As mentioned in a previous blog post, fine motor skills are the group of skills involved in the ability to manipulate smaller objects with the hands or fingers. But why are they so important? Well, first and foremost, they are essential for many aspects of self-care for children which of course promotes their independence. Young people rely on developed fine motor skills in order to complete daily self-care tasks such as feeding themselves, cleaning their teeth, and putting on their shoes. Importantly for teaching staff, poor pencil grasp can lead to difficulties with letter formation, fatigue, reduced speed, and pressure issues when writing, all of which impact on school performance. Underdeveloped fine motor skills may hinder a child’s ability to get down on paper what they may well know in their head. Fine motor skills are critical in the development of emergent writing. So how can we support the development of these skills?

Cool Characters is a teacher-friendly programme that provides activities and advice for developing fine motor skills and supports the skills needed for fluent writing by improving body awareness, grouping letters for learning formation, while enjoying a variety of sensory media. It is designed for use with individuals or small groups of children, although principles could be applied as whole class activities. It focuses on children’s fine motor development. It was originally conceptualised by the Children’s Occupational Therapy Team at the Gem Centre in Wolverhampton, and was then developed in 2020 by a Specialist Teacher. Since then, pilot projects in several Wolverhampton schools have shown incredibly encouraging results. The programme includes assessments, lesson-plan-style notes, and suggestions for helpful activities.

We now have a brand new course regarding fine motor skills and the use of the Cool Characters programme. The course was written and delivered by Roz Roscoe, Children’s Occupational Therapist and you can find it here. The course explores the context and development of fine motor skills (including postural control and sensory awareness), whole arm development, whole hand development, pincher and pincer grip, and finger isolation. It also explores the role of the seven elements of visual perception. Finally, the Cool Characters programme will be available to download, with some guidance on its use, as well as some case studies to work through independently or as part of a team.