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From Playdough to Pencil Grasp: Developing Fine Motor Skills in Kids


Every body movement requires the action of muscles. Motor skills refer to the ability to control and coordinate these movements of the body. They are essential for daily activities, from basic tasks like walking and reaching for objects to more complex actions like playing a musical instrument or typing on a keyboard.

What are the two types of Motor Skills?

👉Motor skills can be broadly categorized into two main types: Gross Motor Skills and Fine Motor Skills.

Gross Motor Skills involve the use of larger muscle groups and are responsible for activities that require strength and coordination of the arms, legs, and core. Examples include running, jumping, throwing, and riding a bicycle. These skills are fundamental for activities that involve whole-body movements and are crucial for physical fitness and overall mobility.

Fine Motor Skills, on the other hand, pertain to the coordination and control of smaller muscle groups, particularly in the hands and fingers. They are essential for activities that demand precision and dexterity, such as writing, drawing, buttoning clothes, using utensils, and manipulating small objects. Fine motor skills are crucial for tasks that require hand-eye coordination and manipulation of objects with precision.

The key difference between gross motor and fine motor skills lies in the size and control of the muscle groups involved. Gross motor skills involve larger movements of the body, while fine motor skills are about finer, more intricate movements. Both types of motor skills are vital for overall development and are honed through a combination of play, practice, and specific activities tailored to a child's age and stage of development.

Is the development of motor skills in a child automatic?

Fine motor skills are important for young children's development, and understanding their importance is vital for early childhood educators and parents. Every child has their own pace of development, and slowly, a child is able to develop the muscle power, coordination and control needed for gross and fine motor skills.

The pace at which a child develops the universal motor skills (like crawling, walking, pincer grasp) can vary from child to child. Here is a guideline for parents by the Indian Academy of Pediatrics (IAP) on the normal development of a child.

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A growing infant will progressively get better at picking up small objects, stacking toys, holding a pencil, using scissors, and so on. However, just like a child will learn walking but needs to learn to ride a bicycle, in the same way, certain fine motor skills can also be strengthened by specific activities. For example, buttoning clothes is easier to learn than cursive writing. The ultimate level of skills a child can develop depends on age, genetic factors, and practice.

Why are Fine Motor Skills Important in Small Kids?

Fine motor skills are fundamental for a child's overall development. Specifically, fine motor skills contribute to these areas in a child:

Academic Success:

Fine motor skills are directly related to academic success. They are essential for activities such as writing, drawing, and using tools like scissors and rulers. Proficiency in these skills is critical for a child's ability to participate in classroom activities.


Developing fine motor skills empowers children to perform daily tasks independently. For example, being able to button their own shirts or tie shoelaces boosts their self-confidence and self-sufficiency.

Hand-Eye Coordination:

Fine motor skills enhance hand-eye coordination, which is important for activities like catching a ball, playing musical instruments, and even using technology. It lays the foundation for a wide range of skills and hobbies.


Fine motor skills also play a role in communication development. The ability to use writing tools effectively is crucial for early writing and drawing, which are essential forms of self-expression for young children.

Social Skills:

Many social activities for children involve fine motor skills, such as crafting or playing board games. These activities encourage cooperation and interaction with peers.

Cognitive Development:

Developing fine motor skills involves problem-solving and critical thinking. Children learn to plan and execute tasks, which stimulates cognitive growth.

Future Life Skills:

Fine motor skills developed in childhood pave the way for complex life skills, such as cooking, sewing, and various manual professions.

Fine motor skills are critical in some careers. While aptitude definitely plays a significant role, training and practice is even more important in the eventual success at these skills.

a surgeon, a chef, a jeweler, a dentist, an embroiderer, an artist
Some occupations that require fine motor skills

Some Fun Activities to Boost Fine Motor Skills in Kids

For 1-3 Year Olds:

Sensory Bins:

Create bins filled with items like rice, beans, or water for your child to explore. Encourage them to scoop, pour, and manipulate these materials with their hands. Check out our post on sensory water beads here.

Playdough Creations:

Provide soft playdough and child-safe tools. Let your child mold and shape the playdough to develop hand strength and dexterity.

Stacking / Nesting Toys:

Building with soft stacking blocks or cups helps improve hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills.

Finger Painting:

Let your child finger paint using non-toxic, washable paints. This allows them to explore different textures and improve hand control.

Peel and Stick Stickers:

Offer stickers for your child to peel and place on paper. This activity enhances pincer grasp and finger strength.

For 4-5 Year Olds:

Cutting with Safety Scissors:

Provide safety scissors and paper for your child to practice cutting along lines or shapes. Supervise closely.

Lacing and Beading:

Introduce lacing cards or beads for threading. This promotes hand-eye coordination and precision.

Tweezers and Tongs:

Offer child-safe tweezers or tongs for picking up small objects like pom-poms or beads. This activity refines fine motor control.

Jigsaw Puzzles:

Age-appropriate puzzles with smaller pieces help develop hand strength and problem-solving skills.

Drawing and Coloring:

Encourage drawing with colored pencils or crayons. It prepares them for pencil holding and writing.

For 6-7 Year Olds:


Introduce simple origami projects to enhance fine motor skills, precision, and patience.

Beaded Jewelry:

Crafting necklaces or bracelets with beads refines hand-eye coordination and fine motor control.

Crossword Puzzles and Mazes:

Solving puzzles with a pencil improves pencil grip and control while enhancing cognitive skills.

Legos and Building Sets:

Constructing intricate structures with small parts sharpens fine motor skills and creativity.

