Your kid is mighty and magical, but sometimes they feel left behind because of delay or difficulty with fine motor skills. Each kid has their own normal. The challenge becomes finding activities that help your child develop those strong muscles important for mastering fine motor skills — and taking over the world. Here are fun ways to foster fine motor skill development.
1. Paper Dolls
Paper dolls are a generations-old playtime activity that the grandparents can teach your child how to make and dress. The shapes can be anything — an alien or a dinosaur. Cutting and folding various tabs will strengthen your child's hand muscles.
2. Play-dough Creations
Play-dough is a decades-old childhood classic. Your child can create anything their imagination comes up with. Shaping play-dough through acts of stretching, squeezing and squishing develops strong finger muscles. Touching the surface adds to their tactile experience.
Play-dough helps build the skills for correct pencil-holding, zipping and buttoning, and your child also engages their emotional, social and cognitive skills. Expand their time using their hands as you encourage them to keep creating. Ask why they chose to make the piece of cake — maybe it’s for an alien birthday party. You won’t know until you ask, and watch how they grow!
3. Finger Painting
Engage your child’s spatial mapping through finger painting. Coordination and use of hands typically fully develop around age four, but children of all ages love to draw and paint. The beauty of finger painting is the free-form flow of the hand, freeing up tension and inspirational movement based on your child’s creative whim and imagination in the moment.
Put down an old sheet, and dress them in old clothes. The garage or yard is an easy, open space to manage the clean-up process. Gather the supplies and create!
4. Nature-Inspired Playground Fun
Children are intrigued by nature — rocks and trees provide classic playground structures, but these aren’t always stable for kids developing motor skills. Seek out playground equipment designed with nature in mind, such as a rock log that works as a bridge or balance beam. Your child can practice balancing as they sit, and they can hold onto a climber for guided hand and eye coordination.
Being outside will also expand their imagination and make them feel less stressed and more confident.
5. Sponge Squeezing
Sponges have the weirdest texture — don’t they? Kids love texture and weird stuff. Plus, you can sneakily interest them in cleaning by getting them to play with sponges early on. It’s a win-win activity.
Take two bowls. Fill one with water. Leave the other one empty. Give your kid a clean sponge, and let them soak it in the water. Then, encourage your child to squeeze the water out into the empty bowl, and they can transfer the water back.
It’s like magic — it’s a magic trick that strengthens their forearms and hands. Add food dye and bubbles for bonus points.
6. String Games
Ever comment to your mom, as a child, that you were bored while she was knitting? What’d she do? She probably cut off a separate length of yarn and tied it into a big circle. You thought she was making a necklace, but she did these really cool tricks with the string until you begged her to show you how to make them.
The quick weaving actions of fingers in and out of the string will build those fine motor skills in the hand. Show your child how to make Jacob’s Ladder by starting with Cat Whiskers, and then you can teach them how to make a bell, a star and more! Ask them to invent new pictures with the string, and witness their imagination soar.
7. Macaroni Necklaces
String games not popular any longer, or did your child get bored? That string still holds a ton of imaginative power and potential.
Turn it into a gift-making challenge. Collect various sizes, shapes and colors of noodles. Line them up on the string in various patterns. Threading each noodle on the string will assist with developing your child’s hand and eye coordination. Proudly wear the necklace to work the next day, if you dare.
8. Have a Dance Off
Most folks get self-conscious about how they move their body as they age, but dancing is for everyone! Dance helps your child to build awareness about what rhythm is and how they’re body moves. They’ll start to trust their body more and more and feel fascinated by their flexibility.
Dance to their favorite songs for free-form movement. Introduce traditional songs with patterned movements, such as “The Hokey Pokey” or “I’m a Little Teapot.” These encourage coordination.
Slowly developing motor skills can get in the way of a fun day, but it doesn’t have to stop the smiles and laughter.
Imagination, nature and games go a long way to assist with the development of smaller muscles, such as finger painting, sitting on a log, squeezing a sponge and dancing. Encourage the grandparents to get in on the action and share old classics like paper dolls and string games. The whole family will have fun engaging those fine motor skills while spending time together.