Fine motor skills are the ability to control the small muscles of the body.
For the purpose of this article, I will be focusing mainly on activities to improve the fine motor skills of the finger, hand and wrist muscles but fine motor skills also encompass the small muscles of the feet, toes, lips and tongue.
When we are nurturing and educating our little ones, we quite often focus on key areas such as words, shapes and colours etc but developing a young child's fine motor skills are so very important and quite easily overlooked.
Fine motor skills require strength, fine motor control and hand-eye coordination and are extremely important as they play an essential role in undertaking many of life's key functions. They ultimately enable a child to gain independence and thus develop confidence.
Examples of key life skills that require developed fine motor control:
- Eating food and using cutlery
- Getting dressed
- Brushing teeth
- And even turning pages of a book
Below are just some of the activities that you could undertake at home with your toddler without having to spend much money (..if any at all). They are also in no particular order.
Picking up small objects
This is probably one of the first areas where your child will start using the fine muscles in their fingers. This is the start of developing a pincer grip which is very important when commencing letter formation and handwriting.
Threading is great fun and the good news is that you can use a variety of household (or garden) objects so you don't need to buy any special equipment.
In the past we have used leaves and twigs to make a 'stick wand', threaded penne onto spaghetti or even pipe cleaners through a colander.
Many family homes will have a pot of play-doh or two and honestly, I think the stuff is great. It has entertained my boys for hours and definitely comes in useful while I'm cooking their dinner.
Just rolling and manipulating it to form shapes is constantly strengthening the key muscles required to perform precise movements.
Cutting and sticking
I'm a big fan of cutting and sticking and my youngest absolute loves it. He currently loves cutting out shapes but he will happily cut out the pictures from any magazine that comes through the post whether that's B&Q, M&S or Smyths toys.
Using tweezers or tongs
Do you have a pair of kitchen tongs...if so great you can use them to ask your child to transfer anything from one place to another.
In the first two photos below, the boys were colour sorting the blocks and lego pieces and in the last picture, I stuck some bug counters into play-doh to add some resistance and make it a bit more difficult.
I love a game and this Christmas I asked Santa for a few more.
I've added photos of some of my favourites for improving fine motor skills - Kerplunk, Chopstix, Board Games and Operation but 'Pop Up Pirate' is another firm favourite in our house.
If you have any more suggestions then please pop them in the comments section below.
No explanation needed... but painting doesn't have to be just on paper ...(or on the walls!).
Try painting leaves and twigs, hand painting, even using fruit or vegetables as paint stamps.
Crafting - make a monster
If you think your child may enjoy mazes then click here to gain access to some free resources.
Stacking or balancing blocks
Not everyone is a fan of stickers mainly because they get everywhere and because most are not great for the environment but they are REALLY good for developing fine motor skills which is why I have listed them here.
If anyone knows of any eco-friendly reasonably priced stickers then please let me know in the comments and I will put the link here :-)
Every mummy deserves a pasta necklace...surely!
My boys love tools and unscrewing things but for smaller children, it is safer to start with giant play nuts and bolts... the ones shown below also help with shape and colour matching.
Love it or hate it lego is great for children in so many ways.
I LOVE it but I very much HATE it at 3am in the morning if my son wakes and I tread on it bare foot...ouchie!!
Our favourites are Magformers...which are a little pricey but I love as they last an also Junior Geostix ... we take these out a lot to restaurants and the boys play with them while waiting for their food....LIFESAVERS!!!
Who knew baking could have so much potential for improving fine motor skills. Stirring, transferring the mixture from one place to another, cutting out biscuit shapes, decorating....
These are another great love of mine....purely because I like toys that have more than one role and that will grow with the child.
Peg boards are great for developing fine motor skills, learning about colours and shapes, threading, stacking and also for basic numeracy.
LOVE LOVE LOVE THESE!
Dino needed to brush his teeth as he had smelly breath apparently!
Many of these activities will also serve to develop other key skills such as hand-eye coordination, hand dominance, concentration, imagination etc but most importantly these key skills are all learnt through play.