Updated: Jan 4, 2021
WRITTEN BY SALLY HILLS-DAVIS, OCCUPATIONAL THERAPIST AND KIRSTY BROCKLEHURST, PYSIOTHERAPIST. FOUNDERS OF THE PRACTICAL CHILD
Fine motor skills refer to the ability to move your hands and fingers in a co-ordinated way whilst carrying out complex tasks. This could be from pointing to someone, using cutlery or doing up a shoelace. Even in the womb the unborn child will be seen to be exploring with their hands and have been seen to suck their thumb. Once the baby enters the world you will notice that the hands very slowly open out often moving from fisted to open and back, waking up those muscles which then slowly strengthen. Their hands slowly help them to know where they are in space (body awareness and proprioception). Babies then learn to reach out and touch, bring their hands to the face, into their midline and then slowly down to the floor as they develop. As they start touching more, their tactile awareness (sense of touch) allows them to learn to discriminate between different textures and also recognise hot and cold.
Babies develop further and begin to play with toys and objects whilst moving in and out of different positions such as lying on their back, their side, or on their front. Eventually, whilst laying on their tummy they will gain enough strength to push up through their hands with arms extended in preparation for crawling. Once crawling takes place, further development and strengthening happens in the child’s shoulders, stomach muscles and arm/ hand muscles. In addition to this their visual skills develop allowing them to be able to use their hand eye co-ordination together, to enhance their ability to use their hands and fingers more effectively. Furthermore, they develop the ability to use two hands together. This makes tasks such as unscrewing a toy, holding a toy whilst posting or holding a bottle or cup much more effective.
Another thing to notice, as your children develops, is that they will move from a whole hand grasp to a raking grasp to finally a pincer grasp. We love watching this slow transition as children develop and new skills such as passing from hand to hand, grasping finger food and then moving forward to being able to pick up smaller items such as raisins and peas.
The hands are amazing tools that are often taken for granted. The muscles in the hands are tiny intricate pathways that push and pull the muscles like a well-oiled machine. Something to be very thankful for.