Monday, April 23, 2012

* Playful Ways To Help Your Young Child Develop Fine Motor Control

I thought I would write a post today about helping young children develop fine motor control. Gross motor skills are the large movements you perform with your body and include things like balance, walking, running, etc. Gross motor control seems to get all of the glory with childhood milestones - first roll over, crawling, and first steps. Fine motor skills are the ways we use our hands, fingers, and arms. How we manipulate objects and use tools like pencils and scissors. Did you write down fine motor skill milestones like the first time your child used their pincer grasp? The first time your child picked up an object between their thumb and forefinger or transferred an object from one hand to the other? Probably not.

All children develop at different rates. My daughters have always shown a natural and early(!) tendency to have excellent fine motor control. I'm guessing there is a large genetic component since I've always enjoyed working with my hands and my parents and grandparents have as well. But, I also think there is an environmental factor influencing my children as well. Our home has always been filled with what I would call "fine motor friendly" play activities. It is what I enjoy doing with my girls. We enjoy creative things like playing with play dough, coloring, and stringing beads. We put together puzzles, play in our sensory boxes, and sort and organize toys (I'm an organization nerd too!) 

When your young child engages in playful activities that boost their fine motor skills, you are helping them develop their pre-writing skills. By providing your child with multiple experiences and opportunities to develop their hand, arm, and finger muscles you are helping them get ready to write, cut, and button buttons - important life skills. 

Today I'm going to share some playful ways to boost fine motor control with the special children in your life. Whether you're a parent, grandparent, teacher, or other childcare provider - these are some successful and kid-friendly ways to sneak in some fine motor development for small children. Did you know that children develop fine motor skills at different rates? Some kids are well developed by age 2 while others may still be struggling in kindergarten or first grade. 

One of our favorite family activities is coloring and drawing.

This photo of "E" was taken when she was about 18 months old. 
It's her first time drawing with chunky crayons on a big pad of drawing paper.
I waited to introduce the crayons to her until she stopped putting everything in her mouth. 
We were just scribbling and exploring. I quit when she wanted to, I did not push her. 
I kept it low-key, it was a creative play activity. 
Coloring with chunky crayons, soy based crayon rocks, or other writing materials 
(like markers, pencils, etc.)  is a mini work out for those tiny muscles in your child's hands and fingers. 

Drawing with stubby and small bits of chalk and crayons forces the hand to grip with fingertips,
this helps to build different muscles than a traditional pencil grip.

Transferring and mixing colored water (food coloring plus water) 
in little cups, cupcake tins, or in this case up-cycled frozen mini quiche trays
with an eye dropper or pipette builds hand-eye coordination and pincer grasp practice.

Manipulating small objects like this marble and golf tee balancing activity
is also great for fine motor development. 
(see link to my highlighted post for directions)

String beads on pipe cleaners or bits of yarn.
This is fun to do with circle shaped cereal as well!

Chenille pipe cleaners can also be poked into an empty kitchen shaker.

Sort small objects like these beads (buttons, cereal, tiny rocks, or shells) 
We like to use egg cartons and mini ice cube trays. 

Older children can still enjoy sorting but you can incorporate numbers and counting 
to turn it into a math game as well. 

Tiny erasers are fun to sort and count and come in  many different themes and styles.

For an older child (preschool on up) you can set up an activity tray like this one.
It has strips of paper to practice cutting with scissors.
A hole punch with strips of paper (those whole hand squeezing muscles are tricky!)
Pencils and a pencil sharpener to practice gripping and turning. 

Wax covered pieces of yarn called Wikki Stix or Bendaroos
are fun to play with and manipulate. 
Here you can see the way my daughter outlined a coloring book picture with them. 
They are virtually mess free - bonus! 

My daughters enjoy building with toothpicks and mini marshmallows. 
It requires hand eye coordination, dexterity and you get a little sweet treat
to nibble while you create and have fun! 

By incorporating fine motor activities into your child's playtime you will help boost your child's success in pre-school and kindergarten classrooms. For more ideas, visit my friends over at Mom's Homeroom and check out this article for a comprehensive list of activities that help your child's fine motor control

Pink and Green Mama, MaryLea

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