Fingers and Thumbs - supporting fine motor development

Fingers and Thumbs – supporting fine motor development

One of the main areas of physical development for nursery-aged children is the development of strong arm, hand and finger muscles, otherwise known as fine motor development. Just as gross motor skills enable your child to perform important everyday tasks, such as getting out of bed and going downstairs for breakfast, fine motor skills allow for increasing independence in smaller but equally significant matters: opening doors, doing up zips, brushing teeth, washing hands, and so on.

When combined with increasing hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills also open new doors to exploration, learning, and creative expression. In fact, research shows that emphasis on purely intellectual activities - memorising letters and numbers, for instance - is far less useful at this stage than activities that encourage fine motor development and hand-eye coordination. These skills lay the foundation for academic learning in later years. In order to learn to write or draw, for example, a child's hand must be strong and coordinated enough to hold a pencil steady for a long period of time; in order to participate in school sports, games, and other activities, dexterity and coordination are key.

In nursery a significant proportion of the activities we make available for your child are designed to support strengthening arm, hand and finger muscles.

For you to continue this development at home, the best way is to provide your child with a wide range of materials to manipulate. Good choices include blocks (especially the interlocking types like magnetic blocks, Lego or stickle bricks); crayons, felt tips, paints and glue; modelling clay or playdough; paper, card and scissors; threading beads and simple sewing cards; popping bubble wrap; pouring things using jugs, bottles and funnels; tweezers or tongs to transfer small items; opening packets and wrappers; picking up rice and beans; and using pegs. Remember that if your child is struggling encourage them to ‘have a go’ before you do it for them!

Please note that there is mounting evidence that suggests that using touch screen phones or tablets may be resulting in children’s fine motor skills not developing as quickly as in the past, as they may be spending less time playing with resources that make them use the full range of arm, hand and finger muscles.