You’ve been hearing about fine motor skills since your child was an infant. You know your child needs to develop them, but how can you know if you’re providing the right opportunities for that development? Read on to learn what fine motor skills are, and what can you do to help your child develop them appropriately.
What Are Fine Motor Skills?
Fine motor skills refers to skills that require a refined use of the smaller muscles in the fingers, hands, and forearms. Think buttoning coats, using scissors, holding pencils, opening sandwich bags, etc.
It’s important to develop fine motor skills so that these tasks can be done well — and at a reasonable pace.
Just like learning to walk took effort, trial and error, and gradual development of necessary muscles, fine motor skill development takes time too. Many independent skills have to come together to make the task happen.
Why Does Your Child Need to Develop These Skills?
Think of all the things your fingers do to get you through the day. You wash your hair, brush your teeth, get dressed, sign forms, eat food, and so much more. Your child needs these skills to get through life as well.
Fine motor skills affect academics (writing, using scissors), playing (dressing up dolls, building with blocks), and self care (getting dressed, eating). These skills help your child develop confidence, independence, and an enjoyment of life.
As fine motor skills develop, your child also learns more and more about how her body works and how to interact with the world.
Fine motor skills develop over time. A baby goes from batting at toys to grasping them. A toddler stacks rings and turns pages of a board book. By preschool, children are feeding themselves and beginning to put puzzles together. (This handy graphic outlines basic motor skills milestones.)
Don’t be worried if your child can’t do all of these things perfectly yet. The goal is progress and development over time.
Fun Ways to Improve Fine Motor Skills
The good news is you’ve likely been giving your child chances to develop fine motor skills all along. As early as infancy, tummy time gives babies the chance to push up and swipe at objects, strengthening those fine motor skills.
When your child was a baby and you let him feed himself finger foods? You were giving him a chance to develop his fine motor skills.
Stacking blocks and playing with play dough? Yep, and yep.
These activities, and countless others through the years of your child’s life, have been developing fine motor skills. So what can you do to keep encouraging development of fine motor skills?
These fine motor skills activities will help your child develop necessary skills — while having a blast!
It’s messy, yes. But oh so fun! And finger painting helps build your child’s finger dexterity. To make it less stressful on you, Mom or Dad, take the finger painting outside where you don’t have to worry about a rainbow of colors “decorating” your furniture.
This is so easy, it’s almost crazy it could also be something that develops a skill. Give your child a few buckets of water, a few sponges, and let her soak and squeeze. You can challenge her to fill an empty bucket by squeezing a sponge into it, or just step back and let her explore.
Cut the Lawn
No, your preschooler isn’t old enough to operate the lawnmower (yet). But hand her a pair of child scissors and ask her to cut the lawn. (Stay close to supervise safety.) She’ll have so much fun using scissors outside.
Use a Hammer
Give your child a safe mallet or hammer, and let her break soft rocks into sand. You can come up with dozens of different things to hammer, and this will also build hand-eye coordination skills along with fine motor skills. Anna from The Imagination Tree put colored matchsticks into a foam block for a fun fine motor skills activity.
Colorful Eye Dropper Activity
What you’ll need:
- Clean eyedroppers
- An empty ice cube tray
- Small containers
- Food coloring
Fill your small containers with water, and add different colors of food coloring to each one. Give your child one or two clean eyedroppers and show her how to use them to suck up the water. Let her put the different colors of water into the ice cube trays to see how colors mix together. She’ll have so much fun experimenting, she’ll have no idea she’s developing fine motor skills.
Play Doh — With a Twist
Playing with play doh is great for developing fine motor skills. But take it a step or two further and add other fine motor skill activities to play doh time. Give your child varieties of dried pasta to incorporate into his play doh creations. Hand him a pair of child-safe scissors too. He can use the scissors to cut the play doh and the dried pasta. And he can stick the pasta into the play doh in a variety of creative ways — developing imagination and fine motor skills at the same time!
Eat with Chopsticks
We can’t guarantee this will be a successful endeavor, but your child will sure have fun trying to manipulate the utensils.
Bake — and Decorate
Bring your preschooler into the kitchen with you when you bake and cook. Let her stir, measure, and place chocolate chips and raisins. These motions will build on her fine motor skills. Let her add decorations to your baked goods. You won’t end up with masterpieces, but your child’s works of edible art will be something she can take pride in. After all, tiny decorations aren’t easy with tiny fingers!
Pin the Clothespin
Manipulating clothespins is great for developing fine motor skills. Give your child a handful of clothespins and various pieces of cardboard and fabric. Have your child pin to her heart’s content.
The possibilities for fine motor skills activities are endless. As you look around your house and go about your day, see how many fine motor skills activities you can have your child do.
At UDA Creative Arts Preschool, we’re passionate about helping children be their best selves in all aspects, including motor skills. To schedule a tour of our preschool, give us a call at (801) 523-5930, or contact us online.