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What are "normal" fine motor skills in a nearly 4 years old???

(22 Posts)
mysonben Fri 31-Jul-09 14:44:39

A bit curious on a few points concerning fine motor skills in a child between age 3.6 and 4 years.

The reason i ask is at our first pead app. back in april , she asked if DS (3.9, asd) could kick/catch a ball (answer:yes), if DS could eat with a fork and spoon (answer: yes but messy and slow), and if he could get down the stairs using both feet alternatvely like an adult (answer: no, he still does it one foot at a time on each step).

She said DS has good muscle tone and is age appropriate for motor skills.

I agree with that, his gross motor skills seems fine (although he runs funny and trips up frequently).

I'm unsure about his fine motor skills because he still cannot undress/dress himself, has trouble putting socks on or shoes, he can manage to pull his trousers down and up to get toilet, buttons are a no no, same as zips. Also he is still quite messy when he eats, is awkward with drawing (his hold on the pen is a bit soft iykwim?), cannot yet use scissors, he is not manually incapable, but he is a bit behind if i compare him to my nephew or my friend's little girl who are near his age.

Thank you for reading.

BriocheDoree Fri 31-Jul-09 15:35:50

Well, I can't tell you, because it's my older one who has SN. My NT one is only two. However, I was wondering if you had ever had your DS's eyes tested? Only reason I ask is because DD at 4 still couldn't walk down stairs using feet alternatively and when I questioned this the paed dismissed it as "developmental delay". Wasn't until her standard age 4 check and they checked her eyesight that they discovered she had no binocular vision - very long sight in one eye so that one was "lazy". Since she started wearing glasses she can walk downstairs, use scissors and is starting to learn how to dress/undress herself.
Might not be relevant but wondered if you'd checked.

Marne Fri 31-Jul-09 15:36:21

Hi, sorry i cant really help as both dd's are on the spectrum, dd1 (5.6) walks really slowly and runs oddly, she has just started going up stairs without doing the both feet on each step thing. She only started dressing when she started school last year(4.6),she still takes a long time to dress. Dd1 could hold a pencil and write her name when she was 18 months shock but dd2 (3.6) still doesn't hold a pencil well and scribbles. Both of them are still messy eaters and tend to use their fingers.

amberflower Fri 31-Jul-09 17:34:23


My DS has poor fine motor skills and in fact I would say this is the key 'special need' for him, along with listening/concentration skills. He has been having OT this term and come on in leaps and bounds, but at 3-4 was worse than your DS.

To be honest your DS sounds similar to a lot of boys his age, regardless of ASD/NT. Bear in mind that boys in general often have poorer fine motor skills than girls - partly because that skill simply doesn't develop as early in boys (if you have read 'Raising Boys' the author goes into the difference in brain development between boys and girls in the early years), and partly because they're less interested and would often (though by no means always) run about rather than draw a picture, so get less practice.

So rule one - do NOT compare your DS to any girl of his age. Even if both children are NT and developmentally 'typical', a girl will most likely be about a year ahead in terms of fine motor stuff anyway. I go in to DS's school once a week to help out, and most of the boys seem far less developed than the girls in terms of fine motor stuff, even if they're academically stronger.

NT girls often learn dressing type skills earlier too - they're often more interested in what they wear for a start, and also if you think about it a lot of 'girlie' clothes (pretty cardigans, tops etc) have far more buttons than typical 'boy' tops like short or long sleeved T shirts, so again, more opportunities to practice. Boys can be flipping lazy! But also bear in mind that OTs do not look for children to be able to fasten/unfasten buttons until they are 6 (so DS's OT told me).

My DS started school aged 4 and 2 months, at which point he had no concept of holding a pencil correctly (would grasp it awkwardly, like a 1 or 2 year old might do) and could only just about copy a circle or a cross but not really, if I'm honest. He'd do anything to avoid sitting down at a table to try drawing or writing. He could not do up buttons or zips either and scissors were a complete no-no. Dressing/undressing was hit and miss dependent on his mood.

Fast forward a year, after one year of reception, regular OT practice internally within school and 5 sessions of external OT, and it's a very different story. DS is now holding pencil correctly, can write his name, virtually every letter in the alphabet, can write sentences with guidance, can do both buttons and zips (fastening and unfastening), dresses and undresses with no help, including shoes/socks, and is mastering knife and fork skills. The difference in him after 12 months is amazing - in fact only in writing it all down now have I really realised far he's come, bless him.

