Did you know that a child’s fine motor skills are often the first indicator of their intelligence, social and emotional development, and academic success? But how can we help toddlers and preschoolers develop these essential skills?
What are Fine Motor Skills?
It is important to note that fine motor skills are not the same as gross motor skills. Gross motor skills are things like running, jumping, or climbing. They involve large muscle groups and lots of movement. Fine motor skills involve smaller muscle groups and less movement. When a toddler learns how to hold a crayon, that’s an example of fine motor skills.
Fine motor skills help toddlers & preschoolers do things like:
- hold a pencil, pen, or crayon correctly
- paint by following color patterns or designs
- write by tracing letter shapes on paper
- draw and write their name
What developmental skills do toddlers and preschoolers experience?
There are 5 main areas kids develop skills:
- Cognitive Development
- Social and Emotional Development
- Speech and Language Development
- Fine Motor Skill Development
- Gross Motor Skill Development
Where do toddlers and preschoolers get their fine motor skills?
Preschoolers & toddlers develop fine motor skills by using their hands. How? They use their muscles to pull against the powers of their fingers, hands, arms, and legs. It is called strengthening their muscles. Fine motor skill training is best accomplished through the use of:
1) Fundamental movements
- grasping objects
- holding other objects
- manipulating objects
- writing letters and numbers
2) Sensory stimulation
Sensory stimulation is all about exploring your senses through taste, smell, vision, hearing, and touch like with . . . .
3) More formal education (such as preschool and kindergarten)
- learning to write letters
- learning to read and write words
- learning the basic shapes
Benefits of Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Develop Their Fine Motor Skills
- Helps with self-confidence. When toddlers do things by themselves and/or with little assistance, they will feel more independent. It also improves their ability to hold items in later life when they get braces or need glasses.
- It helps them learn from their mistakes. Kids who learn from their mistakes will become more confident and less likely to repeat them in the future.
- It can be fun! Toddlers and preschoolers enjoy challenges and feel proud when they complete something that’s hard for them.
Side Note: It is important to note that fine motor skill development does not happen overnight. There is no set period for when a child’s fine motor skills develop. It typically takes several years for a toddler or preschooler to develop their fine motor skills. This means parents need to have patience and persevere with their child’s fine motor skills training, even if they are working slowly.
Fun Activities At Home That Will Help Develop Your Toddler and Preschoolers Fine Motor Skills
1. Pushing a ball – It is one of the most effective ways to help toddlers and preschoolers develop fine motor skills. Ask them to hold a small beach ball and push it with their index finger, moving their arm up and down in a rhythmic motion. They will soon feel the burn in their arms. As they become more proficient, challenge them by asking them to push it faster and harder.
2. Drawing a picture – All kids love to draw pictures. Help them hold a pencil between their thumb and index finger, and have them move it across the paper as they outline a person or an animal. As their fine motor skills improve, challenge them to trace letters or numbers in the air without holding a pencil.
3. Rolling play dough – Ask your child to hold his hands flat and place play dough in the center. Call for him to roll it with his hands. The stretchy dough will help develop the strength in his fingers and wrists.
4. Drawing a triangle: Start by drawing a triangle on a piece of paper, then ask your child to roll it up tight with her hands. Let her tuck the corners under and repeat until she has rolled it to one corner of the paper. She can then hold it up for you to see.
5. Thumb and Finger Puppets – Use a piece of yarn to thread different colored buttons or beads through your fingers. Let them pick a thumb and a finger to thread the beads through.
6. Buttoning a Shirt – It is an easy activity that will improve your child’s fine motor skills. Ask him to button the buttons of a shirt or coat without looking at them – this will challenge his eyes and fingers simultaneously.7. Playing with Legos – Legos will also help develop fine motor skills. While your child is playing with the legos, you can ask him to pick up a small piece of lego and place it into a hole. It will help them build up the muscles in their fingers and hands.
8. Ribbon Dancing – Ribbon dancing consists of using ribbons to make different designs. Ask your toddler and preschooler to create different designs with various colored stripes, moving his fingers in a rhythmic motion. This activity will allow your children to use their hands and fingers to move the ribbon around in beautiful ways.
9. Using small pegs – Get your child a pegboard or peg toy, where she can push the pegs into the holes in the board. If she does a good job, you can reward her with a small treat.
10. Cutting Paper – Cutting paper is a fun activity that can help develop fine motor skills. Most children love to play with scissors, and they will try to cut as many things as possible. Give them different shapes of paper and ask them to cut them into different shapes. You can also get them books filled with pictures of various forms for them to cut out.
11. Stacking Cups – Stacking cups is another activity that your child will enjoy by himself as he thinks of different ways to stack them up and how they fit together. Your child can make different shapes with the cups like stars, triangles, squares, or rectangles. You could also give your child some cups that have extra lines printed on them, which will allow him to develop his fine motor skills by placing the cups together.
12. Painting Pictures – Painting pictures can be fun, but let your child get used to the feel of the paint on his hands before giving him a brush full of colors to paint. Let him use his fingers to dab the paint onto the paper. As their fine motor skills improve, let them hold a brush and paint. The fun painting activity uses cut-up pieces of colored construction paper and allows your child to tape them on to make a picture.13. Beads – Your child can enjoy playing with beads as she will learn how to put them in a line and how they fit together in different patterns and designs. You can also give your child some beads that have bars on them, which will help him develop his fine motor skills as he can use the beads as a game to stack one after another.
14. Threading Spools – A spool of thread makes a great toy because it requires your child to use her hands and fingers as she thinks of different ways to place it on the spool. She will love to make different designs and shapes of thread.
15. Building with Blocks – To throw some fun and excitement into your child’s play, you can also give him different bricks in various colors. Your child will be able to match the different colors and make a set that would fit together. You can also come up with other unique designs that your child could create using bricks. When he is done with his creations, your child can take his products apart again and put them together in a new way to see how they fit together.
Final Thoughts on Fine Motor Skills Development for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Toddlers and preschoolers learn from their parents, so it is essential to teach them new things that they can understand. It will make things easier for them.
Fine motor skills are just the beginning! There is a lot more than your children can learn and do. Explore more activities for them to enjoy!
Should you have other fun and relevant activities that you would like to recommend, please leave a comment below.
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