How Tablets And Smart Phones Are Affecting Fine Motor Skills

screen time

I’ve noticed a sharp decline, in those essential fine motor skills, since we’ve become a more techie society and it’s not good. Now I know that keyboard skills are really important, but surely the humble pencil needs a look in? I’ve been doing a heap of 4 year old developmental assessments at my ‘other job’ and most 4 year olds struggle to hold a pencil correctly. Ten years ago I was testing 3 year olds in England and their fine motor skills were so much better than what i’m seeing today. I get the odd ‘genius’ with the pencil, such as Miss Phoebe, but they are a drop in the ocean.

I was reading an article in the Sunday paper that confirmed my findings and it wasn’t pretty:

Has the iPad taken over and the humble pencils and paper been demoted? From what I heard they have. We need to change this around. We need fine motor (hand skills) for so many things – dressing, fastening buttons, tying shoelaces, threading, brushing teeth, feeding ourselves, writing. it’s that hand-eye co-ordination thing.

Being able to tap a screen and play lovely games doesn’t work that fine motor thing. I’m a girl who loves her iPhone and her Mac and I’m sure I’d love an iPad too. But tapping a screen doesn’t help me draw my vaccines up at work, dress myself in the morning or feed myself does it?

So you’re asking … how can we help our littlies?

Well here is the solution:

  • Start with a really good thick and chubby crayon – easier to grasp. Triangular pencils are a fab idea – they promote the correct grip. Kidstuff and Koskela’s have a great selection: and
  • Practice on a regular basis, ideally daily.
  • Draw with them – you may discover your inner child or a new found love of drawing. It’s really fun and they need to copy first before doing their thing. Practice copying circles, capital letter H, A, T, X and drawing a person with body parts in the correct places. Start with a head and move on from there till it becomes second nature to your child.
  • Practice cutting out shapes and outlines with safety scissors. Kidstuff does a great selection of scissors
  • Painting
  • Chalk board
  • Etch-a-sketch (Kidstuff do these)
  • Building with wooden blocks, approx 1 inch square. Lego doesn’t quite do it but is a close second.
  • Threading beads onto a shoelace
By trying all or some of these things you will be giving your little one the advantage of those essential fine motor skills, and all those techy iPad kids will be well behind the eight ball. Just think about it. I know I have.

5 ways to achieve awesome fine motor skills in the under 5’s

Getting your child get school ready – Part 1

The child’s game (part 2) relationship building with your child

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Nurture Parenting's Karen Faulkner is a baby sleep and toddler expert who brings calm and sleep into families and gives parents their confidence back. Cerris Pty Ltd trading as Nurture Parenting - ABN 42 623 216 384 - Sydney, Australia

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