Promoting Fine Motor Development
The development of skilled hand use requires infants and young children to bear weight on their arms and to explore their environment by touching and manipulating a variety of materials with one and both hands. The following activities will promote foundational fine motor skills. They prepare infants, toddlers, and preschoolers for the more refined skills needed in school, such as tying shoes, cutting, and eventually writing.
- Tummy Time: Although babies should sleep on their back (American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force, 1992), when awake they should be placed on their tummy to encourage pushing up on their forearms, and eventually their hands. Placing a mirror or toy in front of a child will encourage the child to look up. This activity also provides important sensory feedback for building body awareness in the arms and hands (Chizawsky & Scott-Findlay, 2005)
- Filling and Dumping: Older infants, toddlers, and preschoolers enjoy filing containers and dumping them. They are learning and practicing grasping, releasing, and problem-solving. Various everyday items, such as plastic lids to milk bottles, and other nonbreakable objects are good for filling plastic containers,
- Two Together: Creating opportunities for children to use both hands together is very important for functional hand use, Simple activities to encourage bilateral hand skills are opening and closing containers, holding and stabilizing paper while coloring, holding one toy while trying to retrieve another with the other hand, stringing beads, and building and taking apart interconnecting blocks and beads.
- Moving Van: To promote body awareness and to strengthen shoulders, have children push and pull large boxes and weighted containers around the floor or outside. Show children how, working together, they can push and pull heavier items than they are able to alone.
- Edible Finger Painting: Have children "paint" with whipped cream, pudding, or Jell-O to encourage tactile exploration. This may be beneficial for children who are reluctant to touch a variety of materials or textures. Refined finger dexterity requires tactile discrimination, which is enhanced by engaging in messy play.
- Cutting: To prepare preschoolers for cutting with scissors, have them use tongs to move small objects from one container to another to learn hos to control the opening and closing necessary for scissor work. When introducing scissors, encourage the child to place the thumb in one loop, while the middle, ring, and baby fingers are positioned in the larger loop. The index finger is used to stabilize the blade of the scissors. Guide the child to approach the paper in a thumbs-up position, encouraging him or her to cut in a forward direction.
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