The only skills I would say he is still really awkward in are scissor skills and drawing. His scissor grip is now good but he's still awkward when actually attempting to cut (very noticeable in comparison to peers at school), and drawing wise he's simply not that interested so does as little of it as he can get away with. So his drawing skills still seem very immature compared to others, both boys and girls. On the other hand, he adores Lego, and is confidently assembling models aimed at 5-12 or 7-12 year olds with minimal assistance. Whereas one of the little girls his age who we see regularly can draw or write beautifully, but cannot even begin to assemble the tiny lego bricks so beloved by DS!

I think it is too early to start worrying about your DS's fine motor skills to be honest, but no harm in encouraging scribbing/cutting practice whenever you can. Don't panic if he refuses though. And bear in mind that even if, like my DS, it does become more of an issue if he approaches school age, it's amazing what a bit of concentrated OT can do.

mysonben Fri 31-Jul-09 17:35:06

Hi, Briochedoree , Ds is to see the orthoptic paediatric clinic in september because he frequently bumps into things or people, and he also narrows his eyes or cups one of his eye.
So we will be having his eyes checked.
DS1 (NT) who is now 16, had a lazy eye when younger and started wearing glasses at age 4.

Marne, Thanks for replying too.

mysonben Fri 31-Jul-09 17:46:14

Amberflower, thanks for your post, gave me a better idea of what to expect at that age.
I tried to look for motor skills developmental charts but didn't found much hence the question.
I see what you mean about girls getting more practise , besides both my nphew and friend's dd are NT. So not one of my best idea to compare.
I'm not too worried about DS 's fine motor skills ,just noticed he was a bit behind , but not too bad it seems. Also he is not quite yet 4 so he has got time to catch up , will just keep an eye on things really.

lingle Fri 31-Jul-09 19:18:47

Can he pedal and scoot mysonben?

Ds2 (3.11)'s fine motor skills are pretty good I think (he can write with a biro) But he does the one stair at a time thing and has only just started scooting - today he was steering for the first time so hopefully he'll scoot to nursery instead of going in a buggy next term. I'm still needing to work on pedalling - we had some glimmers of it coming last time we were on a toy tractor.

It all seems very trivial compared to the language but physical play is generally the first type of play that kids like ours do with others successfully so I do want him to have positive experiences in the playground at scooter time - it's a passport to a relationship with other kids. Funnily enough he is very skilful at climbing and balancing and swinging on a big swing so it seems to be purely a bilateral coordination thing.

juliaw Fri 31-Jul-09 21:03:41

Fine motor skills really vary - if you ever see one of those school teatowels the PTA does to raise money where reception kids draw a picture of themselves they will vary from literally a squiggle to a proper portrait with head, neck etc - there is a huge variation in pencil skills within a normal reception class. My two NT kids (both boys!) refused to wear anything with buttons or zips until they were 5 and then only because they were starting school and had to but I would say still needed help with buttons and zips through reception. I watched a starting school documentary last year and it was hilarious it took a class of reception children (these are ones without SN) 45 minutes to get changed for PE. Many many boys will have no interest in writing at all until they are 5 or 6. A nice activity my son's reception class do is to use large pavement chalk to draw in playground or they put the chalk in a bucket of water and get big decorating paintbrushes and "paint" on the playground. Its a nice way of drawing / writing without needing the fine motor skills of a pencil. I'm wondering about a tumbletots class for DS3's physical motor skills when he is 3 and perhaps a bit more compliant, I took my older children and the classes seemed very inclusive (we know a little girl with Downs who has gone for years and get lots out of it still) and you can help your own child on the equipment etc but I am worried about the turn taking / rule following issue with DS3! Although I think the climbing / balancing etc would be good.

Scottie22 Sat 01-Aug-09 20:33:04

My ds has just turned 5 and has no SN but still goes down the stairs both feet on each step! He had no interest in writing/drawing until about 2 weeks ago - now draws very basic figures.
I found a great site which I'm using with my dd aged 2 who has fine motor skill problems including bilateral movement and general finger control issues:

lingle Sat 01-Aug-09 21:03:16

Scottie - do you know which bits on that site would apply for my DS2's problems - pedalling, scooting and the stair thing but other things seem ok? I can't understand the acronyms on the site (I was looking for bilateral coordination).

mysonben Mon 03-Aug-09 00:49:34

Hi Lingle,
Yes ds can scoot quite well, he has trouble pedalling, but he is a bit afraid on his bike as soon as the stabilisers give a slight wooble he freaks out, so it may be due to not enough practise.

