You see, normal development DEMANDS that children are able to accurately and effectively use the small muscles (intrinsic muscles) in their hands. These intrinsic muscles will be used for the rest of their lives and for essential functional activities.
Childhood is the critical time to properly develop these muscles, and I think you might be shocked (unless you are an OT) at how many children we, as Occupational Therapists, see in the schools and clinics every single day who have significant delays in fine motor skills. I must add it is nobody's "fault"... it just is. These are skills that simply may need some extra work to develop optimally, that's all. So, please... no blaming the child or the parents. Deal? Thanks!
The building of fine motor skills in children will enable them to perform a variety of important functional tasks. These include:
Certainly you can now see the importance of fine motor skills and the impact it would have if not developed properly! If your child is struggling to do any of these aforementioned activities and you are concerned that they may have poor fine motor skills, then it is time to practice, enhance, and evaluate these skills.
I just want to mention, there is a very high correlation between children with sensory processing disorders and children with a delay in fine motor skills. It is often a big part of sensory integration therapy and one of the main reasons children are initially referred to an Occupational Therapist. Please understand, I am NOT saying they HAVE a sensory processing disorder if they have poor fine motor skills... fine motor delays may be an isolated issue.
Properly Developed Fine Motor Skills Are Important To Every Day Living
The ability to complete functional activities that require these skills will follow you your entire life. So, I beg of you... if you see signs of fine motor difficulties in any child, please address it with a teacher, Occupational Therapist, or through educating yourself (as you are now... yay you!) on how to improve fine motor skills.
Speaking of improving fine motor skills, here is what you have been waiting for... how do we do it? Truthfully, you will see the greatest improvement through targeted activities that are practiced, practiced, and practiced some more! True, that is the "therapy" of it... but, I always believe in making that targeted practice fun and varied! It really NEEDS to be for the development of the various muscles, and so the child doesn't get bored, frustrated, or resistant to engaging in these therapeutic, skill building activities.
Activities To Improve Fine Motor Skills
But, before I show you those, I must share my all-time favorite activity for hand strengthening and fine motor skill development. It's easy to do anytime/anywhere, it's fun, it works on a variety of hand skills, and THE KIDS LOVE IT! It is... Theraputty! Ah, for those of you who don't know, Theraputty is a strong silly-putty-like material that probably every Occupational Therapist uses. It comes in a tub and has different "strengths" to it (more or less resistance when squeezed). It is one of the best inventions ever!
Okay, here is my favorite activity (if you are an OT, don't give it away, shhhh)... Stretch the Theraputty out and hide coins or any tiny objects in it. Then mush it up into a ball. It is now the child's job to pull the putty apart and find all the objects you put in there (oh, make sure you count how many you put in there, because the child WILL keep asking if they found them all). Just a hint... children can even do this whole "game" themselves; hiding the objects AND finding them. Or do it with friends that come over to play. And, if they need extra incentive... you can use all those pennies you have kicking around the house and tell them if they do a good job finding them all 3 times in a row they get to keep them! Bribery...*ahem*, I mean REWARDS, are always a great way to get a child to do his "therapy".
Or, here is another idea; Holly, an OT from a school in New York gave me this great suggestion...
When using putty I will sometimes put "googley" eyes in it and when you shake the putty you can hear the eyes wiggle, the kids love it and enjoy the silly challenge.
(Thanks Holly, I love it!)
So, I just want to emphasize that the games and activities we use for therapy need to be fun and creative! That's what OT is all about... finding meaningful activities to enhance and develop skills. Building fine motor skills in children CAN be fun (and should be)!
So, use playdoh, silly putty, Theraputty, kids scissors, beads, crafts, markers, crayons, learn to dress dolls, puzzles, paints and paintbrushes, finger paints, pencil grips (help you hold your pencil correctly), mazes, coloring books, "quiet books", pegboards, or ANYTHING you can possibly think of, to get those hands and fingers workin'!
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Fine motor development chart - Use this easy-to-understand fine motor development chart (ages 0-5) to see if YOUR child is delayed in his fine motor skills. Find out if an early intervention or OT referral is needed.
Preschool, toddler, and infant fine motor activity ideas - Great list of preschool, toddler, and infant fine motor activities to build, enhance, and improve your child's fine motor skills. Fine motor development starts early - get those hands moving!
Handwriting Without Tears - Improve your child's handwriting skills; Handwriting Without Tears is an excellent program to use with any child, especially children with a sensory processing disorder
Pre-writing activities for preschool children - Practical, fun, and simple pre-writing activities for preschool children that will foster and encourage proper fine motor development. Use these ideas and products to get them ready to write!
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