How to Encourage Fine Motor Skills Development in Your Child
As they grow, children develop both gross and fine motor skills that help them move and do the things they need to do each day. Gross motor skills revolve around big movements like crawling, walking, standing, running, and so on.
And, what are fine motor skills in child development?
They are those movements that use small muscles, generally those within the hands, fingers, wrists, feet, and toes, and eye. This could be using buttons, eating, cutting with scissors, writing, and so on.
Children will naturally learn a certain level of fine motor skills on their own. However, spending time with them developing these skills is imperative.
Children need a certain level of fine motor skills to be ready for school. Also, it is important to focus on their fine motor skills development that they will need to use throughout their life.
We don’t tend to think about how often we use fine motor skills daily. But, without the ability to use them to learn, children often get frustrated and give up, which then affects their self-confidence and independence.
Fine motor development
There are three fundamental skills that your child must learn before they get to school to ensure they aren’t left behind. This includes establishing hand dominance, crossing the midline, and developing the tripod pencil grasp.
- Hand dominance
Are you right-handed or left-handed? Everyone has a dominant hand that they are more proficient in using for writing, eating, and other functional activities throughout the day.
This dominance usually starts to show between 4 and 6. However, it can show much earlier. As a parent, it can be really tempting to help your child choose a hand as their dominant hand.
However, it is more important to encourage the use of both hands while playing. This allows for a more natural selection of hand dominance.
If you are unsure which hand your child prefers to use, the easiest way to tell is by looking at which hand your child uses to grasp toys and other objects that are presented at the midline.
This, combined with the hand they use spontaneously to use the object will often give a good indication of which hand is more dominant.
- Crossing the midline
We just mentioned that presenting an object at the midline can help determine which hand is more dominant, but what is the midline?
The midline is an imaginary line running down the body, separating it into the left and right sides. Crossing the midline then is when a child moves their arms or legs across that imaginary line to perform a task.
This includes tasks like putting on shoes, writing, and cutting items with scissors, as well as wiping a table, or sweeping the floor.
Being able to cross the midline helps in forming shapes and symbols, as well as being able to write certain letters.
- The tripod pencil grasp
You probably remember being taught the right way to hold a pencil, but it is something you learn long before school starts – being at school just emphasizes the right way to do it.
A tripod pencil grasp involves working three fingers to hold a pencil; the other two fingers are used to stabilize the hand, allowing for the pencil’s movement.
The best way to practice the tripod grasp is by using items like tongs and tweezers to sort things.
Activities that encourage the development of fine motor skills
You can do several activities with your child to encourage the development of their fine motor skills. If your child attends an early education center like Treasured Tots, they will be doing similar activities daily to help develop their skills.
- Pincer grasp practice
Toys that have dials, switches, and knobs are a great way to teach the pincer grasp.
Busy boards are a fantastic way to do this (as well as keeping your child’s mind active), as is making a game of picking up small items like pasta using the thumb and forefinger.
- Stacking toys
There is no doubt that toddlers love stacking toys, and this is a great way to provide stability to the hand and wrist, allowing blocks to be controlled.
You can start by using large blocks and then moving to smaller building blocks. Stacking toys can be used almost anywhere and are perfect for bath toys.
Many children have the ability to use a crayon around 15 months, and by two, they can scribble on paper or in a scrapbook.
Big starter crayons are great for toddlers, but chalk and finger paints are also a great way to get them drawing.
Follow your child’s lead with this – some children are ready before others, and some start to attempt to “write” early on.
- Using utensils
Children tend to learn the pincer grasp initially when eating finger foods. Fine motor skills can be developed from there by using a fork and spoon at all meals.
Yes, they will make a mess, and they won’t always want to use them. But, resist the urge to jump in and help.
Allowing a child to figure out how to use utensils is a great way to develop those skills.
Fine motor skills form the base for many skills and movements your child will need as they grow older and start to attend school.
Some of these skills are important to develop early on, while others will develop further as they start kindergarten and pre-primary. Spending time doing activities to help your child develop their fine motor skills is essential to their education.
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