The Development of Fine-Motor Skills in Young Children

What are motor skills?

The development of strong fine motor skills is essential for young children. Motor skills are a term given to the movements of the body. They fall into two main categories: gross motor skills and fine motor skills. Gross motor skills encompass the development of larger muscle movements, such as the swinging of legs and arms, walking or crawling. Fine motor skills are the small muscle movements requiring the use of fingers and hands  (Amundson & Weil, 2001; Case-Smith & Shortridge, 1996). The brains of newborn babies are not yet mature enough to make skilled movements and it is generally the more difficult of the skills to develop due to the specific detail in the movements themselves. Using fine motor skills is impossible without gross motor skills and children need to practice and strengthen them together. The importance of the development of motor skills is not just in the movement of the body either, but as Gallahue (1993) says:

“Movement is at the very center of young children’s lives. It is an important facet of all aspects of their development, whether in the motor, cognitive, or affective domains of human behavior. To deny children the opportunity to reap the many benefits of regular, vigorous physical activity is to deny them the opportunity to experience the joy of efficient movement, the health effects of movement, and a lifetime as confident, competent movers”. (p. 24)

What if my child has weak fine motor skills?

Development of fine motor skills early gives children a good footing in which to build. According to Gesell and Amatruda (1947) development proceeds in a cephalo–caudal (head to toe) and proximal–distal (moving from the body parts closest to the trunk to those furthest away) pattern. Early development of the shoulders and upper arms allows the children to begin to feed themselves early and helps them to develop pre-writing skills. The development of a strong trunk will also help children to sit properly and maintain good posture (

Children with weaker fine motor skills are not just affected by weak movements, but it reciprocates into other aspects of their lives. Children will often become frustrated when they can’t perform simple skills, leading to a refusal to join in with activities.They might get angry or in some cases they make excuses to avoid the task, “I need to go to the toilet”. It can be very sad for young children who may begin to feel separated from their friends.

How can I help strengthen my child’s fine motor skills?

There are many different games you can play and tasks that you can set for your child in order to strengthen their fine motor skills. Starting early is the key to consistent, strong growth and a lot of the activities are good fun too. Imagination Tree offer great ideas. Click here to see their fantastic blog. For younger children and to get a really early start take a look at

 British Early Years Centre is an International Kindergarten School in Bangkok. For more information please take a look at our website here…