Fine motor skills are those that involve use of small muscles in the hand, fingers, and thumb. With the development of fine motor skills, your child is able to complete more advanced tasks such as feeding, holding a writing utensil, and buttoning and unzipping clothes.
Below is a list of fun fine motor activities that promotes refinement of small hand-coordination.
Water play. Set up an area for your child to experiment with water. Have him pour, dump, and splash the water. Include squirt toys such as water guns and squeeze toys (fish) to encourage hand or pinch strength.
More information: Finger strength is required for everyday self-care tasks including buttoning and zipping articles of clothing, cutting a steak at dinner, and flossing; it helps develop the endurance to complete tasks such as writing a full page; and helps with larger motor tasks including climbing play structures or holding rackets in racket sports.
Building. Encourage building with different sized blocks including Duplos, Mega Blocks, nesting boxes, and small one-inch blocks. Take it up a notch and include other household objects or toys.
More information: building blocks facilitates learning in all areas of development including physical (i.e., fine and gross motor), cognition (i.e., intellectual), language, and social-emotional. Playing and building with different blocks allows children to explore the varying shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and weight. Constructing towers and knocking the blocks over teaches children cause and effect and offers them sensory (i.e., auditory, visual, and tactile) experiences. In addition, in a study by Wolfgang, Stannard, and Jones (2009), the researchers concluded that block play performance is a predictor of mathematics achievement in later school. Pull out the blocks and play!
Drawing. Encourage your child to draw or paint on a variety of surfaces. Have her use her fingers to draw on the sand or in shaving cream, hold a paintbrush to pain on paper or a canvas taped onto the wall, pencils/crayons/markers on paper, chalk on the sidewalk, and paint on various objects (e.g., vase, picture frame, etc.).
More information: Like most activities, drawing helps with all areas of development. Children can at times draw to express themselves and you can use this activity to engage and connect with your child. Not only does it stimulate their creative and imaginative skills, it helps children extend their concentration skills. Motorically, drawing helps with manipulative skills (i.e., using a refined grasp when holding a writing utensil) and serves as a foundation for successful handwriting.
Digging. Encourage your child to hide his favorite toys under the sand by scooping, shoveling, or pouring sand over the items. Have your child look for the toys.
More information: digging-type of activities provides opportunities for a child to use hand-eye coordination while grading their strength for digging, pulling, scooping, and shoveling varying amounts of sand. Digging also provides a child with a rich tactile experience when they use their hands to look for toys.
Cooking. Have your child help with stirring, pouring, cutting, rolling, and mixing.
More information: Cooking fosters opportunities to target all areas of development. Following directions from adults requires strong receptive communication skills (listening), attention and memory (cognitive task), and effective social interaction skills; and helps promote independence in self-care skills. Like digging in the sand, cooking offers children a wonderful sensory experience while touching, smelling, and tasting foods; and promotes fine motor development to help with more advanced tasks.
Cutting. Introduce your child to scissors. Cut a variety of different things such as play dough, paper, and straws. When he has control of using scissors have him snip pieces of papers, then lines, and eventually move to designs and shapes.
More information: cutting allows a child to work on the small muscles in the fingers and palms of their hands through continuous opening and closing of the hand. The same muscles are used for gripping things like writing and eating utensils, toothbrush, and putting on socks and pants.
Puzzles. Introduce varying degrees of difficulty for puzzle play. Start with two-piece large knob puzzles and move to five-piece puzzles without knobs. Have your child put coins in a piggy bank or complete shape sorter cubes.
More information: puzzle-play offers a child opportunity to practice their perception and concepts and attention and memory skills (both part of cognition) while manipulating puzzle pieces. Varying degrees of a puzzle’s difficulty help strengthen a child’s functional grip/grasp of objects; and promotes bilateral hand skills (i.e., hand-eye coordination), postural control and stability, and upper extremity control. Puzzle play stimulates development of skilled finger movements for later activities such as writing, cutting, climbing, and brushing.
Play dough. Encourage your child to manipulate the play dough in different ways by squeezing, rolling, pinching, poking, and cutting (with adult supervision). Make different things using cookie cutters and tool sets (e.g., rolling pin, pizza cutter, stamps, etc.) including cookies and pizza.
More information: play dough allows a child to experiment with hand and finger movement control when he/she exerts force against resistance while manipulating tools during play. Movement control developed during play helps with everyday tools such as cutlery, toothbrush, hairbrush, and scissors.
Beading. Make bracelets or necklaces out of varying sized beads or edible jewelry using Cheerios, Fruit Loops, Lucky Charms, or Lifesavers.
More information: beading not only helps with fine motor development, but helps with perceptual-motor activities that require hand-eye coordination. Beading promotes different grasps (depending on the size of the bead or object), bilateral coordination of the child’s hands, planning of what colors or designs to use (cognitive skill), and patience. Last, when a child accomplishes this task, he/she can eat his/her creation!
Clothespins. Integrate clothespins into play or activities to encourage the pincer grasp. Hang pictures on a string, hang up clothing on a line, and pick up small objects (e.g., cotton balls, pompons, etc.) using the clothespin.
More information: clothespins help strengthen a child’s pincer/pincher grasp and promotes utilization of hands and fingers for manipulating everyday items including holding a pencil for writing, using cutlery during mealtime, and tying shoelaces.
The what and how of fine motor coordination. [image]. (2017). Retrieved from https://parentinghub.co.za/2017/03/the-what-and-how-of-fine-motor-co-ordination/
Wolfgang, C. H., Stannard, L. L., & Jones, I. (2009). Block play performance among preschoolers as a predictor of later school achievement in mathematics. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 15, 173-180.