What are fine motor skills?

By Gail Belsky

Expert reviewed by Keri Wilmot

One child uses both hands to mold play-dough. The other is trying the hand position, watching, their play-dough on the table.

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.

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