Fine motor skills through play Fine motor skills through play

Fine motor skills through play

Small giants 4 October, 2018 Maria Clara Restrepo E.


In children, this ability is a sign that the nervous system is developing properly. Developing this skill in children is the role of parents.

Medical Advisor Iván Alejandro Díaz Rengifo – General Physician

Fine motor skills consist of making refined, precise and delicate movements. They include doing activities that require hand-eye coordination and stimulating short muscles to cut, string, write or perform other functions that require small movements

According to general physician Iván Alejandro Díaz Rengifo, “Fine motor skills are one of the forms of expression that differentiate humans from other species and allow them to use tools not only to survive, but to express feelings and sensations through art and writing, for example.”

Reinforcing this skill in children is key because it is part of their neurodevelopment and allows them, in their first stages of life, to understand the world, interact with it and develop abilities for when they are adults. While developing fine motor skills could be said to begin at birth, it becomes much more important around age two, as it becomes more evident in their development. This skill becomes complete by the time children are about five or six years old, and it is perfected all throughout life.

As Díaz states, the first signs of fine motor skills are grasp reflexes, when the baby closes their hand around their parent’s finger or grabs onto certain objects. To foster this skill, Dr. Díaz recommends providing the baby with flexible objects, especially those that make sounds when you touch them.

“It is very important that they become familiar with different textures, so they understand that not everything is the same. This fosters their psychomotor development. The experiences they have through touch also contribute to the development of their personality and intelligence, as this is the way they discover the world.”

It is also important to understand that while fine motor skills manifest primarily in fine hand movements, there are also those that involve the feet, toes, tongue and lips. This is why it is common for them to bring objects to their mouths and explore them with it.

How to foster fine motor skills

Parents can attend workshops on how to develop fine motor skills. While these are beneficial and recommended, physicians recommend parents take time each day to practice them. That is why these types of activities help create bonds between parents and children, especially if this is done through play, as this is the way children interact. “When parents become involved in play they create important emotional bonds.

This is why developing fine motor skills should not be seen as a task, but something that happens naturally through play. It doesn’t have to be very complicated,” the doctor concludes.

Fostering fine motor skills at every stage 

Age one: Children can build towers with big blocks, play with toys that make sounds, turn the pages of a cardboard book, and use both hands to hold and drink from a cup.

Age two: Children can hold stress balls, open and close containers with lids that pop off, roll and push objects, undress and eat alone or with little help.

Age three: Children can plant seeds of different sizes (which helps develop their ability to pinch with their fingers), open and close containers with screw caps, and take off their shirt, pants or shoes on their own.

Age four: Children can put play-dough in specific areas, place clothing pins around a piece of cardboard, and button and unbutton.

Age five: Children can use pencils and watercolors, use droppers, tie knots, and undress and get dressed all on their own.

Warning signs to look out for

  • While these exercises are a good reference point to stimulate the development of fine motor skills, it is important to keep in mind that they are not a general expectation for all. Every child develops at their own pace.

  • According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, problems with the brain, spinal cord and nerves can have a negative impact on controlling fine motor skills. So if parents notice a delay in their child’s development, it is important to see a physician.

  • Do not restrict the child in their development process unless they are doing something harmful. As they develop their skills, it is also important to give them praise, so they know that what they are doing is correct.

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