Fine motor skills involve coordination of muscles, bones, and nerves to produce small, precise movements. It’s what enables us to grip a pencil and control it to write and draw. It helps us perform practical everyday skills, like opening a lunchbox. So, you can see, it’s an aptitude that’s needed from day one in Kindergarten.
Most preschools focus a lot of developing fine motor skills, but there’s much more you can do at home too.
- Use play dough. All the kneading and shaping helps build your child’s creativity. You can also help develop skills with scissors by rolling out the dough in a long line (like a snake) and have your child cut through it.
- Practice origami. You can buy some good kits from craft shops which include weaving paper, binding and cutting. Lots of fun and great for building concentration too.
- Tongs and tweezers. To start with, have them transfer relatively easy item – like craft pom poms or pieces of pasta – from container to container, using a pair of tongs from the kitchen. Then try using smaller items and switch to a pair of tweezers.
- Pegs. Kids are probably used to seeing pegs around the place, assuming you hang out your clothes and don’t stick them all in the dryer. They love mimicking what they see around them, so get them to hang things from their own piece of string – artwork, for example, or some of their own clothes.
- Nuts and bolts. Pick some up from the hardware store and teach your child to thread on a nut or washer. It’s great for developing fine motor skills and helps develop patience at the same time. For you and them!
- Sewing cards. You can use commercially made sewing cards, but it’s just as easy to make your own. Simply thread some wool through a plastic needle and push it in and out of a Styrofoam plate or cup. My personal favourite is to buy overside buttons and thread wool through them to make patterns.
- Thread pasta. This is lots of fun. Thread wool through pasta to make a long jump rope or bracelet. Remember, it’s not a good idea to make anything that hangs around the neck.
- Puzzles. Your kids probably have some jigsaw puzzles you can do together. Fitting them together is great for hand and eye coordination.
- Lego. An obvious one. Sadly, Lego is often an exercise in patience for dad, who gets drafted in follow the instructions for kits. But a bucket of building bricks allows kids to develop their own ideas and it’s great for developing fine motor skills.
- Colouring in. Early on they’ll go over the lines and it’ll look more like scribble than anything else. Over time, though, they will hone the skill and appreciate their own work more. For my daughter, switching crayons with markers helped because each hand movement created far more impact.
These are just some ideas. You will have many more of your own, I’m sure. I think it’s an important skill to develop early, so your child isn’t playing catch-up at school. It can also help you keep an eye on
your child’s development. If your child isn’t getting the hang of hand and eye coordination in the last year before school – for example, if she has difficulty using a zipper of cutting with scissors – then it’s worth a visit to the GP, just to be on the safe side.