Improving your child's fine motor skills

“Fine Motor Skills” has become a real buzz term over recent years but what are they and why are they so important to your young child?

“Fine motor skills” are the ability to use the smaller muscles of the hands with accuracy, strength and purpose. Fine motor skills are essential for the performance of everyday activities (doing up buttons and zips, using cutlery), in play (doing puzzles, lego brick building, hobbies) and for academic activities (holding and using a pencil, using scissors).

It is therefore clear that poor fine motor skills can have a huge impact on all aspects of a child’s life, potentially inhibiting their independence and impinging on their confidence and self-esteem. This can quickly become a viscous circle as children with poor fine motor skills tire easily and get quickly frustrated when carrying out activities aimed at improving such skills, making skill acquisition a difficult and time-consuming process!

Ideas for improving fine motor skills

There are lots of fun activities that parents can do with your child to help improve their fine motor skills from the comfort and security of home. The key of course is to cater to your child’s individual abilities, preferences and attention span!

• Threading & lacing activities: sliding beads (of increasingly small sizes) onto lengths of rope, string or pipe cleaners, making pasta necklaces.

• Puzzles: again, start with puzzles made of large pieces and gradually reduce the size of the puzzle pieces.

• Tweezers, tongs and pegs: creating games with tongs and pegs can help improve the strength of a child’s fingers.

• Play-doh and plasticine: Alternate manipulating play-doh with just the fingers or the whole hand, use a variety of “tools” (rolling pins, knives, carvers, cutters etc.)

• Construction games: Pushing Lego bricks together and pulling them apart is great for strengthening fingers. It’s also lots of fun!

• Craft activities: Painting, cutting, gluing, sticking, colouring, taping (etc.) all involve a variety of fine motor skills and have the added benefit of enabling the child to create something of which s/he can be proud!

• Cooking: Cutting, rolling, stirring, measuring all involve fine motor skills and baking with a child can also be a great way of getting them interested in the food that they eat.

• Object manipulation: posting plastic lids into a cardboard box, playing with rice or lentils by decanting them between different containers.