Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Category — 1.7 Motor Development: Fine Motor Skills

Fine Motor Skills

In the Typical Motor Development section of this course, we discussed how fine motor skills1 are necessary for a child’s ability to perform many skills, both in and outside of school. At school, a child’s ability to hold a pencil, crayon, paint brush, spoon and/or chopsticks properly relies heavily on his/her fine motor skills. The same holds true for outside school activities. Fine motor skills are needed to play with toys, eat at the dinner table and turn a light off. It is therefore very important to monitor the development of a child’s fine motor skills, and to seek the help of a professional (usually an occupational therapist), at the earliest signs of delay.

Standardized tests (see full Glossary) evaluating a child’s developmental skills rely on the child’s abilities to complete certain tasks, for example, doing puzzles. Many children may perform poorly on some tasks, because of fine motor—not cognitive—delays (Fig. 1).

fine motor delays

Fig. 1. This picture shows a kit with materials for a standardized test for young children (the Stanford-Binet).

The way a child controls the movements of his/her lips and tongue, or his/her oral/motor skills, is also a part of motor difficulties. Any difficulties in this area should also be addressed as soon as possible so the child will  be able to eat and speak correctly. Specialists who usually address oral/motor difficulties include speech and language pathologists and occupational therapists.

Early signs of delay in the development of fine motor skills include the following:

  • Baby has difficulty latching on to breast or bottle, during feeding;
  • Young baby’s hands are somewhat tight-fisted, and not open most of the time;
  • Baby has difficulty taking toys to mouth, or mouthing toys;
  • Toddler has difficulty using thumb and index finger, or using a pincer grasp.

holding a crayon

Fig. 2 The picture shows a child learning to use her thumb and index finger when in holding a crayon with a grip support device


1. see References

February 20, 2011   3 Comments