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Motor Skills Problem in Five-Year-Old

Toddler and Teenager Expert Advice from Carleton Kendrick, Ed.M., LCSW

Q: My son is 5 years old and is in kindergarten. On his report card the teacher indicated she is very concerned about his small motor skills. When I questioned her, she referred to his sloppy coloring and handwriting. What is age appropriate for writing skills? He seems to have no trouble using a mouse on the computer or building using small objects. I would think these activities use small motor skills. I also wonder if being left-handed has any impact on his handwriting. His teacher seemed surprised when I mentioned it and indicated she taught how to write using her right hand.

A: I would not become alarmed at this teacher's concern although I know it's tough not to be when a teacher says she is "very concerned." Not coloring between the lines and less than fine handwriting are not indications of developmental delay or learning problems at this age. He should not be made to feel badly by her or anyone else for not measuring up to some standard of excellence she has established in these areas.

As a former teacher myself, I am disappointed and surprised that she had no knowledge that he was left-handed; if she is demanding he use his right hand for writing and coloring, she should stop doing so and let him express himself naturally, which is left-handed. If you continue to observe fine motor dexterity at home and can enter into a reasonable discussion with his teacher about not making him feel self-conscious about his coloring and writing, then you will have done your part. What is most important at this stage regarding school is that he develop a curious, healthy, excited attitude about learning and that he is appreciated by you and his teachers for exactly who he is and what he can do at this time. Good luck.

More on: Expert Advice

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.


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