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Improving fine motor skills


Grip and pinch strength

If your child’s hands and fingers are weak, he can have problems with fine motor skills, like writing. Making the muscles in your child’s hands stronger will help improve motor skills and control how his hands move.

To help your child grip and pinch better, have him try the following activities:

  • Pick up objects like blocks and cotton balls with tongs and move them from one container to another.
  • Pick up small objects like beads with tweezers.
  • Use child’s scissors to cut shapes or lines drawn on pieces of paper.
  • Cut folded paper or make snowflakes.
  • Put clothespins on the edge of boxes, rims of cans, or on sheets of paper, and then take the clothespins off.
  • Pin up clothes with clothespins.
  • “Clean” a surface with sprayer bottles or sponges.
  • Have fun spraying a squirt gun outside.
  • Use a hole punch.
  • Pop bubble wrap.
  • Squeeze foam balls or blocks. As your child gets stronger, have him use firmer balls.
  • Pull apart and piece together pop-beads and toys that lock together.
  • Stir, knead, and roll cookie dough. Cut cookies with plastic knife or cookie cutters.
  • Use ink stamps of different sizes with stamp pads.
  • Use a toy carpentry or tool set.
  • Use puffy paint by squeezing the bottle to apply it.
  • Use an eye dropper to move colored liquid from one container to another.
  • Use a bulb-type nasal aspirator or squeezable bath toys to blow small pieces of paper or cotton balls around.
  • Try these Theraputty™ or Silly Putty® games:
    • Play eggs in a nest: Make a bowl-shaped nest. Roll small pieces for eggs and a large piece for the bird.
    • Pinch putty into pots or bowls with lids.
    • Finger touching: Pinch putty between fingers until fingers meet.
    • Putty strings: Pull putty in opposite directions to make strings of different widths.
    • Connect ends of putty strings to make necklaces and bracelets.
    • Hide small objects like coins or beads in putty, or cut putty with child’s scissors.


Dexterity is the fine control of a tool or an object by the fingers. Having good dexterity will help your child be able to write well, play with small toys, open food containers, and button clothes. These are some activities to improve your child’s dexterity:

Handling: the ability to move an object within the hand and fingers

  • Screw and unscrew objects such as nuts and bolts, caps from jars, etc.
  • String beads onto a shoelace. Lace beads of different sizes.
  • Make a macaroni necklace.
  • Type on the keyboard.
  • Roll a pencil or marble between thumb and fingers without dropping it.
  • Work on buttons, zippers, hooks, etc., and tie shoelaces.
  • Play with wind-up toys.
  • Complete puzzles or play shape-sorting games.
  • Take a handful of coins and put them into a piggy bank one at a time.
  • Tear small pieces of construction paper and paste them onto a picture to make a mosaic.

Pinch: the ability to pick up objects with the fingertips and thumb

  • Use different size tongs to pick up objects like blocks or cotton balls and move them from one container to another.
  • Play “paper flick basketball” – roll small pieces of paper into a ball and use a fingertip to flick them at a target.
  • Play with Legos®.
  • Play games with cards, coins, or pegs such as Hi Ho! Cherry-O, Perfection, Mancala, Connect Four, Uno, and Lite-Brite.
  • Play pick-up sticks.


An occupational therapist may suggest more activities or exercises to help improve your child’s fine motor skills. If you have questions or concerns about your child’s fine motor skills, call Rehabilitation Services at 901-595-3621. If you are inside the hospital, dial 3621. If you are outside the Memphis Area, call toll-free 1 866-2STJUDE (1-866-278-5833), extension 3621.


This document is not intended to take the place of the care and attention of your personal physician or other professional medical services. Our aim is to promote active participation in your care and treatment by providing information and education. Questions about individual health concerns or specific treatment options should be discussed with your physician.

St. Jude complies with health care-related federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex.

ATTENTION: If you speak another language, assistance services, free of charge, are available to you. Call 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

ATENCIÓN: si habla español, tiene a su disposición servicios gratuitos de asistencia lingüística. Llame al 1-866-278-5833 (TTY: 1-901-595-1040).

تنبيه: إذا كنت تتحدث باللغة العربية فيمكنك الاستعانة بخدمات المساعدة اللغوية المتوفرة لك مجانا. .يرجى الاتصال بالرقم. 5833-278-866-1  (الهاتف النصي: 1040-595-901-1).