With Your Toddlers and Preschoolers
There is something so simple in the pride a child feels when he can finally hold a pencil and write his own name – those combinations of letters scrawled on the page that represent his identity. But getting to the point where your child comfortably uses a pen or pencil is a far cry from rolling the jumbo sized crayon across the page. Fine muscle dexterity gradually builds in children, and can be the source of frustration for kids who aren’t yet able to master these skills.
As the mother of 4 children I’ve watched all of them succeed at different rates with their fine motor skills, and can relate to the studies that report boys tend to be slower at developing dexterity. My guys were always ready to run and kick the ball, while my daughter seemed more likely to sit and work on puzzles or crafts. By the time kids move into early and middle elementary years, these differences dissipate. However, parents can go a long way to helping all of their kids reach their full potentials when it comes to motor development.
Fine Motor Skill Development Guidelines and Activities
If you’re not sure where your child is when it comes to typical motor skill development, check out these guidelines put together by SensoryProcessingDisorder.com. – realistic and reasonable milestone for all kids.
1. Puzzles with handles or knobs
These types of puzzles offer practice for fine motor skill development and eye-hand coordination, without bringing the kind of frustration traditional cardboard puzzles can. Some of my favorite puzzles for the preschool years are:
2. Finger puppets
Nothing beats making characters come alive with the wiggle of a finger, and finger puppets are easy ways to encourage fine motor development. You can create your own or invest in a few simple puppets to get your child’s imagination and fingers dancing.
- Billy Bear patterns – most requiring felt or simple supplies
- Paper patterns for lots of different characters
- An eclectic collection of premade puppets
3. Clay and Play-doh
There is a reason why Play-doh has been around for decades. This toy feeds the imagination and helps children develop their fine motor skills. If you want to create your own sculpting clay for the kids, try this recipe my boys still use.
- 1 cup flour
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup salt
- 2 Tablespoons cream of tartar
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- Food coloring (optional)
- Mix all ingredients in the pan and cook until thickened on low heat (add food coloring if desired for different colors). Cool and let kids use – will keep in an airtight container for a few months.
4. Finger songs
My kids were all fans of simple finger songs when they were toddlers and preschoolers. You can use these to entertain while waiting in the doctor’s office, in line at the grocery store, or as a bedtime ritual.
- This list has some easy to remember finger songs and poems that also help build counting and memory skills while getting those fingers moving.
5. Finger paint
Kids love to feel the squishy sensation of the paints through their fingers, and finger paints help build dexterity and can be calming for those kids who need sensory play. You can make your own special version of a puffy finger paint by following this recipe.
- Mix equal parts of flour, salt, and water.
- Add a liquid tempera paint or food coloring until the mixture is the desired color.
- Pour into a squeeze bottle (the picnic kind for ketchup and mustard work well).
- Let kids squeeze onto paper and explore.
When kids are developing their fine motor dexterity skills they need lots of room for mistakes, messes, and exploration. Even though the smeared and sketchy creations of the toddler years might seem like they are eons away from masterful cursive writing, these games and toys of your child’s early years are important tools to help them reach these other milestones. Don’t forget to save a few samples of their preschool masterpieces to display at graduation to show how far they have come!