempt a pinch pot, coil pot, or "sculpture."

By 6-7 years: Most children can build complex structures with small interlocking blocks; make a pinch, coil port, or sculpture of clay or play dough.

By 7-8 years: Most children can swing a hammer accurately; sew and knit.

Source: Mcafee, O. & Leong, D (1994). Assessing and guiding young children's development and learning. Boston: Allyn and Bacon.



3 Stages in Writing


Stage 1

Toddlers, in stage 1, use whole arm movements. Usually only the pencil or marker is touching the paper. We even see this sometimes in 3-year-old children.

Stage 2

In stage 2, the hand and little finger rest on the desk or paper but not the forearm and wrist. The hand tends to move as one unit, rather than the fingers controlling the writing instrument.

Stage 3

In stage 3, the forearm is on the paper or desk, there is more wrist rotation. The hand is anchor and the writing movement is done with the fingers. There is less of a whole arm movement.