Home Page

Fine Motor Ideas

In Hand Manipulation


This is the term used to describe moving a small object around and within a single hand. It is important for the development of fine motor control and enables children to carry out tasks such as holding pencils, fastening buttons, using a knife, fork or spoon and being able to tie shoelaces.


There are 3 movements which require the skill of in hand manipulation.

These are:

1. Translation- Using your fingers to move a small object from the fingertips to the palm of your hand and vice versa, e.g. When you hold a coin in your palm and move it to your fingertips to push it into a piggy bank or vending machine
2. Shift- Moving an object using the pads of your fingers, e.g. Adjusting your pencil grip before use, or manipulating a button or a zipper with the fingertips

3. Rotation- This is movement of an object in more than one plane, done by making alternating movement between the fingers and thumb e.g. Rolling a pencil in your fingertips, turning a pencil over to use the rubber, or opening a bottle top by rotating the lid between your fingertips.


You can try these actives to improve your child’s in-hand manipulation, which will ultimately encourage use of a functional pencil grasp:


Translation (Finger to palm)-

  1. Play connect 4 but instead of picking one up at a time, encourage your child to pick between 3 and 6 disks and hide them in their palm. Ensure your child uses both hands for this task.
  2. Place a number of coins on a desk in front of your child. Ask them to pick them all up and put them inside a piggy bank. Repeat task ensuring both hands have a turn. You can make your own posting box by up-cycling an empty butter tub.


  1. Place a different coloured sticky dot on each fingertip- index, middle, ring and little finger and ask your child to touch the correct coloured dots with their thumb. As you complete each turn, change the order.
  2. Try to teach your child to snap their fingers with their right hand and then their left.


  1. Cut a small piece of bubble wrap and ask your child to pop each bubble between their thumb and index finger
  2. Get your child to wind up a small toy or ask your child to screw and unscrew small bottle tops e.g. water bottle