Friday, February 15, 2013

What are fine motor skills?

Fine motor skills are the execution of small, precise movements of the hand and fingers. These skills develop in infancy as babies begin to use refined  pincer grasps to pick up small items of food. As babies start to crawl, they strengthen the small muscles of the hand building intrinsic hand strength. Each step of development through infancy, toddler hood and into childhood is important in building fine motor strength and coordination. Tasks that require fine motor skills include:

Buttoning buttons
Zipping and unzipping
Lacing and tying shoes
Using eating utensils
Building with Lego's
Pre-writing and handwriting
Lacing/stringing beads
Playing with play-doh or putty
Putting puzzles together
Using isolated finger movements to point

Children who have delayed fine motor skills, often exhibit challenges in a few or all of the tasks listed above. Children with sensory processing challenges, often times, also have difficulties with fine motor coordination. This is not to say that all children with fine motor challenges have sensory processing issues. However, there is typically an underlying cause to these challenges. If you feel that your child is having difficulties or getting frustrated  in any of these areas,  please post a comment or contact Michelle via email, FB, or phone. 

Here are some activities that can assist in improving a child's fine motor strength and coordination important for many life tasks. When performing these tasks, it is extremely important to find the "just right challenge." The activity should not be too easy that the child is not gaining any strength in their hands. It should also not be too difficult where they give up because it is just too hard. The just right challenge makes kids work and build skills, while also having fun!
When teaching handwriting to children, don't be afraid to initially leave the pencil and paper behind!
Multi-sensory approaches to learning shapes, letters and numbers work best to help the brain remember the letter, and also, how to form it properly. Multi-sensory approaches also build fine motor strength, coordination and control. Some examples are as follows:
  • Roll play-doh or putty into letters
  • Using an isolated pointer finger, draw letters in rice, shaving cream,  on a cutting board or on a carpet
  • Build letters with blocks
  • Outline a drawn letter with stickers
  • Making pretzels is a great activity as well, which works on fine motor strength kneading the dough. Then, instead of making pretzel shapes, make letters!
  • Finger paint letters working on an easel or a large piece of paper taped to the wall. Working on a vertical surface helps build up shoulder strength and improve proximal stability. Therefore, increasing fine motor skills.
Encourage a top to bottom approach when teaching letter formation. I have used the Handwriting without Tears program for years with great success! This program can be initiated in pre-k and continue beyond 6th grade, depending on the student's needs.

More Fine Motor Activities:
Using putty, play-doh, dough
  • Squeeze, pull and roll into balls, pinch using just a pincer grasp (thumb and pointer finger), push with fingers stretching out the putty and your hands! Hide small objects such as pennies in the putty and have your child find them.
Clothes pins
  • Place clothes pins on the rim of a bowl.
  • Make clothes pin towers.
  • Design your clothes pins (paint, color with markers, place small stickers on them) then use them to hang great kid artwork around the house! 
Use zoosticks, tongs, chopsticks, tweezers
  • Pick up small items such as cotton balls, small pop-beads, cheerios.
  • Transfer items with one of the above from one side of the body to the other placing them in a target. This is a nice activity that also works on crossing midline.
Penny Activity
  • Place penny in child's hand and have him work it to his fingertips then back to his palm working up to 10x's. Switch hands.
Pop-beads (large for infants, small for toddlers and older)
  • Push beads together making a train then pull them apart and use zoosticks to pick them up.
  •  Work on patterns with children while using pop-beads.
  • Using small Lego's are also a great alternative to pop-beads and they build intrinsic hand strength.
Cutting Games:
  • Cutting straight lines.
  • Cut circles, zig-zags, curves.
  • Cut out complex shapes.
  • Change the paper width to increase resistance to reach a "just right challenge!" 
  • Trouble - Push down middle roller with one hand.
  • Jenga
  • Pick-Up Stix.
  • Shuffle Cards then play Go Fish!
  • Lacing and learning to tie
  • Zipping and unzipping
  • Doing buttons - You can also have your child button and unbutton large, easier buttons on a jacket or old sweater

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