Effective Practice Guides

Fine Motor: Know

Goals for Infants and Toddlers

  • IT-PMP 6. Child coordinates hand and eye movements to perform actions.
  • IT-PMP 7. Child uses hands for exploration, play, and daily routines.
  • IT-PMP 8. Child adjusts reach and grasp to use tools.

Teaching Practices


Engage children in activities, routines, and experiences that support fine motor skills.
At the group socialization session, Nia, 9 months, plays with the treasure basket made by her mother, Ms. Alba. The basket includes a variety of small, safe objects with different textures, sounds, shapes, and colors. Nia reaches inside and pulls out a plastic maraca. She grasps the handle and shakes it before handing it to her mother. Next, she finds some small hair curlers and puts them on her fingers. Ms. Jameson, their home visitor, says to Ms. Alba, "Those blue curlers are a great idea for Nia. They are just the right size for picking up and putting them on her fingers." Ms. Alba smiles and says to Nia, "Tienes dedos azules [You have blue fingers]."

Demonstrate successful strategies for gaining certain fine motor skills.
It's lunchtime in Ms. Early's family child care home. Jackson, 30 months, and Denise, 32 months, are helping to make scrambled eggs. Ms. Early offers to show them both how to use the egg beater. Ms. Early says, "First, I hold the egg beater with one hand and put it in the bowl with the eggs. Then, I turn the handle." She continues with her modeling and then gives each child a turn using the egg beater. Soon, the eggs are nice and fluffy and ready for the pan.


Offer a variety of toys and materials that require fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination.
Ms. Indigo places a recycled wipes container in front of Amanda, age 12 months, and asks, "Can you open the lid?" Amanda reaches for the container and opens the lid. She grasps the corner of a scarf sticking out of the hole under the lid. Looking surprised and a little puzzled, she turns to Ms. Indigo. Ms. Indigo says, "Pull, Amanda. Pull the scarf." Amanda pulls and out comes part of the scarf. "Keep pulling," says Ms. Indigo. When Amanda pulls out the whole scarf, Ms. Indigo puts it on top of Amanda's head and says, "Peek-a-boo!" Amanda looks in the container and sees another scarf. She pulls again.

Store clean-up and self-care materials within children's reach.
"Whoops," says Ms. Yancey when Dion, 32 months, knocks over a cup of paint. "We'll have to clean up this spill." Dion hurries to the sink and brings back some paper towels and a sponge. Ms. Yancey thanks him and together they clean up the paint. "Dion, you used both hands to wipe the paper towel over the wet floor. I think that helped you rub harder and dry the floor faster. Thank you!" says Ms. Yancey. "Clean-up is easier when we work together."


Make sure all children have access to the materials and experiences designed to promote fine motor skills.
Several toddlers are finger painting on cookie sheets using their hands and fingers. As he has in the past, LeShawn, 28 months, uses a large comb instead of his hands. LeShawn, who does not like the way the paint feels on his hands, was diagnosed as having a sensory integration disorder. He can still join in, however, using a comb and similar painting tools his teacher provides.

 Respect a child's individual pace for developing fine motor skills.
Tina, 11 months, pats the cereal on her tray but doesn't pick up individual pieces. She loves to eat but rarely reaches for the spoon. Her family child care provider, Ms. Calderon, says, "Tina, I know that one day you will want your own spoon. But until then, I am happy to feed you your yogurt." Ms. Calderon, Tina's family, and many people in their Tribe agree there's plenty of time for Tina to eat more independently. In the meantime, Tina demonstrates other age-appropriate fine motor skills, such as banging two blocks together and reaching, grasping, and putting safe objects in her mouth.

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-PMP 3. Child demonstrates increasing control, strength, and coordination of small muscles.

Teaching Practices


Engage children in activities, routines, and experiences that support fine motor skills.
Layla asks Ms. Henry, "Can we move water today?" Ms. Henry thinks, "I wonder what Layla means." She remembers an activity they did a year ago when Layla's family lived and worked in the area. She responds, "Sure. You can do it at the table." Layla takes out two bowls and fills one with water. Next, she finds a small sponge and places it in the water. She takes out the wet sponge and squeezes it over the empty bowl. She says. "Look how much water was in the sponge." Layla continues until the first tray is dry and the second one is full. Then she starts over.

Encourage the development of certain fine motor skills.
Ms. Vincent knows that several of the younger preschoolers are not yet ready to cut with scissors. She believes they need more practice with the grasping and releasing motion needed for scissor use. Outdoors, next to the building, she sets up a dish pan holding water-filled spray bottles. When the children use the spray bottles, they will practice grasping and releasing.


Offer toys and equipment that fit a range of physical abilities so all children can succeed.
Norma, 5 years old, rolls her wheelchair up to the table in the literacy center where a tablet is set up for her use. Ms. James has plugged in the external keyboard and locked the screen so the tablet will stay in the horizontal mode. Norma can get frustrated when the screen keeps going from horizontal to vertical. Norma touches a screen icon to open the number game she was playing yesterday. Ms. James asks, "All set, Norma?" "I'm ready to play," says Norma.

Offer toys and materials that allow children to master the stages of fine motor development.
As with all areas of development, the preschoolers who attend the Prairie View group socialization session are at various stages of fine motor development. Parents and home visitors planned today's activity—painting and decorating a refrigerator box—so children can choose how they want to participate. Children can paint with rollers, strengthening their whole arms. The clean-up crew will use their whole hands to wipe up spills. To practice grasping, children can tear paper to make a collage on one side of the box and glue on pompoms as decorations.


Scaffold and provide direct instruction for a child who needs such support.
Zachary, a 5-year-old who was diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum, had a hard time learning to use a pencil or crayon. As a result, he often did not write his name on the sign-in sheet and frequently asked his teacher, Mr. Harper, to sign his name on his paintings. To help him learn to write his name, Mr. Harper used a hand-over-hand approach. He placed his hand over Zachary's so they could use a crayon together. Over time, Mr. Harper lightened his touch and now Zachary writes his name on his own.

Suggest specific strategies a child can use to achieve success.
Derek, age 3, is making playdough cookies. He rolls out the dough with great vigor, then uses cookie cutters to make stars and triangles. When he picks up the cookies, they fall apart. "Oh no," he says, and smashes the dough with his fists. "Can I help?" asks Mr. Branson. "Okay," says Derek. Mr. Branson shows Derek how to roll the dough so it is thick enough for cookies. "Be gentle as you roll and then the dough will be the right thickness for cookies."

Last Updated: July 30, 2018