DidEinsteinsMum Mon 03-Aug-09 01:01:00

Ds(4 1/2) is consider pretty good on fine and gross motor skills. He can construct in proper lego but he cant do buttons. He simply has no interest in learning and would much rather i did it for him. As for getting dressed and undressed. He can when he wants but often prefers me to do it. I think he is a little reluctant to grow up in some areas and just prefers my attention. He cant catch a ball either- not even with his glasses on, but he can hit one with a golf club. Go figure. I guess sometimes it is motivation. He doesnt see point of catching where as golf... put it this way our second 'job' of the day tomo, is the driving range for him to hit a few balls. He'll learn to catch when he's ready and i shall keep asking him to try periodically. There is time for him to learn.

DidEinsteinsMum Mon 03-Aug-09 01:02:24

blush think i am going to remove SN again didnt notice this was posted here. Sorry if i have upset/been insesitive to anyone.

lingle Mon 03-Aug-09 09:53:29

no worries Einstein's mum.

Mysonben, when I mentioned the pedalling trouble the paed just said "it will come". Have you ever discussed it with "your" professionals? Did they give any reason?

Pity you aren't in Yorkshire as we could have pedalling sessions.......

again, it sounds so trivial but it can be such a door-opener socially.....

sc13 Mon 03-Aug-09 12:36:40

DH and I have discussed DS's scooting (primordial) and pedalling (non-existent) skills. But DS can do the going down the stairs thing, climbs very well, and seems coordinated when swimming. With fine motor skills, I can't find consistency in what DS can and cannot do - can't really hold a pen, but will do fiddly things when trains or cars or numbers are involved. So, I can't tell between things he can't and things he won't do. Will ask the OT in September (when we have the app).
I sadly suspect that the real social door-opener these days is some massive playstation thing (so, perhaps we should concentrate on fine motor skills?)

MojoLost Mon 03-Aug-09 13:13:03

Goodness, this thread is depressing me, sorry maybe just feeling a little down today. All your DCs are doing really well. Ds is 4.6 and still has so much trouble with all these things. Mind you he can go up/down stairs using both legs but only if I remind him (every single time).

What really upsets me is that he has received OT for the last 3 years and his fine motor skills are still so imature.

Scottie, thanks for sharing that link!

sc13 Mon 03-Aug-09 14:30:44

Mojo, sorry! I didn't mean to be insensitive.

Deeeja Mon 03-Aug-09 14:42:04

My ds is 4.5, has autism and his motor skills are very behind. He can not use cutlery, crawls up and down stairs like a 1 year old. He can not grip a pen, has not concept of dressing/undressing himself, can not ride a scooter or pedal a tricycle, he has just realised he can propel himself forward on a ride-along type of toy. He can only walk short distances.
He recieves ot and physiotherapy, has a major buggy and piedro boots.
I don't know how delayed he is, but it took me along time to get any kind of therapy for him, but it is only now that concerns are taken seriously. I think they expect children to catch up by around 4, and when they don't it becomes a problemhmm, I have been making loud noises since he was 2.

MojoLost Tue 04-Aug-09 06:20:30

sc13 oh no!!! Please don't take it the wrong way. I was having one of those days yesterday, have been trying to teach DS to to pedal for ages and it isn't happening, that's all.

Please please ignore my moan. Just needed to vent a little.

Phoenix4725 Tue 04-Aug-09 06:29:38

how much ot input do your dc get, we only see ows twice ayear and despite me baderging her we still not had a program been doing one had from Bibic am wondering if its worth getting some advice from a private one.

Ds is 4 has issues with gross and fine motor skills. stairs are 2 feet each step holding on to bannister but normally crawls, buttons no chance , uses fingers normally to feed etc.still fist grips pens painbrushes just scrawls

pipsy76 Tue 04-Aug-09 06:42:26

A teacher told me 2 weeks ago that the bone development of boys hands is 20 months behind girls, thus they have much poorer fine motor skills when entering school, hope this helps (and hope this is true!).

lingle Tue 04-Aug-09 09:35:16

One thing that seems to help DS2 with scooting and his proto-pedalling is giving him a near object to "crash into" eg a brick wall or me! heaven knows why this helps - I think the simplicity and absurdity of the instruction help him to relax.

He seems to have "got" scooting now (on a triangular a micro mini that you don't have to turn). I guess he just had to be ready. I think he'll be able to scoot to school.

Do you all think I should put the bike away and go back to a tricycle to teach the pedalling?

sorry you had a bad day yesterday mojolost.

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