Warning Signs of Fine Motor Delay

Writing is a type of fine motor skill.

Fine motor skills involve coordination of your child’s nerves, bones and small muscles. They require your child to use awareness, coordination, muscle strength and normal sensation, according to Medline Plus. Since fine motor skills develop gradually over time, it can be difficult to spot signs of a delay. However, there are a few things you can watch for to ensure that your child is developing his fine motor skills on track.


Failure to reach certain milestones can be a sign of fine motor delay. Although there is a wide range of normal when it comes to your child reaching certain milestones, you should expect her to be able to pick up items with her thumb and index finger and transfer objects from one hand to the other by 1 year of age. According to the Learning Disabilities Association of America, she should be able to scribble, use a paintbrush and build a small tower by the time she is 2 years old. By age 3, her fine motor skills will include turning single pages, using one hand consistently and manipulating clay. Between 4 and 5 years old, she’ll be able to draw a circle and cut along a line. Her skills will flourish dramatically by age 6, when she’ll be able to cut out shapes, color within the lines and hold a pencil properly.

Other Signs

In addition to reaching milestones late, your child might be experiencing a fine motor delay if he is unable to use one side of his body as easily as the other. Trouble holding and using objects, in addition to trouble chewing and swallowing, could be signs of a condition that affects fine motor skills. Finally, What To Expect states that if your child loses his ability to accomplish skills that he previously could, it’s a sign of a fine motor problem.

Medical Care and Prognosis

Problems with your child’s muscles, joints or brain and spinal cord can decrease her fine motor skills or cause her to experience a delay in reaching her milestones. Neurological conditions such as cerebral palsy can also cause fine motor delay. A doctor might suggest screenings or other tests to determine the cause of the delay. What To Expect explains that severe delays due to conditions such as cerebral palsy might require lifelong care, but that mild delays can improve with physical therapy.


You can help encourage your child’s fine motor skills development by giving him plenty of opportunities to practice. Provide him with materials to help him color and draw, and offer him child-safe scissors to practice cutting. Puzzles will also help improve his fine motor skills. Simple chores such as folding clothes also provide good practice for the development of fine motor skills. If you suspect any delays or if you notice that your child is suddenly unable to complete a task that he could do previously, consult your physician.