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How to Test Fine Motor Skills

by Eliza Martinez, studioD

Fine motor skills are those that require your child to use his fingers — cutting with scissors, picking up small objects, drawing. As a mom, you may worry that your toddler or preschooler might not be reaching certain developmental milestones on time. But, there's no need to panic. While fine motor skills do play a role in school success, there are many ways you can test your child's fine motor skills and help him improve as needed. If you are still worried after you test your child's fine motor skill abilities, talk to his daycare provider or preschool teacher to gain their observations and then speak to your pediatrician.

Have your child cut basic shapes. Draw a square, circle and triangle on a piece of paper with a thick black marker. Watch how your child maneuvers a pair of safety scissors by following the line. Don't worry if it's not perfect; the point is to see whether he can make his hands follow the basic outline, even if he cuts off the corners of the square.

Provide your child with dot-to-dot worksheets; many are available online. Watch how your child connects the dots. He should be able to connect the dots in a basic way — drawing a semi-straight line between two dots.

Give your child a collection of several small items and have him transfer them to separate containers. Your child's fine motor skills are probably on track if he is able to use his fingers to grab small objects, such as pennies or beads and move them into a small cup. Use caution with small children, because these items pose a choking hazard.

Offer tracing activities for your child. Draw simple pictures on a piece of paper with a black marker. Lay a piece of tracing paper over your drawing and tape it in place. Let your child trace the lines with a crayon or pencil. Don't worry about the lines being shaky or wavy. If he can grasp the basic concept, he is likely on track.

Play with pom poms and tweezers. These are fun items for toddlers and preschoolers, and at the same time, they can be used to help build fine motor dexterity. Fill a large container with craft pom poms of different sizes. Give your child a pair of tweezers and challenge him to transfer the pom poms to an ice-cube tray or large plate.

Make craft jewelry. Stringing large tube-shaped pasta, beads or pieces of a straw onto yarn is a great way to encourage fine motor skills. Unthread the items to use on another occasion or tie them off so your child can wear the creation.

Items you will need
  •  Paper
  •  Safety scissors
  •  Tracing paper
  •  Black marker
  •  Pencil
  •  Crayons
  •  Yarn
  •  Tube pasta, large beads or straws cut into pieces
  •  Tweezers
  •  Plastic containers
  •  Pom poms
  •  Pennies, beads, shells or other small objects


  • Children develop at different rates, so don't be alarmed if your child's best friend at preschool is mastering fine motor skills as your child struggles. Most of the time, children reach their milestones on time. If you are ever worried, speak with his teacher for additional ideas to try at home.

About the Author

Eliza Martinez has written for print and online publications. She covers a variety of topics, including parenting, nutrition, mental health, gardening, food and crafts. Martinez holds a master's degree in psychology.

Photo Credits

  • James Woodson/Photodisc/Getty Images