As a child develops their fine motor ability, they can hold and manipulate tools (eg. spoons, pencils or scissors) in a controlled manner. For precise control, this requires the use of the thumb, index and third fingers to hold the tool and some stability of the fourth and fifth fingers. Dynamic finger movements are achieved when stability of the shoulder, elbow and wrist are developed (proximal to distal stability).
The main fine motor areas that an occupational therapist may address include:
- Pincer grasp - This is the neat "pinch" achieved between the thumb and index finger. Read more about this HERE.
- Thumb opposition - This refers to the ability of the thumb to rotate and reach to touch all other fingertips of the same hand. Read more about this from The Inspired Treehouse HERE.
- Palmar arches - This refers to the arch formed when we "cup" our hands and is related to the loops of blood vessels which are found in our hands. Read more about this from Irvine USD Special Education Preschool HERE.
- Separation of the two sides of the hand - This the use of the thumb, index and third fingers of the hand whilst maintaining stability in the fourth and fifth fingers of the hand. Read more about this HERE.
- Wrist stability and extension - This is the position of the wrist so that it is resting on the table and slightly extended so that the fingers can be used to control the pencil. This is one of the reasons as occupational therapists, we love to encourage working on a vertical surface or use of a slope board if necessary.
- Hand strength - This refers to the contraction of the hand muscles to grasp a pencil to control it without fatigue or pain. Read more about hand strength HERE.
- In-hand manipulation - This refers to the ability to move items around in the hand using precise finger movements and includes translation, rotation and shift. Read more about this in THE HANDWRITING BOOK.
You will find further explanations and lots of activity suggestions for the development of fine motor skills below.