You wake up, check your phone, eat some breakfast, make and pack some lunches, button your shirt or blouse, zip your pants, brush your teeth, comb your hair, pull on some socks, tie your shoe laces, turn the car key. So many things we do each day require fine motor skills that it's easy to take them for granted and forget how vital they are.
What are fine motor skills?
Fine motor skills involve the use of small muscles in our hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Fine motor skills involve the movements of small muscles that require your child's brain to coordinate between the action and what they are seeing. Fine motor skills can impact things like holding a fork to eat or using a pencil to write.
Fine motor skills start to develop when a child uses the smaller muscles in their hands, wrists, fingers, feet and toes. Developing those muscles includes actions like grasping, holding, pressing, or using a pincer grip (holding something between the fore-finger and thumb).
For young children of preschool, kindergarten and early school age, fine motor skill development is extremely important. For a fun way to improve your child's motor skills when it's rainy outside, try making one of these 7 things with them.
Why are fine motor skills important?
Fine motor skills are vital for doing everyday activities like buttoning up a shirt, using utensils to eat, tying shoelaces, cutting with scissors and writing. As adults, we use fine motor skills so often in our daily lives that it’s easy to not realise that the task we are completing requires a certain skill set and the use of certain muscles.
If a young child is unable to do these everyday tasks, it can affect their self-confidence, ability to develop self-care and independence skills, and also their academic performance.
Below you'll find 10 ways to improve your child's fine motor skills. Once you have learned these 10 ways we recommend next reading about the important benefits of pretend play for young kids. You can out those benefits here.
10 ways parents can help children develop and improve their fine motor skills
These 10 techniques are especially effective for teaching pre-school or kindergarten aged children fine motor skills, but they are also necessary and useful for younger and older children's motor skill development.
Parents can encourage and help kids to improve their fine motor skills with simple, fun activities. If you’re stuck for ideas, try a few of the activities below.
Tactile play with good old favorite materials like play-dough is a great way for kids to experiment and build fine motor skills. To make this even more interesting you could make the play-dough with your child first before they play with it. Here's a video that shows you how to make your own play-dough.
Do puzzles together. Picking up and moving puzzle pieces into place helps develop pincer grasp.
Watching or helping your child learn how to complete a puzzles can sometimes be frustrating, they can be impatient and give up easily, lose pieces or put them in their mouth. But if you stick with it the rewards are worth it. Engage with and encourage your child as much as you can to compete easy puzzles at first and then progressively harder one's, doing this will improve their hand - eye skills, co-ordination and motor skills.
Watching the smile and sense of satisfaction that your child will get from completing a puzzle provides tremendous satisfaction for parents.
See the top rated puzzles for kids here.
3. Drawing, colouring in and painting
Encourage your child to draw and paint. This helps not only their fine motor skills, but also creativity and imagination too. Try different types of painting and different mediums, like crayons, chalk, finger paints, brush painting or charcoal, to spark their interest and strengthen your child’s hand-eye coordination. Painting with a paint brush helps kids learn to hold a brush and gain greater control using things in their hands including pencils and other items. Paint-by-number can be an excellent form of brush painting for young children, Faber-Castell do an excellent version here.
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4. Using kitchen tongs or tweezers
Create a game for kids can using a small pair of kitchen tongs or tweezers to pick up some small objects like sultanas, grapes, pasta, and buttons, coins into a bowl.
5. Cutting with scissors
Using scissors is a great way to strengthen fine motor skills as well as improve hand-eye coordination and concentration. You can draw shapes for your child to cut around. Make some paper snowflakes. Even cut play-dough. Make sure you use age appropriate scissors.
Why not try making this fine motor skills man with your child. Here's how.
6. Bath time play
Use cups to fill and pour out, sponges or squeaky rubber toys to squeeze. Try not to stress about water going on the floor, you can always wipe it up afterwards.
7. Sand play
Like bath time play, using cups to fill and pour and out is fantastic fun and also encourages sensory development. Scoop and dig with spoons. Use moulds. Draw pictures and build things. If you’re inside, magic or kinetic sand is a great alternative.
8. Build with blocks and Lego
Stack, connect and build things together with blocks and Lego. These activities encourage fine pushing and pulling movements. Lego is also great for fostering creativity. Building with LEGO is an effective way to work and develop your child's fine motor skills. As children build and even pick up LEGO pieces they will, build stronger muscles in their hands and improve co-ordination, this will help them to improve with other skills, such as learning to hold a pencil and learning to write.
Other skills children can learn from playing with Lego include persistence, a sense of accomplishment and an improved ability to solve puzzles.
9. Eye dropper tests
Put some water a few glasses. Pour a few drops of food colouring in each glass, so that you have different coloured water in each glass. Have a couple of empty bowls and glasses where kids can use an eye dropper to experiment with mixing different coloured water together. Try using vinegar instead of water, and have a bowl of bicarbonate soda that will fizz up when the coloured vinegar is dropped in.
10. Threading and lacing
Thread different size pasta or beads onto strings, laces and pipe cleaners. Tie knots and bows in the string. Finger knitting is easy and fun too!
Learning to brush teeth is good for your child's motor development
It can be difficult to teach young children to brush their own teeth, especially to get them to brush properly, but doing so will help their find motor skill development. Click here to learn 10 ways to improve your child's teeth hygiene and improve their teeth brushing competency.
What to do if you’re concerned
Issues with coordination and balance may not be noticeable until kids reach school age. But if you’re concerned about your child’s gross motor skills, we have Children’s Occupational Therapists who can help. Our specialists support pre-school kids and their families to develop basic sensory awareness and motor skills to help them with self-care skills and get ready for school. Call 9028 0153 to make an appointment.
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