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Fine motor control

Information

Fine motor control is the coordination of muscles, bones, and nerves to produce small, precise movements. An example of fine motor control is picking up a small item with the index finger and thumb.

The opposite of fine motor control is gross (large, general) motor control. An example of gross motor control is waving an arm in greeting.

Problems of the brain, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, muscles, or joints may all decrease fine motor control. The difficulty in speaking, eating, and writing in people with Parkinson's disease is due to a loss of fine motor control.

The amount of fine motor control in children is used to determine the child's developmental age. Children develop fine motor skills over time, by practicing and being taught. To have fine motor control, children need:

  • Awareness and planning
  • Coordination
  • Muscle strength
  • Normal sensation

The following tasks can only occur if the nervous system matures in the right way:

  • Cutting out shapes with scissors
  • Drawing lines or circles
  • Folding clothes
  • Holding and writing with a pencil
  • Stacking blocks
  • Zipping a zipper

References

Kimmel SR, Ratliff-Schaub K. Growth and development. In: Rakel RE, ed. Textbook of Family Medicine. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 32.

Updated: 1/27/2013

Jennifer K. Mannheim, ARNP, Medical Staff, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Seattle Children's Hospital. Also reviewed by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc., Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, David R. Eltz, Stephanie Slon, and Nissi Wang.


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