I have written blogs in the past on the need for students to master Fundamental Movement Skills. The need for students to be active and use the large muscles in their body but this article is about the small muscles. The minute movements and fine motor skills young children so often lack today.
Fine motor skills refers to the ability to coordinate the small muscles in ones hands and wrists. The skill of being able to make one’s hands perform a desired action and building the synapsis between the brain and muscles so that this is achieved easily.
Similar to the gross motor skills, for which I created the Maths ‘N’ Movement program, fine motor skills are critical to healthy child development. Actions such as brushing teeth, buttoning a shirt, tying a knot or colouring in within the lines all require dexterity and skill. So too does using cutlery, especially chopsticks, opening and closing zips and buckles on belts.
Yet all too frequently children lack these skills. They are great at one finger typing and coordinating their thumbs to play on their devices but cannot type with all their fingers, pick up small items such as a dropped peanut or use tools such as scissors to cut along a line.
Learn From Play has activities to assist in teaching children these fine motor skills. There are hundreds of printable activities on the website such as dot to dots, matching items and colour by numbers to make learning fine motor skills enjoyable.
There are also our Learn From Play in a Box resources which provide everything a child needs to to cut and paste, paint and colour to create themed art works. The sheets show how to master holding a pencil correctly to form letters and the printed themed worksheets in each box encourage fine motor skills practice and dexterity-based games.
In the dinosaur box there is dough, a rolling pin and cutters, paint, stickers, toys to bury and dig up and more. Every box includes activities to practice the fine movements children need to build strength in their hands and practice the actions needed to develop fine motor skills.
With Occupational Therapists charging $170 for a 45-minute session a Learn From Play Box, with a month worth of activities, seems like a no brainer. Every box includes everything you need to complete 6 craft and physical activities, magnetic letters and handwriting sheets and 6 additional fine motor worksheets. There is also a link in each set of cards to additional themed activities on the Learn From Play website to additional worksheets and games.
A Fine Motor Skills Development Activity
Each fortnight for the rest of this year we will be providing an activity that you can do at home to build the muscles needed for fine motor skills. The first of these is a very simple finger muscle building activity. Young children can do this anywhere – while watching TV, in the car or even in the bath tub - it is that easy. It also involves something every person will be able to find in their home – an elastic band. This could be a rubber band, a hair tie or even the top of a baby sock if you have nothing else on hand. All your little one has to do is use their thumb and one finger to expand and contract the elastic band.
As shown in the image below the band in placed around the finger and the thumb and the fingers opened and closed. The finger is swapped from the pointer finger, to the middle finger, ring finger and baby finger to ensure all fingers are worked equally.
This seemingly simple activity forces the fingers to work against the resistance of the elastic band to build the finger muscles. By completing 10 open and shut motions on each finger each day children will develop their finger muscles and practice counting at the same time. Once mastered the band can be swapped for putty or sticky dough to further build these muscles and change the action to keep children entertained.
To test the effectiveness of this activity have your little one try to pick up a small object such as frozen pea or small beads before completing a week of these activities.
Repeat this activity at the end of the week, having completed 10 repetitions on each finger for each of the 7 days, and you will be amazed at the improvement in their dexterity skills.
Use the comments below to let me know how you found this for your little one or if you have a variation of this that worked well for you.
Stay tuned for our next blog which will focus on pencil grip, teaching lower case letters and another home trick for improving fine motor skills.