Draw and paint together to build fine motor skills.

Delayed Fine Motor Skills in Children

by Julie Christensen

Your little boy can jump off the stairs, climb trees and run at the speed of lightening, yet he can't write his name yet. What's going on here? Might just be that his fine motor skills haven't caught up yet. Children develop skills at their own speed, despite the best intentions of adults. Some academic preschools expect children to do more than they're ready for. Don't panic--most kids catch up just fine with a bit of extra help.


Many kids are first identified with delayed fine motor skills during preschool when they have difficulty writing or using scissors. Kids with fine motor delays may avoid structured table activities in preschool and kindergarten. They may also struggle with stringing beads, building with Legos or doing up buttons. If your child pitches a fit over using work books or writing his name, don't assume he's being lazy. He just might not be ready for these tasks.


You didn't cause your little one's fine motor delay. Lots of kids are slow to build the fine motor muscles in their hands for a variety of reasons. Little boys tend to gain fine motor skills more slowly than girls. Kids with low muscle tone or sensory issues may also have fine motor delays. Cerebral palsy and other disorders often include fine motor delays. Don't worry too much about the cause, but focus instead on solutions.


When building fine motor muscles, don't force your preschooler to do work books or use scissors. Instead, make learning fun. String cereal or noodles on yarn, paint with water colors, or bend pipe cleaners to make shapes. Fill a spray bottle with water and let your child spray paint a fence. Build with Duplo blocks, Lincoln Logs or other blocks. Cut play dough with scissors to build hand muscles or offer a box of scrap paper to snip at. Encourage writing through fun, playful means. Make a pretend restaurant and help your child write menus or make a graph about dinosaurs. Writing on a vertical surface, such as an easel, builds muscles more efficiently than writing on a flat surface. Try "Handwriting Without Tears," to teach writing. This program, designed by an occupational therapist, offers developmentally appropriate strategies for learning to write letters and numbers.

Adaptive Tools

Visit an educational supply store and you'll find lots of tools specifically designed for kids with delayed fine motor skills. Chubby crayons and markers feel more comfortable in little hands, encouraging writing and drawing. Try chubby paintbrushes or adaptive scissors, as well.

Additional Help

Want to know more? Every state offers early intervention services through your school district. Your child may be eligible for free extra help from an occupational therapist in your home or at a nearby preschool. Your pediatrician can help you find a private occupational therapist, as well.


About the Author

Julie Christensen is a food writer, caterer, and mom-chef. She's the creator of MarmaladeMom.org, dedicated to family fun and delicious food, and released a book titled "More Than Pot Roast: Fast, Fresh Slow Cooker Recipes."

Photo Credits

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