It is never too early to provide your child with opportunities that will help build their fine motor skills.This week we have focused on the importance of strong fine motor skills when entering Kindergarten, but it is also important for children as young as 6 months to get to explore and play with toys that will encourage them to use their small finger and hand muscles.
As parents, we often tend to overlook the significance of fine motor skills as we are making sure our child accomplishes many gross motor milestones such as rolling over, sitting up, crawling and finally walking or running, for others. That would be both my girls.
As you watch your child accomplish each milestone, recording each one in their baby book, it is easy to neglect the little things they are able to do. For example, being able to grab a set of keys and shake them or even put in their mouth is allowing your child to learn and discover sounds and texture. When your child starts to pick up blocks and can stack them or maybe sometimes throw or knock them down, they are learning cause and effect and problem solving. When they are introduced to solids and/or finger foods, they are not only learning how to feed themselves and eventually learn how to use untensils, but their training the brain to use hand and eye coordination.
So as your child is growing, you can see how creating and providing a play area (or learning environment) for your child to strengthen their fine motor skills is extremely important in their development. Think of it as another stepping stone for your child to learn about the world around them.
Fine motor skills are not just about learning how to write, that comes later after your child has the strength and coordination to grip the pencil and write with it. It is not just about learning how to cut with scissors either. It is more than that once your child is in Kindergarten. It is about self help skills such as being able to get dressed, go to bathroom or zip or button their coat up. All of these jobs require your child to use their fine motor skills.
So again, I encourage you to start early. Start providing your child with a learning environment that allows them to play with things that make them use their hands and fingers. I have a twenty month old that has gotten stronger every day using her tiny hand muscles and it is because I have always given her an opportunity to color, even paint, play with Play-Dough, build with blocks, play in the bath tub or water table constantly filling up the cups with water and then dumping. Then, earlier on, the chunky puzzles and books that enticed her to touch, feel and turn the pages to see more.
I hope that just because you have a child that is not going into Kindergarten or even Pre-K, you will not disregard the importance of building their small motor skills. Believe me, they will learn more and even feel confident in themselves.
The following are some activities/items you can do with your child as young as 12 months old to strengthen their fine motor skills. Also, remember to refer back to Monday's post for activities for your soon to be Kindergartener.
- Spray bottle. Teach them how to use their index finger to spray the water out of the bottle
- Tearing and crumbling paper. This makes them use their little fingers and they love it!
- Play-Dough, just manipulating, squeezing and pinching the dough will give them strong hand and finger muscles
- Stickers, both my girls love them and they have to really be careful in peeling them off the paper so it takes a lot of precision and muscle control.
- Sponges, just simply have them squeeze out the water when in the bath tub or outside.
- Lid and containers, my daughter loves to try to match them up with the right container or put things inside the containers
- Shape sorters
- Sidewalk chalk
- Magna Doodle
- Different size cups or bowls to fill and dump things. Tea sets are good too.
- Crayons, chunky or regular to get them in practice of having to grip and hold a writing instrument and put it to paper
- Blocks, just stacking and building with them not only helps with fine motor but also planning and problem solving.
- Opening and closing things
- Finger foods like Cheerios, Goldfish and dried fruit are great to learn how to grip things