Fun ways to train fine motor skills – DIY and others

As shared in an earlier blog article , my #2 boy AC has been struggling with handwriting, caused by problems with visual-motor coordination and delayed fine motor development. We have been working on various aspects of his fine motor skills in fun ways to help him and we wanted to share some of these activities with you!

But first, what are fine motor skills? Here’s an excellent explanation from

  • Fine motor skills are the ability to make movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists.

  • Fine motor skills are complex….they involve the coordinated efforts of the brain and muscles, and they’re built on the gross motor skills that allow us to make bigger movements.

Fig. 1 Cutting a DIY deco for National Day 2020

We employ our fine motor skills in all sorts of daily life activities like brushing our teeth, combing and styling our hair, buttoning a shirt or zipping a dress, putting on make-up (for the ladies!), using utensils especially chopsticks, typing on our phone or computer keyboards and so on. For children, fine motor skills are also critical in academic learning where they will need to manipulate different tools to draw, colour, paint, write, cut and paste, type…

One particularly challenging task for AC has been trying to use a pencil and a ruler to draw a decent straight line. I was frustrated at first that he couldn’t accomplish this seemingly simple task. However, I realized, after observing him, that it needed simultaneous coordination and control of 2 ‘apparatus’ with his left and right hand – not easy at all!

So keeping in mind that fine motor skills are important for daily life, and some tasks are actually quite complex, here are some ways we as parents can help to nurture the development of these skills at home:

Fig 2. AC trying to underline 19 Sept 2020

Kinetic Sand, Water Beads and all things sensory

1. Kinetic Sand and Mad Mattr Almost all children are drawn to play materials that involve their senses of sight, touch and even smell. Sensory play materials that children can handle with their hands in different ways - knead, roll, pinch, shape, cut – are great for them to unconsciously practice their fine motor skills.

Fig 3. The wonderous texture of Mad Mattr

We bought both Kinetic Sand and Mad Mattr when they were first released and everyone in the family was fascinated with the textures. Both types of sand can be shaped and cut just like normal sand, but thankfully, are easier to clean up (just use a lump of sand to stick up the loose bits). Take a look at this video to see the many ways these materials can be used. We preferred Mad Mattr as it had a firmer consistency – very satisfying for cutting through! AC formed blocks of “green chocolate” and cut them into little pieces with a plastic knife.

Fig 4. "Masak Masak" fun

2. “Orbeez” or Water Beads

Fig 5. Waterbeads from the neighbourhood market