Holding and Using Utensils

When students use their fingers to hold and use utensils (such as when eating, painting, fixing a bicycle, or turning the knob on a microscope), they are using fine motor skills. For each different type of utensil, a student must first develop a plan in his mind about how to use the device, and then send signals from his brain to coordinate his hands and fingers. For example, when using a fork, screwdriver, or paint brush, such coordination involves remembering which muscles to use, thinking about and planning how to use these muscles, and monitoring and adapting finger movements to help complete the task.

Helpful Hints

  • In classes that focus on fine motor skills, such as instrumental music, art, and woodworking, ask teachers to serve as mentors to model muscle use, or to give extra support or advice.  
  • As students develop a particular fine motor skill, help them document their progress by accumulating a dated portfolio of their drawings, craft creations, written pieces or other work.  
  • Provide a variety of tools that are easy for students to manipulate such as microscopes with large knobs and trays with easy-grip rubber sides for science, flexible-loop scissors and large crayons for art activities  
  • To help students with hand-eye coordination, provide sensory cues to guide movement, e.g., a bright marker line around a picture to be cut out.  
  • Incorporate mechanical and construction activities to allow students to practice manipulating tools and to develop problem-solving abilities. Making clay or wood sculptures, building a paper bridge, creating a mobile of various materials, and taking apart and putting together mechanical items are all activities that offer such practice. Be sure to emphasize safety when using tools.  
  • Present cutting and tracing activities including patterns such as a curved line, a diamond, a circular spiral, etc. When possible, include these activities as part of a broader assignment, such as making a collage or providing an illustration for a report.  
  • Encourage students to take the time to plan a systematic approach to complex fine motor activities, such as making a collage or building a model plane, and to monitor their performance at each step of the activity.  
  • Encourage students to specifically verbalize the steps of a motor action, before beginning the action. You may need to offer prompting, e.g., " You said you were going to cut out the octagon. Will you cut on the line or outside the line?"