Planning and Coordinating Finger Movements

Planning and coordinating finger movements involves remembering the steps needed, forming a motor plan, and implementing that plan.

For example, if a student wants to move a chess piece, he needs to first think about where he wants to move it and how to move it. He must then ‘send’ a message to his hand and fingers to move his hand to the piece, close his fingers around it, pick it up, and move his hand to the desired place on the chessboard. Finally, he must place the piece on the board, let go of it, and move his hand away.

A student must also plan and coordinate finger movements when playing a musical instrument. In addition, she must be able to remember which sequence of movements produce which note. This processing needs to be done rapidly so that notes can be played one after the other.

The more a student practices his or her fine motor skills, the more likely it is that the skills will become automatic, so that a student can focus on other important elements of the task, e.g., coming up with the best strategy for winning the chess game, or listening to and coordinating with other band members while playing.

Helpful Hints

  • Introduce activities where students combine fine motor practice with visual discrimination, for example, stringing beads in various patterns, fitting puzzle pieces together, etc.  
  • Help students strengthen hand muscles by having them manipulate materials with a thick consistency, such as cookie dough or clay, or having them do rubbings or drawings over templates or other textured materials.  
  • Encourage students to strengthen finger muscles by creating rubber band designs on geoboards, doing papier-mâché activities, using precise tools such as tweezers and clothespins for pinching objects, and even trying squirt gun target practice (undoubtedly an outside activity).  
  • Encourage students to take the time to plan a systematic approach to complex fine motor activities, such as playing a new song on the clarinet or making a clay pot in art class, and to monitor their performance at each step of the activity.