Here are some fine motor guidelines by age ( I teach preschool ages 3-5). If your DS is more than 6-12 months behind on mastery on a skill ( has not met 4 yr old skills by age 5) then you may need to look into an evaluation to help him master skills. This chart is one that gives the range of ages that by the end of the age 90% of kids have mastered that skills.
My DDs are 5y4m and the only skill they have yet to master by 5.5 is tie shoes (that may be a long time coming! I dont think we have 'tie' shoes in the house, mostly slip-ons and boots).
If your DC is more than just a bit behind on skills (more than 6+ months) you may see frustration, agitation, refusal to do work due to fear of failure, and other signs. In young kids (ages 3-5) they become aware of what they can and can not do compared to peers.
This is an age where they like to categorize things and often will compare themselves to others ( X is taller than me, Y runs slower than me, A likes apples just like me). If there is a big enough difference- your DC will notice not matter what adults say. The adults in his life need to reassure him that everyone is different and learns things at a different rate to help him know that is is OK. But, at the same time- if your DC is widely outside of the standard skills ( other kids can draw people and he scribbles at age 5, he 'fists' a pencil instead of attempting to hold it in fingers, etc) expected of a certain age than I would find ways to help him- it will increase his confidence in those skills as well as self-esteem. It will also show him that the adults around him are aware than somethings may distress him and they are there to help.
Teachers at school are used to working with kids of all ages and ranges. There is a developmental 'range' for developing skills. Kids that fall outside that range (unable to use scissors still at age 5 or copy simple shapes) may experience difficulties. There may also be a physical reason for a delay (vision, muscle control, finger strength, etc)
Or possibly he just needs more time. Some kids fall into that 10% of non-mastery by a certain age and that is just they way they operate, they master the skills- just a bit later than standard conventions expect. In that case, time will help and nothing else is needed.
But if you see the fine motor concerns get bigger or he is taking longer to master certain skills, the gap in fine motor skills is getting bigger as the expectations increase- a good OT can work wonders and really give you some exercises to help.
Kindergarten really really is a lot more intense (in the US) than it used to be and requires more fine motor dexterity than it used to. The teachers expect kids to be able to don, zip, button coats/pants/etc. They must be able to eat independently (if they are given food that need spreading or cutting) and be able to write by mid year (simple words, letters, name). If the 'core' skills that are needed before K starts are not in place ( pencil grip, scissor handling, clothes on, eating etc)- it makes it a frustrating time for kids. The incoming K kids dont need to be cutting out abstract shapes, but they do expect the kids to know how to handle scissors and master line cutting quickly and early on in the year - as well as name writing, coloring, and self-help skills (eating/dressing).
2 1/2- 3 Years
- Can string large beads
- Can cut paper with scissors
- Can roll clay into “snake”
- Can draw and copy a horizontal line
- Can throw a ball
3-3 1/2 Years
- Can complete simple puzzles
- Can build a tower of nine small blocks or more
- Can get himself or herself dressed and
- undressed independently; only needs help with buttons and zippers; sometimes still confuses front or back for clothes, and right or left for shoes
- Can feed himself or herself with little or no spilling, drinks from a cup with one hand
3 1/2- 4 Years
- Can string small beads
- Can pour drink from a pitcher if not too heavy
- Can hold a pencil with 3 fingers, but moves forearm and wrist to write, draw and color
4-4 1/2 Years
- Can use scissors to cut both straight and curved lines
- Can manage snaps, buttons, and zippers
- Can draw and copy a cross with one vertical and one horizontal intersecting line
4 1/2- 5 Years
- Can hold fork using fingers
- Can feed soup with little or no spilling by himself or herself
- Can fold paper in half, making sure the edges meet
- Can put a key in a lock and open it
- Can get dressed completely by himself or herself
- Can tie shoelaces
- Can use a dull knife to cut soft foods
- Can draw and copy a diagonal line
- Can cut square, triangle, circle, and other simple pictures with scissors
- Since small muscles of hand have developed, can use a “tripod grasp” with thumb & tips of 1st two fingers and uses fingers only to write, draw and color
- Can copies simple shapes
5 1/2- 6 Years
- Can cut out complex pictures accurately following the outline
- Can copy a sequence of letters and numbers correctly
- Can complete complex puzzles
By 6 years old, children’s fine motor skills have developed sufficiently enough to complete feeding, dressing and writing tasks properly and efficiently. They have developed adequate skillfulness in the use of the hands and body, their bilateral coordination and eye-hand coordination are developed well to complete cutting and writing tasks. Children will continue to develop and refine these skills; however the foundation is laid down within the first six years. This is why parents should assure that your child’s fine motor skills developed are in the normal range during your child’s early childhood.