Developing fine motor skills for 6 year olds is easier than you think. Get examples and how to improve these skills through fun activities.
Watching your child struggle with everyday fine motor development is hard for any mom.
You worry that she’ll be held back in school and can only draw scribbles compared to her peers. Or you engage in epic power struggles because she insists on a task she still can’t perform. You might even feel stressed—especially on an already hectic day—when she needs you to do everything for her.
So, what fine motor skills should a 6 year old have, and how can you help yours master them?
First, fine motor skills are the movements we make using our small muscles in the hands. For 6 year olds, these skills are most apparent in classroom tasks like writing and cutting with scissors with their dominant hand. But they can also impact other day-to-day tasks, like buttoning clothes and slicing food.
How to develop fine motor skills for 6 year olds
When my twins were in first grade, I had volunteered twice a week in their classrooms.
I saw firsthand the varying range of abilities, from reading to math, and of course, fine motor skills for 6 year olds. The more adept a child can use her hands, the more she can focus on what she’s supposed to learn (instead of spending more of her time trying to write legibly).
Thankfully, I learned this even when my kids were young preschoolers, so much so that I wanted to make sure they had plenty of opportunities to practice. I researched not just the activities that would promote fine motor skills, but to help them learn in a fun, stress-free way.
Well, it seems to have worked. Even their pediatrician remarked how well their fine motor skills turned out, even at a younger age.
If your 6 year old struggles with fine motor skills, don’t worry. She can always improve, from writing legible letters of the alphabet to holding her pencil with the pincer grasp. No more worrying if she’ll be held back, or doing everything for her because she says she can’t.
Below is a checklist of activities you can try to hone her fine motor skills development:
1. Practice writing and coloring strategically
Daily, 15-minute writing sessions are far more effective than an hours-long exercise once a week. It’s the daily habits that build these skills and reduce power struggles because your child expects them to happen.
You might even want to pair it with a daily part of your routine, like writing letters during snack time, or doing arts and crafts in the afternoons. Here are a few activities and “lesson plans” to try every day:
- Write your child’s name. Print her name and encourage her to practice writing it over and over. Start by having her trace it with her index finger, then writing over the lines, and finally, copying it on a separate piece of paper.
- Write upper and lower case letters and numbers. Start with large letters and numbers, working your way to smaller sizes.
- Color on coloring books and pages. Print or buy coloring sheets with large spaces for her to color within. Practice staying within the lines and coloring all the white spaces. (This is more for fine motor skills and less about limiting her artistic imagination.)
- Draw your day (or weekend). One key skill to master is the ability to draw recognizable pictures. My twins’ teachers had them draw and write their “weekend news” every Monday, which helped spur ideas.
Free printables: Help her practice writing with sample worksheets from my digital workbook, Letters and Numbers! Join my newsletter and grab them below—at no cost to you:
2. Strengthen the “three fingers”
Kids first learn to write by gripping the pencil in the middle of their fist and moving their whole arm. But at some point, they need to master resting their arm and hand, and only moving the three writing fingers. You can help your child get used to this motion in a few ways:
- Squish play dough using only the thumb, forefinger, and middle finger. Give her a ball of clay and have her squish it using only those three fingers. She could shape, pinch, or even tear bits off.
- Open clothespins and clips using only the three fingers. Similarly, have her open and close clothespins or clips (like the small ones to keep bags of chips closed and fresh). These work well since they bounce right back to their original position because of the springs.
- Hold a ball of tissue with the ring and pinky fingers. Have her write or draw, but with her ring and pinky fingers holding a wadded tissue paper.
- Write with short crayons. Help her resist the temptation to grip a crayon in a fist by giving her short crayons. Break crayons in half, which will encourage her to grip these small objects with her fingers instead.
3. Use writing tools to support pencil holding
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase.
