Introduction – What is Fine Motor Skill?
Fine motor skills are the skills that involve movements using the small muscles in our hands and wrists. We use these mechanisms to carry out various key tasks in our day-to-day life. These small movements come so naturally that most of us perform them like an involuntary reflex. However, fine motor skills are quite complex. They require coordinated efforts between the brain and the muscles. These skills are built on the Gross Motor Skills that help us make bigger movements, like running, jumping and crawling.
Here are some examples of when we use fine motor skills:
- Holding a pen or a pencil
- Drawing pictures
- Writing neatly
- Using a keyboard
- Using scissors, rulers and other tools
Every toddler develops motor skills at a different pace. However, when young kids struggle with fine motor skills, they can face issues with key tasks like handling objects (such as pencils), moving objects with bare fingertips or using tools like scissors. They may face difficulty in learning to tie shoes as well. If your toddler’s fine motor skills need a little extra help, you can try these fun activities. Let’s take a look at the various activities to hone fine motor skills that you as a parents can easily carry out at home with your toddlers using materials available at home:
Play-dough, also known as putty, is often used as a part of the heavy work component of a sensory diet. It can also help in improving a toddler’s fine motor skills. All you need is to encourage your toddler to squeeze, stretch, pinch and roll snakes/worms with the dough. You can even have your little ones try to cut the play-dough with plastic scissors.
How to make the Play-dough?
One can easily make it at home using simple kitchen ingredients such as cornstarch (½ cup), baking soda (1 cup) and water (¾ cup). Due to its ingredients, a parent can rest assured of their child’s safety in case the toddler accidentally (or out of curiosity) puts the dough in their mouth. You can add 2-3 drops of essential oil to enhance the dough’s smell or 4-5 drops of food colouring to enhance the play-dough’s appearance.
Different types of paintings can help strengthen your toddler’s hand-eye coordination as well as manual dexterity. Finger painting gives your toddler an opportunity to use their fingers and to get dirty. It not only allows them to enjoy the activities thoroughly but also stimulates their touch senses. Painting with a brush will help your toddler learn to hold a brush or a similar object such as a pen or a pencil and gain greater control using it as a tool. However, to add a little sensory play to the mix, you can try the ‘scratch & sniff painting’. Scratch & sniff painting appeals to the toddlers’ visual, tactile and olfactory (in simpler terms, smell) senses.
How to make toddler-safe colours?
Mix 4 tablespoons of cornstarch and water together in a saucepan. Keep the mixture in a paste form. Add 1 cup of boiling water and stir well to homogenise the mixture. Turn off the heat and divide the mixture in different containers. Add 3-4 drops of food colouring to each container to provide the solution with its distinct colour. You can even use combinations of colours, for instance, red and yellow to make orange, blue and red for purple and so on.
Get four plastic bowls and fill a handful of uncooked rice into two of the plastic bowls. Give your toddler a small plastic tweezer and grab one for yourself. Then, have a race to see who can transfer their rice into the empty bowl faster, using the tweezers. If your child is struggling because the grains of rice are too small, you may want to begin with breakfast cereals or mini cracker biscuits.
Playing with Sponge
All you need is a clean, new sponge, some water and two bowls. Fill a bowl with water and leave the other bowl empty. Then, ask your toddler to soak the sponge in the water and squeeze the water out into the empty bowl. This simple activity is helpful in strengthening your toddler’s fingers, wrists and forearms.
If you cut the sponge into smaller cubes, you can turn this activity into a game called ‘Wet-Dry-Try’. For this activity, you need a sponge that is cut into small cubes, a chalkboard and a chalk. Toddlers can soak a sponge cube and squeeze out the extra water so it’s not dripping. Then, they can write a letter on the chalkboard using a dampened sponge as a model and trace it with a dry sponge cube. Next, they can write the letter with the chalk.
Gardening & Planting
Digging, gardening and planting trees may seem like activities suited for gross motor skills, however there are various parts of these activities that require smaller muscle control. For example, transferring seedlings to a bigger pot needs hand-eye coordination to safely and carefully carry the plant to the new hole. You can help your toddler with handling the trowel. Gardening and planting also help the toddlers in strengthening their pincer grip when picking up seeds to the plant.
While there are plenty more such ways of engaging your little one with similar activities that target the enhancement of their small , everyday movements, you can always begin with the ones mentioned in this blog in order to allow baby steps for your toddler’s development. These seemingly simple yet complex skills go a long way in the overall development of a child and should never be taken lightly. The positive part being, how absolutely fun these activities can be, even as a parent, and what better way for a toddler to grow than to be happy, focused and fully entertained?