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Categories of Fine Motor Skills

by Scott Thompson

Kids naturally develop at different rates, but delays in developing fine motor skills can indicate an underlying problem and should be checked out by a professional. You can use developmental milestones to gauge how your child's fine motor skills are developing.

Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills utilize the smaller muscles such as those in the fingers and hand. They are distinguished from gross motor skills, which employ larger muscles in the legs and core. Kids use gross motor skills to run or hop and fine motor skills to manipulate tools with their fingers. For instance, the ability to climb up a play-set depends on gross motor skills, but the ability to zip up a zipper or draw a picture depends on fine motor skills.

Gripping Objects

Your baby spends a lot of time learning how to grip objects, beginning with the ability to hold on to an object placed in her hand. As she develops, she should gain an increasing ability to use her fingers to grip small objects. At first, she will only be able to hold on to an object but will not have enough fine motor control to do what she wants to do with it. Over time, she will gain increasing control until she becomes capable of gripping a tiny object such as a zipper or a crayon. According to the motor development curriculum of the Technical Assistance and Training System for teachers of young children, a child should usually be able to grip a pen in the grip used for writing or drawing between the ages of 24 and 36 months.

Manipulating Objects

Once your child has developed the ability to grip small objects he can start to learn how to control them. Between the ages of 24-36 months, your child should be able to put large beads together along a string and should be able to use a pair of scissors to cut a piece of paper according to the Technical Assistance and Training System. By the age of 36-48 months, a child should be able to stack blocks up to make a tower, roll play-dough flat with a roller or shape clay into a ball. By the age of 48-60 months, he should be able to cut a straight line with a pair of scissors.

Drawing Skills

Drawing and writing skills combine the ability to grip an object and the ability to control it. Once your child is capable of both gripping objects and manipulating them, she should be able to start to learn to draw and write. The Technical Assistance and Training System curriculum teaches that most children can draw lines, circles and dots on their own between the ages of 24 and 36 months. Between the ages of 36 and 48 months, most kids can copy shapes they see in a book such as circles and X shapes. Between the ages of 48 and 60 months most kids can copy squares and write some block letters.

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