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Fine Motor: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to help children begin to develop fine motor skills is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that help infants and toddlers begin to develop fine motor skills.1
    • Describe how children use their fingers, hands, and wrists when manipulating toys and materials, doing hand movements during songs and finger plays, and during routine care experiences.
    • Provide opportunities for nonmobile infants to reach for, grasp, and hold objects.
    • Provide cause-and-effect toys as children progress from hand actions that are reflexes to actions that are more intentional (e.g., grabbing and grasping objects).
    • Play hand and fingerplay games with children.
    • Provide access and chances to explore a variety of toys and materials that come apart and fit together, such as pop beads, large interlocking blocks, boxes and containers with lids, and simple puzzles.
    • Play games that require hand-eye coordination (e.g., rolling and throwing balls).
    • Provide access to and opportunities to use varied art materials, such as large crayons, markers, and paint brushes.
    • Provide age-appropriate sensory experiences using water, sand, playdough, and clay.
    • Provide different types of blocks and many chances for toddlers to play with them.
    • Provide toddlers with opportunities for practicing zipping and buttoning.
    • Adapt fine motor materials and experiences to enable children with suspected delays, identified disabilities, or other special needs to participate. Talk with children's parents and specialists working with the child to get specific suggestions to meet each child's unique needs.
  • In home-based programs, effective practices may also include broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where she can focus on how you implement the practices you've identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Provide opportunities for nonmobile infants to reach for, grasp, and hold objects, you might ask you’re her to observe tummy time. Ask her to watch how effectively you encourage infants to reach for, grasp, and hold various objects. She can also watch for infants' responses to your efforts and share her observations with you.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child's developing fine motor skills?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation. 
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation. 
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

Preschoolers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to help children practice and refine fine motor skills is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that help preschoolers practice and refine their fine motor skills.2
    • Provide easy access to a variety of toys, materials, and tools children can manipulate with their fingers and hands; include items from children's ethnic or cultural backgrounds.
    • Allow the child to choose which hand to use for any given activity; allow the child to choose different hands for different activities or change to the other hand during a given activity.
    • Be aware of a tendency to assume a child's hand preference; identify toys that are designed for a specific hand (usually right hand) to manipulate and take that information into consideration when offering toys.
    • Provide chances for children to engage in meaningful fine motor activities in a variety of positions, including standing, lying on their stomachs, and seated on the floor or in chairs.
    • Encourage children's efforts in completing fine motor tasks and provide prompts (e.g., verbal, physical) and feedback to help children solve fine motor challenges; for example:
      • “You're working hard to make your necklace. The beads are smaller than what you used before. The bead slips out of your fingers when you try to push the lace through. I wonder how you can get the bead to stay in your fingers. You held onto the bead this time. What did you differently? The bead stayed in your fingers when you held onto the middle of the bead. Does it feel different when you hold it like that?” 
    • Adapt fine motor materials and experiences to enable children with suspected delays, diagnosed disabilities, or other special needs to participate. Talk with children's parents and specialists working with the child to get specific suggestions to meet each child's unique needs.
  • In home-based programs, effective practices may also include broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where she can focus on how you implement the practices you've identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Provide opportunities for children to engage in meaningful fine motor activities in a variety of positions, including standing, lying on their stomachs, and seated on the floor or in chairs, invite your coach/supervisor to observe during free choice times when children are using manipulatives, painting or drawing, or doing other fine motor activities. Ask her to observe which strategies you use to engage children in these activities in ways that meet their need to be standing, lying down, etc. Your coach/supervisor can watch the children to see how your strategies support their ongoing engagement in the activity and share these observations with you. 
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child's fine motor skill development?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation. 
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

1Massachusetts Association for the Education of Young Children, Massachusetts Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers (Boston, MA: Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, 2010), 68, 147–148, Physical Health and Wellbeing, http://www.eec.state.ma.us/docs1/Workforce_Dev/Layout.pdf.

2California Department of Education, California Preschool Curriculum Framework Volume 2 (Sacramento, CA: author, 2011), 164–170, Physical Development, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2.pdf.

Last Updated: July 30, 2018