Many tools can help your child position her fingers for better pencil control. These leave no doubt for where her fingers should go, helping her develop the habit. Take a look at these favorites:
4. Practice cutting along lines
One of the key fine motor skills is to cut along lines without deviating too much. The lines can be as simple as straight, thick lines, to as complex as circles and stars.
Make a fun activity out of it by printing different shapes and lines on card stock paper. Keep the lines thick so your child can see clearly where to cut along. The thickness of the card stock will make the paper easier to grip and cut. And of course, start with good scissors and avoid old, blunt ones that can be frustrating.
Make it a game by seeing how many shapes you can both cut, or how straight along the lines you can keep the scissors steady.
5. Open packages independently
If you’re like me, you forget just how much you do for your child without asking yourself whether he can do it himself. Such was the case with one of my twins asking me all the time to open his snacks. I probably would’ve kept thinking nothing of it… that is, until I realized his twin brother could do it alone.
From gummy snacks to toys to peeling bananas, encourage your child to open her own packages.
If she insists that she can’t open it, help her just enough to get her started. For instance, tear the snack bag a little bit and have her do the rest, or tear the tip of the banana open without peeling it all the way.
6. Get dressed alone
So many aspects of dressing ourselves require fine motor skills. Your 6 year old might still struggle with laces, but ideally, he should be able to dress himself completely. This includes buttoning shirts, putting on socks, and pulling zippers.
Like opening packages, help him by starting the task but allowing him to finish. You might place a button halfway through the hole, but have him push the rest in. Or you could pull the zipper halfway so he can zip it completely down.
Tip: Give yourselves plenty of time to practice these skills. Don’t wait until you need to head out the door for school. Instead, give yourselves an extra five minutes to get dressed or fasten shoes.
7. Use child-safe utensils
Saturday morning pancake breakfasts are a fantastic excuse at our house that encourage my kids to slice their own food. Pancakes are soft enough that even kid-friendly knives can cut through. Other options include slicing bananas, zucchini, watermelon, hard-boiled eggs, and so much more.
Make sure your child is holding the utensils correctly, using her fingers—and not a gripped fist—to hold the utensils.
Even better, simply set out a fork, spoon, and knife at each meal that requires it, and encourage her to try to slice it herself. You might be surprised at her willingness and ability to do so!
8. Have supplies easily accessible
I’ll leave you with perhaps the simplest of tips: leave supplies everywhere around the house. These can be any supplies and tools that will help your 6 year develop those fine motor skills. Consider leaving out crayons, dots markers, scissors, glue sticks, stickers, large beads, yarn, puzzles, and pencils.
Don’t stash these away in hidden, hard-to-reach storage for the sake of tidiness or order. Yes, they should have a place, but you can still make them easily available nonetheless.
For instance, set boxes of markers and colored pencils on a desk in her room. Leave piles of paper and a box of scissors and glue by the dining area. Store craft supplies in the living room within easy reach. This will build the daily habits of practicing her fine motor skills every day, without any prompting from you.
Learning fine motor skills is one of the most important developmental milestones for children. Hopefully with these tips and examples, you’ve learned how to improve your 6 year old’s skills, in a fun, stress-free way.
Start with activities that strengthen her fingers and support correct writing positions. Practice writing, coloring, and cutting along lines with scissors, preferably on a daily basis.
Encourage her self-sufficiency skills, like opening packages, getting dressed, and slicing her food. And finally, simply leave tools everywhere in your home to give her easy access to practice her fine motor skills.
No more worrying, doing everything for her, or engaging in epic power struggles, my friend! She can develop the fine motor skills for 6 year olds she needs to thrive.
Get more tips:
- Children’s Books about Sending Mail and Letter Writing
- How to Raise a Bright Child
- 12 Ways You’re Already Practicing Montessori Parenting Without Even Realizing It
- 6 Ingenious Strategies for Teaching Sight Words
- 7 Useful Ways to Teach the Alphabet, Montessori-Style
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab sample worksheets from my digital workbook, Letters and Numbers below: