Fine Motor Skills
The development of fine motor skills involves the coordination of intrinsic hand muscles and movements with the eyes. Fine motor development enables us to perform tasks like writing, grasping small objects and manipulating clothing fasteners to name a few. Many times, children who have difficulty with these tasks lack fine motor coordination and strength.
While the development of technology has been AMAZING for so many medical advances, research describes that it is showing a hinderance in the development of important fine motor skills in children. Smartphones and iPads do not influence "muscle-building" play like connecting legos, stringing beads, cutting with scissors and activating cause and effect toys. It is crucial to incorporate fine motor activities not only for infants and toddlers, but all school-aged children as well to build those tiny hand muscles and promote proper development.
There are SO many ways to work on fine motor skills by simply using common household items/toys that you may already have!
Here are just a few suggestions..
Tape! I love tape. Peeling tape can help to promote SO many different skills, such as pincer grasp, strengthening and bilateral coordination to name a few. You can apply tape to walls, tables, floors refrigerators, boxes... OR as pictured here, you can even apply tape to puzzles, board game pieces and so much more!
Rubber bands! This picture shows placing rubber bands on a can, but you can use ANYTHING.. a tennis ball, a water bottle, a cup.. Whatever you have at home! This activity helps to strengthen hands and promote bilateral coordination. Have your child put the rubber bands on the can and then take them off. Want to change it up? Call out the color order of rubber bands to put on or take off. Promote working memory with multi-step directions: "Snap the yellow band two times then take off a blue band." OR snap the rubber bands to the rhythm of a song. The options are endless!
Tennis balls! My students and I LOVE this activity and it's SO simple! "Feeding the tennis ball." Just make a slit in the tennis ball about 1 1/2 to 2 inches wide, give it a face and you have a tennis ball puppet! Use one hand to squeeze the tennis ball and the other to feed him. You can feed him with beads, pennies, crumbled up tissue paper, pom-poms, whatever you have! Change it up by incorporating tongs, utensils- you name it!
Sponges! Take a sponge, soak it in water and then squeeze the water out! You can transfer between buckets, add it into bathtime routines or incorporate it outside to help water plants! This task is a GREAT strengthening activity!
Stickers! Peeling and placing stickers is such as great way to help elicit a pincer grasp and bilateral coordination skills. The activity could be as simple as placing stickers across your child's name! You could also make fun mazes to add the stickers to. This is also a great way to work on prewriting strokes as well!
Clothespins! SUCH a great fine motor tool to use at home! You can create all kinds of clothespin activities. Use cardboard, thick poster board, plates, etc. to attach the clothespins to. You can even incoporate matching by matching letters, numbers, colors, etc. Or, turn it into a craft as pictured below. Be creative! Don't have clothespins? That's okay! You could also use chip clips, hair clips, or binder clips!
Hole punchers! Another GREAT fine motor tool to work on coordination, strengthening AND bilateral coordination. You can upgrade/downgrade the activity by using different paper thickness or giving specified targets to hole punch. One of my FAVORITE activities is to cut out pieces of fruit to hole punch while reading The Very Hungry Caterpillar! :)
Stringing! The benefits of stringing/threading are endless. It works on SO many skills.. grasping, in-hand manipulation, visual perceptual skills, visual motor skills, bilateral coordination, cognitive skills, etc. It doesn't have to be your typical bead and string. Instead of beads, use cereal like Fruit Loops, dried pasta noodles like penne, popcorn, pool noodles, etc. Instead of string, use pipe cleaners, straws, chopsticks, etc.
Playdough!Use it during imaginative play (i.e. create snakes, mold flowers, press cookies). There are also so many playdough activities/templates available online. If you have a Pinterest account, just type in "playdough activities for kids" and look at all of the possibilities! Don't have playdough? Make your own! Do a Google search for the best HOMEMADE playdough recipes!
Buttons! Buttons are a great household tool that can be used in a variety of ways to target so many different skills. Since they are so versatile, I listed multiple activities that can be created just from using buttons!
Similar to one of the activities pictured above, this activity can be used to work on prewriting skills, handwriting skills, visual motor skills and fine motor control. Create whatever design you want.. mazes, shapes, letters, etc. and use the buttons to follow the guide!
You can create a button drop! This is similar to a pom-pom drop, however, picking up a button is actually more challenging that picking up a pom-pom. Buttons are a great way to elicit a tip pinch grasp. You can also promote bilateral coordination by picking up with one hand and transferring to another hand. You can promote in-hand maniupation skills by "walking" a button from your fingers to your palms and back again. So many skills from one activity!
Button threading! You can create a button threading/stacking game using common household items like wooden skewers, pipe cleaners, toothpicks.. whatever you have! Use some kind of mount like playdough, a box, a yogurt cup, jello, etc.
Button imprints! You can use buttons as a playdough accessory! Make cool designs while working on fine motor control and strengthening! Don't have playdough? You can use cookie dough, pizza dough, clay, putty, foam craft sheets, etc.
Button flip! I LOVE this activity!! Such a great way to work on dexterity while also building and having a "purpose" to the activity for your child! I'm sure we all have unused corks laying around that can be used to create this activity! :) If not, you could also use the top of a water bottle, knobs on a kitchen cabinet, wide markers, etc. The velcro is helpful, but not necessary for this activity.
Sorting buttons! This activity not only works on fine motor skills and dexterity, but also color identification and recognition. Using a muffin tin is such a great way to create this activity, but you could also use bowls, match to colored sheets of paper, etc.
Pom-poms! Pom-poms are a simple, small manipulative that can be used in so many ways! I have SO many pom-poms in every color. I'm practically a pom-pom hoarder. There are SO many activities that you can do with pom-poms that I couldn't just limit it to one picture/description.
You can use them for a simple pom-pom transfer by picking up pom-poms with a pincer grasp and placing in a targeted area (i.e. bowl, cereal box, emply yogurt containers, etc.).
You can upgrade the activity by using tongs, clothespins, tweezers or chopsticks to pick up the pom-poms.
You can upgrade the activity even more by incorporating color sorting skills as well!
Looking for another way to promote that pincer grasp? Put pom-poms in a whisk! This activity ALSO promotes bilateral coordination while holding the whisk with their alternative hand!!
You could also use pom-poms to play a fun game of pom-pom push by using pom-poms and a turkey baster to blow the pom-poms across the finish line! Don't have a turkey baster? Use a straw! Now you're even working on breath support!