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Development of Fine Motor Skills Through Art

by Lauren Fallat, MA LPC ATR-BC

Research continues to grow in support of the significant effects that art therapeutic practices have on stimulating fine motor skills. Fine motor skills refer to hand motor skills, movement of the fingers and wrist, precision, fingerprinting skills, manual dexterity and object manipulation. Fine motor skills are important in performing daily functional tasks such as turning the pages of a book, tying shoelaces, turning door knobs, buttoning and unbuttoning clothes, fastening snaps and buckles, brushing teeth, dialing the phone, eating with a utensil, opening and closing containers, stirring and mixing, drawing, playing an instrument, stacking, sculpting, etc.

An area where occupational therapy and art therapy beautifully overlap, fine motor skills can be explored using a variety of artmaking practices and creative activities tailored to you or your child’s unique needs. Being able to seamlessly practice important fine motor skills while engaging in a drawing, painting, sculpture or other creative activity makes it easier when working with younger children. These skills can also be practiced for individuals who have suffered neurological injuries from stroke or other causes. By practicing these skills utilizing a fun, creative and relaxing approach, one can greatly improve the skills needed for increased independent living and development.

Recommended Art Processes that Stimulate Fine Motor Activity and Skill Development:

Paper Mache

  • Tearing paper into small pieces utilizes large and fine motor skills

  • Whisking and Mixing of the glue/water mixture or flour water mixture

  • Brushing on the paste to the paper scraps

  • Placing the paper scrap onto the intended surface or structure

Cutting and Pasting

  • Cutting different shapes and outlines using age-appropriate scissors.

  • Cutting along dotted lines or edges for intentional movements

  • Cutting paper into scraps to be used for collage purposes

  • Paste down paper, buttons, sequins, pom poms and other assorted materials using glue

  • Cutting long pieces of clay into smaller pieces


  • Tracing lines (straight, curved, zigzagged) and shapes from dotted lines can build strength and coordination within your finger’s hands and wrists

  • Tracing worksheets that require you to follow a line pattern, outline a shape or recreate a symbol

  • Stencils that require precision in fine movements for details

Drawing and Coloring

  • Coloring inside the lines or inside a form

  • Drawing from observation

  • Drawing a replication or copy of another drawing

  • Grid drawing allows one to observe shapes as they relate to one another proportionally and utilize fine motor skills to replicate the drawing through compartmentalization of the image into different squares or areas

Stringing Beads

  • Threading variety sized beads and objects onto string requires fine motor movement, coordination and precision

  • Try macaroni necklaces or bracelets for different textures and materials


  • Wrapping yarn around craft sticks, jars, cardboard weaving looms

  • Lacing cards- practice weaving yarn in and out through hole punches in cardboard or paper

  • Yarn painting

Sensory Tables

  • Creating a sensory table using different art materials, such as buttons, water beads, pom poms (of different sizes), beads, feathers and found objects

  • Sorting out the objects within the sensory table using tongs, tweezers or scooping devices and transferring them into different containers

Sculpting with Clay

  • Squeezing plasticine, Play-Doh, Modeling clay, Model Magic or Wet Clay

  • Pinching small pieces of clay from a larger piece

  • Rolling the clay into a long snake or spaghetti

  • Using a clay tool to poke and carve into the clay

  • Pressing small items, like beads, sequences and miniature objects into the clay

  • “Pinch Pot”

  • Stamping into the clay

  • Cutting clay with scissors

  • The material of clay has an innate resistance in its material quality that works the small muscles of the hands to strengthen them for more endurance in other activities


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