Thursday, July 5, 2012

Activities to Help your Toddler's Finer Motor Skills and Muscle Control

There are a lot of expensive toys out there you can purchase to help your child with fine motor skills, but what about these simple activities you can do at home?

Let your child scribble:

Scribble may seem like a bunch of chicken scratch to you, but your toddler really thinks he or she is writing.  The feedback of the feeling of pencil, pen or crayon against paper teaches your child about the writing process and aspects of the scribbles are intentional on the part of your child's brain.  If you are writing notes, grocery lists or letters, give your child some paper and do your "writing" together.

As your child's scribbles become more and more intentional you will see from they way they are looking at the page how controlled they are attempting to be.  When the curls, swirls and lines become smaller, tighter closer together, or begin to resemble letters and shapes, you can challenge your child by having him or her trace things such as shapes, and big lines you make.

Once your child begins tracing fairly successfully you can consider him/her a pre-writer.

Give your child an Ice Tray and Some Tweezers (for children that no longer put everything in their mouths):

Place a few small items such as beans, noodles, craft poms, seeds, or nuts in an ice cube tray and hand over a pair of tweezers (that are NOT sharp).  challenge your child to move as many of the small items from one end of the tray to the other using only the tweezers.

Get Out the Play Dough (or Start Baking):

Believe it or not, play dough play is an important component of building strength and coordination in your child's hands.  Whenever we had a child with weak hands at the preschool, the first thing we made sure to do was let them spend a lot of time with play dough.  Let your child simply experiment and play with the dough.  When he or she has mushing, mashing, poking and jabbing the dough down, see if you can start making snakes and balls of dough together.  The smaller the item and tweezers the more coordination required.  Also, softer items like craft poms are easier for beginners because they are less likely to have a problem with items slipping out of the tweezers.

You can also let your child help you knead bread dough if you'd like to multitask and bake your own fresh bread.  Try twists and pretzels to incorporate "snakes" into your baked goods.

Give your child Some Scooping to Do (Again, be careful about children that still tend to put things in their mouths - these activities are not the best for them):

This idea came from and I thought it was just adorable.  If your child is ready for counting, you can do this exactly as shown.  If he or she is not counting yet, just make one pie and let him or her pile on the "cool whip".
Any thing scooped will work though.  The idea is to get your child moving something from one location to another using a scoop.  Ping pong balls, craft poms, golf balls, tennis balls, seeds, and beads will all work.  Try to match the size of the scoop to the size of the item being scooped.  As your child gets better at it, make it into a game by incorporating counting "can you move 10?", making it a race between friends, "who can move the most?" or by combining the two and beating the clock, "can you move 10 before time runs out?".  As they get better at scooping, offer up an aiming challenge.  You can also have a child scoop something like marbles from a bowl into an ice cube tray or old egg carton.  See if they can get only one of the scooped items into each depression in their "tray". 

Again, baking with your child becomes a wonderful opportunity.  Let your child scoop ingredients into a bowl while you count the number of scoops.  Make cookies, bread, anything you want!  Meanwhile, your child is practicing coordination and counting.  For more ideas for math lessons in the kitchen, click here, and watch Fractions while Baking to see the results of about three years of baking with Alice.

Have fun out doors with scooping by incorporating a scoop relay race into an outdoor family Olympics day.  Use small water balloons and dust pans and see how many balloons your family can scoop (one at a time) from one end of the yard to the other in less than a minute.  Have points in the yard where one team member passes the water balloon to another using only the dust pans.  Did you transfer more than you broke?  Try the same thing with spoons and eggs.

Spend Some Time in The Sandbox or At the Beach:

Do all the things you would normally do.  Sand lends itself to scooping, just spray things down with a little water (if you are in the sand box) and suddenly you can work together on sandcastles and molds or even scratch your child's name into the sand with fingers or sticks.

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