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How fine motor skills affect academic skills

In our previous article on fine motor skill milestones, we stressed the importance of fine motor skills on a child’s development. However, many parents do not realize that fine motor skills are also crucial for academics and executive function. Below we will share research and explore the relationship between fine motor skills and academics. 


Fine motor skills in relation to…

Reading and handwriting skills (Strong relationship)

Reading and handwriting are complex processes that are affected by many variables. Although we cannot state that fine motor skills predict reading and writing skills, research suggests that fine motor skills influence the precision of a child’s finger and hand control. The same research showed that the accuracy of in-hand manipulation skills were highly associated with letter formation and handwriting legibility. 


“How is any of this related to reading?”  

Handwriting helps develop reading skills. More specifically, research has shown that forming letters by hand while learning pronunciation trains circuits in the brain that promotes reading literacy. Also, handwriting is a multisensory activity, meaning information is being reinforced in multiple forms. When your child forms each letter, they are sharing information and training language processing areas of their brain. Your child sounding letters out when they write, or when their eyes track across each line- are both examples of engaging their language processing areas. 


Math skills (Moderately strong relationship) 


When kids have strong fine motor skills, they have more control over finger based numerical skills. Strong finger based numerical skills help children visualize math concepts, which is closely related to early numerical skills development. Furthermore researchers have also found children who participated in “motor rich learning”- math based activities that involve precise fine motor movements- had more advanced numeracy skills compared to their peers. 


Executive function (Theoretically sound relationship)


There are 3 main executive functions: working memory, cognitive flexibility, and inhibitory control- all of which predict academic success. Two studies found a correlation between difficult fine motor skills and executive function. However, another study noted that executive function is more complex in nature and may not primarily rely on fine motor skills.









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