I walked into the room where I had left my toddler dressed in her Sunday Best a few minutes ago, only to find her stark naked again. All this just when we're running late! Putting things on and taking them off has become my daughter's absolute delight. ‘Me do it' seems to be her favourite phrase since the last couple of days. I realized that she is not doing this to test my patience. In fact, this new found love of dressing and undressing is a result of increasing finger and hand coordination.
The often underrated skill
Fine motor skills is an important concept that is often overlooked. It involves careful control of small muscles in the hand, feet, fingers and toes. Controlling muscles of the tongue and lips in order to speak or sing is also a fine motor skill. It is this skill that lays the foundation for a child to learn how to write, draw, sketch, paint, etc. Fine motor skill helps children have proper pencil grip and control.
Gross motor skills equip children to perform important daily tasks; such as running, jumping, negotiating a flight of stairs, etc. Fine motor skills increases independence in smaller but equally significant activities such as: picking objects, opening doors, zipping zippers, brushing teeth and so on.
How does this skill support development?
When combined with increasing hand-eye coordination, fine motor skills open new doors to discovery, learning, and creative expression. A recent conversation with a kindergarten teacher helped me understand that emphasis on purely intellectual activities like memorization is far less useful at this stage, than pursuits that encourage fine motor abilities. She explained that it is these skills, rather than counting or reciting that lay the foundation for academic learning in later years. In order to learn to write or draw, a child's hand must be strong and coordinated enough to hold a pencil steady for a long period of time. Additionally, in order to participate in school sports, games, and projects; dexterity and coordination must be up to par.
My role as a parent
Children love new activities, which makes it easier for us to provide opportunities to help enhance their fine motor skills. A simple activity like taking your child for a walk can help them get more active and boost their fine motor skills. While taking a walk you can ask your child to collect sticks and pebbles. Throwing pebbles into a pond will challenge their coordination and at the same time utilize different muscles in their bodies.
Shared reading is also a great way to encourage fine motor skills. Encourage your child to turn the pages of a book. Remember that board books are best for very young children because the pages are sturdier and easier to manoeuvre.
There are many things you could make them do such as transferring marbles between bowls, putting coins in a piggy bank, peeling an orange that they snack on, sorting refrigerator alphabet magnets by colour or size, finger-painting and much more.
Play-Dough can also be used for fun exercises. Try squashing, rolling, pounding and moulding with hands without using any cutters.
Show Videos of Playdough http://bit.ly/appystore_playdough to your toddler and let them create their own model but strictly under your supervision.
Of course, your child will not be able to do everything right away. But with encouragement, support, and lots of time to learn, they might surprise you. So back off and let them try their hand at these simple tasks, and develop their fine motor skills.