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What are fine motor skills?

By Gail Belsky

At a Glance

  • Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists.

  • People use fine motor skills to do many school- and work-related tasks.

  • There are things you can do at home to help improve fine motor skills.

Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. We rely on these skills to do key tasks in school, at work, and in everyday life.

These small movements come so naturally to most people that we usually don’t think about them. But fine motor skills are complex. They involve a coordinated effort between the brain and muscles. They’re built on the gross motor skills that let us make bigger movements, like running or jumping.

Here are some examples of when we use fine motor skills:

  • Holding a pen or pencil

  • Drawing pictures and writing neatly

  • Using a keyboard

  • Using scissors, rulers, and other tools

People also need fine motor skills to do daily tasks like getting dressed and brushing their teeth.

Dive deeper

How fine motor skills develop

Fine motor skills start developing in infancy, and keep improving as kids get older. Kids don’t all develop at the same pace. But there are milestones they usually reach at different ages.

For instance, at age 5 or 6, kids can typically copy shapes and letters, and use a spoon or fork with ease. By 7 or 8, they can usually tie shoes and button and zip on their own.

Learn more about fine motor skill milestones for different ages.

Trouble with fine motor skills

People can have problems with fine motor skills at any age and for different reasons. When young kids struggle, a common cause is developmental coordination disorder (DCD). It’s sometimes referred to as dyspraxia.

DCD affects fine motor skills, gross motor skills, and motor planning. It’s lifelong, but motor skills can improve. Occupational therapy (OT) can be helpful. Kids may be able to get it for free in school. Adults can work with their doctor to find a therapist who works privately.

Learn more about  how DCD affects fine motor skills .

Next steps for parents and caregivers

If you’re worried about your child’s fine motor skills, talk with your health care provider. You can also reach out to the school to request a free evaluation . Eligible kids can get free occupational therapy through the school. An evaluation can also help you understand your child’s strengths.

There are ways to help your child build motor skills at home, too. Explore:

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  • Coming soonGoogle Classroom