Handwriting, pencil grip and fine motor skills are some of the most common reasons for referral to occupational therapy intervention in children preparing for formal school. You can prevent this problem by following simple and easy steps from your child’s baby years. There are two types of motor skills: fine and gross motor skills. Fine motor skills generally refer to actions performed by the fingers, wrists, hands, lips, tongue and toes. It includes pencil grip, cutting, manipulating small objects, buttoning, tasting, grasping. Children may have difficulty with these because of a specific problem such as sensory processing disorder or a naturally slower progression of development. Most of the skills mentioned, are expected of an older pre-school child, so why be concerned about it while your child is a baby? You can have a look at the Hierarchy provided below. The fine motor skills develop in a predictable pattern as from baby years. The young baby, of 2 – 3 months old, bats at objects, then progresses to grasp, to release, to transfer and to manipulate objects. Of course the mouth is included in most of these explorations which is important for the development of lip and tongue movements. You can ensure that the foundational skills are well-developed in your baby. The easiest way to encourage effective eye movements, head control (strong neck muscles), shoulder control and hip and trunk stability is to use tummy time as often as possible.
- Tummy time encourages the child to use the important neck muscles to lift the head.
- As the baby wants to see more of the environment the baby uses the arms to push the head to a higher position. This encourages weight bearing on the hands which encourages strong shoulder muscles to support the arms and the development of a mature pencil grip.
- When the baby reaches to objects and toys in this position, rotation of the trunk is encouraged which strengthens the trunk muscles and prepare the baby for rolling, sitting and eventually for an effective, upright posture. An upright posture is essential to support the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers when writing.
- Before the baby holds a pencil or crayon, the palmar grip is the favourite. The baby grasps an object with the hand and all the fingers, as you would do when you hold a tennis ball in your hand, closing all your fingers around the ball.
- The cylinder or fisted grip is usually the first one used to hold a pen or crayon. The thumb is on one side of the pencil and the other four fingers around the pencil from the other side.
- At about 2 – 3 years these two grips develops into different grips which will not be discussed in this article – all are one or other variation of a clumsy mature grip.