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PLC Sydney Preschool

The importance of fine and gross motor skills for communication and independence

During the early childhood years, your child will be developing important skills and character qualities each day. Whether you are sitting with your child, or they are off playing, they will be learning.

Many different skills develop during the preschool years. These skills contribute to developing attitudes, helping them with different tasks and preparing them for things to come. When a child is due to start primary school, parents can wonder if they are ready. One thing parents may consider is whether their child can hold a pencil and write their name. We can begin to look at this a few steps earlier. Fine motor skills are an important part of your child’s learning. Gross motor strength supports the development of fine motors skills. Motor skills contribute to a child’s positive well being, enabling them confidence to express themselves as well as independence with day to day activities.

What are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills involve the use of the small muscles that control and manipulate the hand, fingers, and thumb to enable actions such as grasping, holding and pinching. These skills help children perform important tasks. These tasks can include feeding themselves, grabbing and holding onto toys and objects, using buttons and zippers on their clothes, holding a pencil to write and draw and much more. Being able to complete these tasks independently, gives children a sense of self-confidence and positive self-esteem.

Children build gross and fine motors skills from birth in a progressive manner as their bones and muscles develop. Understanding the kind of practice that enhances these skills supports effective teaching and learning.

Why is it important to focus on the fine motor skills?









Focusing on fine motor skills helps your child to be able to complete an array of different tasks. It is not just one thing you are teaching. You are giving them a gateway to complete many different tasks, all stemming from this skill.

Fine motor skills build over time for children starting from bigger gross motor actions. Children learn to control larger arm movements and develop upper body core strength before they can effectively control fine motor hand and finger skills. Whole arm, then whole hand actions will develop before pincer grip finger skills. Pincer grip involves the thumb and index finger (the finger next to the thumb). Pincer grip is the skill required for pencil control and there are many activities to develop this movement and build strong, well-controlled actions.

Early childhood environments, such as at PLC Sydney’s preschools, provide numerous play-based learning experiences to build gross and fine motor skills. These are age appropriate, fun and effective for skill development. Play at preschool and at the park develops upper body core strength which is foundational for motor skills.

Whole arm and body strength can be developed through participation in activities such as:

  • Easel painting
  • Climbing equipment
  • Digging in the sandpit
  • Tricycle riding
  • Dance and movement games

Activities strengthening hand movements include:

  • Playdough
  • Block building
  • Playing with trains
  • Water and sand play
  • Puppet play

Fine motor and pincer grip experiences may involve:

  • Pegboards
  • Threading
  • Tweezer tasks
  • Hanging out washing with pegs
  • Drawing
  • Posting

Learning to hold a pencil correctly and using it to write and draw will come in time. When a child is interested in holding a pencil, simply guide them to hold it between the thumb and index finger. It is important to not focus simply on writing but focus on the skills that are needed behind it.

Crossing the midline

Imagine a line drawn down the middle of your body. This is called the midline. A skill required for writing, reading and other life activities requires skill in crossing body sides – over the midline. Writing, for example, moves from the left to the right with a return sweep, tying shoelaces requires completing a task on one side of the body and then the other side. Providing experiences to develop motor skills involving crossing the midline is something preschool educators will facilitate when preparing children for reading and writing. These activities may look like playful fun, which they are, however there is also important learning happening throughout these experiences.

What can I do to help my child develop their motor skills?

There are many different activities you can do with your child, or have them do on their own, to help them to develop their fine and gross motor skills.

Different play activities such as playdough, doing puzzles, cutting and crafts can all help to develop these skills. Visiting the park to climb and hang will help build upper body core strength.

Tasks at home such as brushing their teeth, dressing and using cutlery can all also help with the development of motor skills. As children do these different activities it will help to strengthen their muscles and coordination. Make sure to keep the activities fun and incorporate variety. It’s also important at the preschool age to allow your child time to do everyday tasks for themselves. Opportunities such as opening boxes, pulling socks up, tucking in a shirt in or carrying a bag will be developing essential motor skills, independence, confidence and self-esteem.

Almost anything children do with their hands will help build muscle strength and coordination. If your child isn’t holding their pencil correctly don’t stress. Providing opportunities to build strength is the first step.

At PLC Sydney Preschools we work with children through a range of differentiated activities, to help them develop the skills needed to complete tasks suited to their individual needs.

It is important to focus on the skills behind the task first, ensuring the child has the confidence to move into their next phase of development with a higher level of self-esteem and proficiency.

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