Children with dyspraxia, also known as Developmental Coordination Disorder, often have challenges with their fine motor skills and have may have difficulties with their handwriting and using tools such as scissors.

What are fine motor skills?

  • Small movements with your hands that require smooth movement and accuracy.
  • Examples of these are:
    • Doing up buttons, shoe-laces.
    • 2 handed tasks such as using scissors, and cutlery.
    • Colouring in and handwriting.
    • Playing with Lego, Duplo.
    • Completing jigsaws and puzzles.
    • Using a ruler or compass.

In every classroom there will be 1-2 children with coordination difficulties, and children with dyspraxia will find many tasks in the school day hard to complete and can lead to fatigue and frustration.


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Tips to improving your child’s skills (and confidence)

Make it fun! Grade the activity so your child can see success and praise effort. Notice what they are doing well and be specific.

  1. Focus on a specific skill and don’t try to learn too many things at once.
  2. Practice the skills for 5 minutes every day.
  3. Build the strength in your child’s hands such as using plasticine, playdough, rolling real pastry or a glue stick.
  4. Start with bigger buttons to undo and do up that the child can see and are easier to undo and push through.
  5. Use chunky pens and pencils or try drawing big chalk pictures outside
  6. Make sure your child is sitting in a stable position to do the task such as getting dressed sitting on a low stool or the floor; at the table with feet supported.
  7. Try painting with solid colour sticks which can be easier to control.
  8. Fill a bowl with different colour beads and your child sorts them by colour picking them out with their fingers.
  9. Planting in the garden or in little pots in the house can be a great activity.

Getting ready for writing

Some children are not always ready to write compared to others of a similar age and experience.

This may be due to:

  • Weaker hand strength
  • Poor co-ordination
  • Lack of understanding of the concept of shapes and letters
  • Poor hand-eye co-ordination
  • Unsteady control or tremor
  • Visual difficulties

How to help with writing:

  1. Ensure sitting in stable position with feet on the floor, table at waist height
  2. Try big movements before small ones
  3. Make it fun!
  4. Any activity where the child is holding an object similar to how they would hold a pencil helps build grip strength.
  5. Dot to dot painting
  6. Tracing letters
  7. Plastic bubble wrap- popping these is fun!
  8. Big sheets of paper on the walls or floor with big brushes
  9. Chalks making shapes in the playground
  10. Making the shapes in sand tray or shaving foam

Steps in developing writing skills

Help with scissor skills

Some children are not always ready to use scissors compared to others of a similar age and experience.

This may be due to:

  • Weaker hand strength
  • Poor co-ordination
  • Difficulties opening and closing fingers on one hand
  • Visual difficulties
  • Difficulties holding /stabilising one item in one hand and using the other hand

Steps in gaining scissor skills


  1. Tearing/Ripping paper (hand co-ordination) Use the ripped up paper to make a collage or mosaic
  2. Kneading dough (strength, co-ordination)
  3. Finger puppet play (dexterity and finger isolation).
  4. Manipulating clothes pegs- this is the same action of opening and closing. You can make a game by seeing how many small/big pegs can be placed on a line
  5. Do activities with similar actions e.g. Lego, rolling pin, large ball games, pop beads
  6. Practice holding one item while doing something else e.g. opening jar, stabilise paper and drawing, pouring, hold bowl and stir, threading, stencils, wind-up toys
  7. Lacing and threading games can help strengthen your child’s hands

Article by Professor Amanda Kirby, Chair of the Committee of Movement Matters UK

Read Amanda’s other articles on children with dyspraxia here.


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About The Author

CEO DoIT Solutions, Emeritus professor university of South Wales

Professor Amanda Kirby has an international reputation in the field of Neurodiversity. She is a trustee of the ADHD Foundation, working closely with the BDA, Dyspraxia Foundation and several Autism charities. She has written 8 books, more than 100 research papers in the field and is an emeritus Professor at the University of South Wales and honorary Professor at Cardiff University. She is a parent of neurodivergent children, and grandchildren and a GP. Holding a PhD in emerging adulthood in neurodiversity she founded and ran a clinical and research team for 15 years relating to neurodiversity. She delivers the first UK accredited course on Neurodiversity in the Workplace and has developed the Neurodiversity Aware Standard with the ADHD Foundation. She is the CEO of Do-IT Solutions, who are Disability Confident Leaders. Do-IT is an innovative tech for good company providing web-based screening and assessment tools relating to neurodiversity for all ages. She is one of the 20 UK LinkedIn voices for 2021.

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