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Developing Fine Motor Skills

Is your child the next Michael Jordan, Picasso or Bach? Your child may have the beginnings of a concert pianist, a world renowned artist or future Olympian. The development of his or her fine motor skills in the early years may prove to be the difference in reaching that potential. And the best news is you can help your son or daughter with some simple activities using items found right in your home.

Fine motor skills involve the small muscles of the body that enable such functions as writing, grasping small objects, and fastening clothing. These skills develop most often between the ages of three to five. Fine motor skills are so important because they are used in most school activities, athletics, the arts and life in general. Weaknesses in fine motor skills can affect a child`s ability to do everyday tasks most of us take for granted. The proper development of fine motor skills will affect your child later on in life socially, academically and psychologically.

Socially. It is difficult to hide the way you move! For a child who experiences difficulties with his or her fine motor skills, simple everyday tasks become an embarrassment to the child. The child may begin to wonder why he or she cannot perform those tasks at the rate which they see others completing them and then feel inferior to others and begin to avoid doing those activities in public.

Academically. Precision and speed in handwriting and drawing are both necessary for most fields of study. Children with underdeveloped fine motor skills have a minimized ability to write and draw as quickly as others and this can affect the amount of work they are able to complete. Focus then turns to the movement of their hand rather than what is being written down resulting in decreased comprehension.

Psychologically. Children may experience difficulties in areas of physical activity resulting in negative feelings about themselves. The negative feelings may take a toll emotionally and affect their success in sports, ability to learn and play instruments and their ability to effectively use technology.

Though the affects of underdeveloped fine motor skills can lead to serious problems for your child, you can help your child develop properly with some very basic and simple activities right in your home. Therapists use a technique called `play therapy` to help children increase their dexterity and coordination. Here are some ideas for great at home tips that will increase your child's motor skills while keeping them entertained.

  • Play with play dough. Play dough is perfect for developing fine motor skills for your child's hands. Maneuvering the play dough will increase the strength of his or her fingers. Help your child get creative by encouraging them to make different shapes and animals. Hide a small object like a coin in the play dough and have your child search for it. Playing with play dough can help build muscle strength for activities like writing and playing the piano.
  • Make a collage. Gather pieces of paper you have lying around the house and have your child tear them into strips or circles. Use different colors, textures and shapes to create a picture and help your child develop fine motor skills and artistic abilities.
  • Work on a puzzle together. Wooden puzzle with rods are particularly helpful as your child will work to grip the small pieces. But any puzzle will work. Your child will be developing his or her fine motor skills while also developing his or her brain and problem solving skills.
  • Read a book. We all know reading with our children is critical to their development. But next time you are reading together, allow your child to turn the pages. Working with the thin pages will help build fine motor skills.
  • Bounce a ball. Have your child bounce a medium sized ball up and down and then try to catch it. This activity will help his or her fine motor skills and hand-eye coordination. Bounce it back and forth between you and make a game out of it!

Fine motor skills do not develop overnight, but by practicing these simple activities with your child you will not only help them be a step ahead on their first day of kindergarten but also provide benefits far into the future. Your child`s handwriting will be more legible, drawings will be more precise and hand-eye coordination will be enhanced. So try one or two of these activities and let your child find his or her potential. Oh, and as far as becoming the next great athlete, artist or musician, your child will be in your eyes no matter what.