Helping your child develop their fine motor skills is crucial, as it will help them become more competent and normal, everyday tasks such as brushing their teeth or doing up zips. They’re skills we tend to take for granted, but are essential for normal development. The trick is to find some activities that will help strengthen the small muscles in their hands and fingers, while also supporting their hand-eye co-ordination. Here are some tips from an international school in North London…
The Pincer Grasp
By the time your baby is around 9 months old, they should be able to hold something between their thumb and first finger. This is called the pincer grasp. Children tend to use their pincer grasp to feed themselves and pick things up, so try and encourage this where you can. As the muscles become stronger, you child should be better able to control their cutlery and eventually a pencil.
Give your child some plastic cups and bottles to play with whilst they have their bath as this will allow them to practise transferring water from one container to another with a steady hand. Sponges are also great for strengthening the hand muscles because they will allow your child to practise squeezing it.
Arts & Crafts
Aged two, your child should be able to hold pencils and crayons and scribble with them – just be careful they don’t try out this new skill on your walls and furniture! Encourage your little one to get creativity with colouring pencils, paint brushes and eventually crafting scissors. Arts and crafts will help your child with their manual dexterity.
Playing with and stacking building blocks is a great way to help your child with their hand and wrist stability. Start off with bigger blocks while your child is young, and gradually reduce the size until they get the hang of it.
As your child gets bigger, aged 5 or so, give them some space to independently get dressed in the morning. Doing up buttons and zips, tying shoelaces and brushing teeth are all important tasks that involve the use of fine motor skills so avoid the urge to step in and help them if they’re taking a long time or seem to be struggling. You’d be better off setting your alarm a little earlier so that they have extra time to get dressed on their own.
Preparing meals engages fine motor skills because it involves things like pouring and stirring. Ask your child to get involved and help because it will be an opportunity to strengthen their hand muscles and also learn some.
There are, of course, various other activities you can try with your child to help strengthen their fine motor skills, such as Lego and board games, but the above suggestions should certainly put you on the right track. If you are concerned that your child isn’t progressing as you would expect, don’t hesitate to contact your GP for an appointment, but bear in mind that all children progress at different rates.