What are Fine Motor Developmental Delays?
Why are Fine Motor Skills Important?
Children rely on fine motor skills to complete basic tasks in school and everyday life. Without fine motor skills, children can struggle with classroom activities or morning self-care. Examples of why children how children use fine motor skills include the following:
- Holding a pencil, crayon, marker, or paintbrush
- Drawing a picture, writing neatly, filling in a bubble answer to a test question
- Holding spoons and forks to eat
- Playing with blocks or puzzles
- Using scissors and rulers
- Brushing teeth
- Sticking out tongue to taste food
- Buttoning clothes
- Opening containers with lids
What are the Fine Motor Developmental Milestones?
Fine motor developmental milestones are abilities to look for as your child reaches a certain age. Below are standard fine motor milestones and the common age for performing them:
Age Birth to 1 Year:
- 4 Months – Infant opens and closes fists, brings fingers to mouth, holds or shakes rattle toy, swats at dangling toys
- 6 Months – Infant reaches for blocks and moves objects from one hand to the other
- 9 Months – Baby picks up objects with 3 fingers and may imitate clapping
- 12 Months – Child can put objects inside of a cup, pick up items using pointer and thumb (“pincer” grasp), and bang two objects together
Seek assistance if your one-year-old is not performing activities like using finger foods, banging objects together, grabbing desired toys, or if movements seem shaky or stiff.
Age 1 Year:
- By 15 Months – Child can scribble and dump objects out of a container (if shown first)
- By 18 Months – Children can dump objects out of a container on their own and stack blocks
Age 2 Years:
- Toddler can typically stack blocks into a tower or arrange blocks into a row
- Toddler can learn to unscrew a lid, self-feed with a spoon, turn pages in a book, and copy an adult drawing a horizontal or vertical line
Age 3 Years:
- Child can stack 10 or more blocks in a tower, copy an adult drawing a circle, and cut using child-safety scissors
Age 4 Years
- Child can draw a stick figure with six complete part
- Child can button large or medium-sized buttons
What Causes Fine Motor Developmental Delays?
Some children simply reach fine motor milestones later than others due to slower-developing muscles, and there is no long-term issue. However, some children may have a neurological and coordination problem known as developmental coordination disorder (DCD) or dyspraxia. This occurs when the brain and muscles have trouble working together. Other children may have dysgraphia, a writing challenge that affects coloring, drawing, or using utensils. If the fine motor delay is related to a medical issue, it typically involves one of the following:
- Premature birth that causes muscles to develop more slowly
- Genetic causes (such as Down syndrome)
- Nerve and muscle disorders (such as muscular dystrophy or cerebral palsy)
- Developmental diagnoses such as autism
- Decreased finger, arm, and core strength from a pre-existing gross motor delay
- Pre-existing cognitive delays
- Vision problems
What is the Treatment for Fine Motor Developmental Delays?
Treatment for fine motor developmental delays are multidisciplinary and can include occupational therapy as well as sensory-motor and sensory-processing therapy. A developmental-behavioral pediatrician may also get involved to recommend multisensory tips and techniques. Children may receive broad occupational therapy through an IEP or a 504 plan. The occupational therapist may also recommend the following at-home activities:
- Playing with Playdoh
- Using finger paint
- Chores such as setting the table and wiping the table with a sponge
- Placing pegs in a board
- Playing with finger puppets
- Pouring juice into a cup
Contact The Warren Center for more information on how to get started with occupational therapy.