Cursive Writing Practice:

As children approach 6-7, they may start learning cursive writing. Practice sheets help develop fine motor skills necessary for fluid writing. In some schools in India, cursive writing is promoted from an earlier age, which may not be suitable for all children.

How are Fine Motor Skills Important for Writing Skills?

Fine motor skill activities play a critical role in preparing a child for pencil holding and proper writing skills. These activities help children develop the necessary hand strength, hand-eye coordination, and fine motor control, which are essential for writing. Here's how these activities contribute to this preparation:

Hand Strength: Fine motor activities, such as cutting with scissors, playing with playdough, and squeezing tweezers, help strengthen the muscles in a child's fingers, hand, and wrist. This enhanced hand strength is crucial for maintaining a stable and controlled grip on a pencil.

Finger Control: Activities like lacing beads, picking up small objects, or threading through lacing cards require precise finger movements. These movements are similar to the ones needed for holding and maneuvering a pencil. They help children develop dexterity and control over their fingers.

Hand-Eye Coordination: Many fine motor activities involve aligning the hand's movements with visual cues, such as threading a string through a bead or tracing along a line. This enhances hand-eye coordination, which is essential for proper handwriting.

Pincer Grasp: Fine motor activities encourage children to use the pincer grasp, which involves the thumb and index finger working together. This is the grip needed for holding a pencil correctly. Activities like picking up small stickers or beads help strengthen the pincer grasp.

Wrist Control: Activities that require twisting, turning, or precise hand movements, such as using scissors or molding playdough, help children develop control over their wrist movements. This control is crucial for fluid writing.

Attention to Detail: Fine motor activities often involve attention to detail, which is a vital skill for handwriting. Children learn to focus on small objects, lines, or shapes, which translates into careful and accurate writing.

Are Pre-Writing Worksheets Useful?

As for pre-writing worksheets, they can be useful in moderation. These worksheets often include activities like tracing lines, shapes, or letters. They help children practice the hand movements and coordination necessary for writing. However, it's essential to balance pre-writing worksheets with more hands-on, interactive, and creative fine motor activities, as worksheets alone may not provide the sensory experiences and fun that children need to stay engaged.

Fun Games for Boosting Fine Motor Skills in Kids

Here are some fun games that you can play with your child at home to boost their fine motor skills. These play activities not only help to strengthen your child's fine motor skills, but also improves other skills such as spatial skills, visual skills, cognitive skills, creativity, colour and design sense, etc.

Pom-Pom Pick-Up:

Materials: Small pom-poms, child-friendly tweezers or tongs.

How to Play: Scatter pom-poms on a table or flat surface. Encourage your child to pick up the pom-poms one by one using the tweezers and place them in a container.

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

Button Sorting:

Materials: A collection of buttons with different sizes, colors, and shapes, and small containers.

How to Play: Sort the buttons based on specific attributes like color, size, or shape. Your child can use fine motor skills to pick up and sort the buttons.

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

Stringing Beads:

Materials: Large, colorful beads and a shoelace or a string.

How to Play: Let your child string the beads onto the lace. This activity enhances hand-eye coordination and fine motor skills while creating wearable art.

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

Playdough Creations:

Materials: Playdough in various colors and child-safe tools like rolling pins, cutters, and molds.

How to Play: Allow your child to create their own playdough masterpieces, using the tools and their hands. They can craft shapes, animals, birds, people, or anything they like. This is an all-time favourite of kids, and allows many kinds of combinations - with numbers, letters, vocabulary, general awareness, etc.

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

Paper Collage:

Materials: Magazines, newspapers, or colored paper, child-safe scissors, and glue.

How to Play: Provide a selection of paper and ask your child to cut out shapes or pictures and then glue them onto a blank sheet to create a collage. You can choose a specific theme to create a collage, like an ongoing international sports event, a cartoon character, vegetables, animals, etc. Paper collages can be very simple to more elaborate ones, depending on the age.

Threading Cards:

Materials: Thick cardboard or foam shapes with holes, and shoelaces or yarn.

How to Play: Thread the shoelace or yarn through the holes in the shapes, creating a fun and colorful necklace or bracelet.

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

Finger Painting:

Materials: Child-safe finger paints, large sheets of paper.

How to Play: Allow your child to dip their fingers into various colors of paint and create artwork by using their fingers to make patterns, shapes, and images. A fantastic way to teach colours and shapes!

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

Jigsaw Puzzles:

Materials: Jigsaw puzzle (age appropriate)

How to Play: Jigsaw puzzles are amazing, inexpensive toys to pass time and enhance skills and cognition in a child. Start with easy 4-piece ones, building up to more complex puzzles. These can be used for story-telling and rhymes as well, combining language activities.

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

Build with Play Bricks/Blocks:

Materials: Large building bricks or interlocking blocks.

How to Play: Encourage your child to build structures using the blocks. This promotes hand-eye coordination and fine motor control. You will also get to cherish the untamed creativity and imagination of small children when you see them build things with these blocks in inventive ways, without the constraints of the grown-up world.

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

Sticker Art:

Materials: Sheets of stickers and a blank paper canvas.

How to Play: Let your child create artwork by peeling stickers and placing them on the paper to make pictures and patterns. Many kinds of art (shapes, patterns, etc.) and learning (e.g., bird themes) can be incorporated into this play.

Here are some products you may like for this activity.

I hope that these ideas will help you to use play as a mean to boost your child's fine motor skills. Remember, the aim of activities for fine motor skills is not just to prepare children for various life skills, academic activities like pencil holding and writing, but also to promotes a positive attitude toward learning and self-expression. The key to promote fine motor skills in your child is to offer a variety of activities that engage different fine motor skills while making the learning process enjoyable.


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