Fine Motor Skill Activities that Your Kids Will Enjoy

Fine Motor Skill Activities that Your Kids Will Enjoy

Almost every parent feels the pressure to make their children write right now. But teaching your child how to write isn’t as easy as putting a pencil in his hand and showing him the alphabet. Children greatly benefit from experiences that support the development of fine motor skills in their hands and fingers.

They should have strength and dexterity before being asked to manipulate a pencil on paper. Working on this first can eliminate the development of an inappropriate pencil grasp. This happens when children get engaged in writing experiences before their hands are really ready. The following activities involve the use of practical life materials that will support your child’s fine motor development and help build the strength and dexterity necessary to hold a pencil appropriately in the future.

All these items can be found either at home or purchase from the dollar store or at Ikea. They have child-size items that will make it easier for the child to handle. These simple practical life activities may seem “easy” for us but it goes a long way with your child. These are indirect preparations that help in the coordination of your child’s movements and development of concentration.

Friendly Reminders:

1. Demonstrate how to do these activities next to your child so they can see what you are doing. Usually, you have your child sit first and you sit to the child’s right.

2. Name the objects you will use before you start.

3. Try to use as minimal words as you can and let your movements do the talking.

4. Make sure he/she is watching how you manipulate the items you are using.

5. Your goal is to demonstrate these actions clearly so the child can repeat the activity successfully and independently.

6. These activities aim to develop his/her coordination, concentration, gracefulness, and independence.

7. Repetition is important. If your child wants to do it over and over, encourage him/her to do so. It helps your child master the skill involved and allows your little one to gain more confidence in himself/herself as well.

8. Make sure to watch out for these important skills: concentration, hand-eye coordination, patience, and hand control.

9. Don’t forget to have your child clean up!

10. HAVE FUN!

Now let’s look at some easy activities:

SPOONING GRAINS:

Materials: Tray, 2 identical bowls, spoon/ scooper, grains (in this case, I used expired popcorn)

STEPS:

a. Wrap your three right fingers around the handle and firmly grip the handle.

b. Make sure the child sees you positioning the oval mouth of the spoon in the center of the bowl, so the grains fall into the bowl and not onto the tray.

c. If the grain falls, show the child how to remove the bowls and pinch the grains one at a time and replace into the bowl.

Variation: You can use jars to practice pouring grains, too.

Spooning Kernels with a Scooper

Spooning Kernels with a Scooper

Spooning Grains with a Spoon

Spooning Grains with a Spoon

POURING WATER:

Materials: Tray, 2 identical glass cups, sponge/towel to wipe off the spills, apron

STEPS:

a. Pouring water from the right hand jug into the left-hand jug then from left jug into right jug.

b. A cloth is to be used to wipe the spills.

Pouring Water Variation: You can have different size jars, some may even need a funnel.

Pouting Water

Pouting Water

SQUEEZING WATER FROM A BASTER:

STEPS:

a. Show your child how to hold the baster by the bulb to draw up the water by squeezing it and releasing the pressure on the bulb.

b. Move the full baster over to the second container and squeeze the water out.

c. REPEAT!

This was a little tricky especially with learning how to manipulate the baster so it took him a few rounds of spills and practice before getting the concept of releasing it after he puts it over the other jar. Micah also realized that it was easier for him after he held the bottle in place by moving it to edge so it wouldn’t move while he squeezed the water out. A towel close by is very handy because this takes a while to get used to. You can use a medicine dropper too. But because of the size of the baster, it makes it easier for their little hands to start with.

Squeeze me Baster!

Squeeze me Baster!

SPONGING:

(See the smile? He loved this!)

Materials: 2 buckets or 2 different containers (mixing bowls are good for these too)

STEPS:

a. Take the sponge and dip it in the water.

b. WAIT a few seconds for the sponge to absorb the water.

c. Pick it up and move your hands with the sponge over the other container.

d. Squeeze the sponge with both hands over the other container.

SPONGING!

SPONGING!

PLAY DOUGH:

We made homemade Jello Play Dough! They smelled so good and I wasn’t too worried if he tried to eat it. (Thank God he didn’t! haha) Squishing, squeezing, stretching and moulding play dough helps to build muscle strength in the fingers and hands.

Providing small items like buttons, sequins, pasta, pebbles and shells with the play dough will also encourage the child to use his/her hands when picking up and placing these objects in the dough. Put out some shape cutters, a grater, blunt plastic knives and tweezers which can all be used to mould and transform the play dough.

In our picture, we used the Melissa and Doug set I found at Ross for $5. Rolling pins foster the development of the precision muscles of the hands. The precision muscles of the hands are the muscles that support the pencil grasp and teaches the child how to adjust the amount of pressure when holding a pencil.

Mold & Make Me Something!

Mold & Make Me Something!

These are just some of the many things that your toddler can do to exercise his/her fine motor skills. Show excitement and delight when your child accomplishes these tasks! Encourage them to continue doing it. As parents, be in the moment and pay full attention to your child. Developing motor skills is the first step to writing without stressing your child and yourself, too!

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Toddler Tasks: These little hands can do big things!

When you live a busy life, sometimes it’s easier to do things yourself. You get things done quicker and just the way you want it. Juggling between nursing and caring for a newborn and running around after a toddler, it’s easier for me to finish the chores, put away the dishes, fold the clothes and clean up the toys while the kids are napping instead of waiting for my 22 month old to wake up and help me. But by doing everything myself, what am I teaching him?
What if I actually waited for him to do it? It shows him that mommy trusts him to do big tasks. That she believes that I can do it by myself and that I am able! Oftentimes, I’m tempted to put away the dishes from the dishwasher so when my son wakes up, we can read a book or play or do something else. But I am reminded that doing so would deprive him of learning the valuable lessons of taking responsibility, caring for the household and allowing him to build confidence in his abilities. This encourages independence and allows us to share the joy of seeing him accomplish various tasks with big thank you’s, double high fives and big bear hugs – making us both feel like a million bucks! There are lots of ways your toddler can help you. It may take extra time in the beginning especially when you initially teach him, but when he/she gets it, it’s all worth it!

Here are some suggestions:
Bedroom:
Show your toddler how to:
1. Fold his own blanket or fix his bed after he wakes up in the morning or at nap time.

2. Put his dirty clothes in the hamper.

3. Pick out his own clothes and even put them on (shoes included).
Micah has a pair of “home shoes” that he can practice putting on around the house so when we need him to put on his “outside shoes”, he can do so quickly.

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5. Put away the folded clothes in the drawers or closet.
Warning: your perfectly folded clothes may not be so perfect once your little one carries them to the drawer and shoves it in.
*Micah told me after I folded his clothes, “Mama, Micah help.” I said “OK!” But before I could help him carry them to his room, he picked up the pile and brought it to his room. He placed them (it felt more like dropped them) on the floor, opened the drawer and put them in. By the time I got to the room, he said, “Mama all done” with a huge smile of his face; he proudly moved out of the way to show me the clothes in the drawer. I had to remind myself to say thank you and acknowledge the helpful spirit of my little boy instead of the sleeves that were hanging out and the shirts that were unfolded. He did put them away in the correct drawers and I had to applaud him for helping. I wanted to rearrange it so they would look neat, but I knew it would break his confidence. I had to let it go because the bottom line is my 20 month old helped me with the laundry. On the bright side, it was one person’s clothes I didn’t have to put away. 🙂

Bathroom:
1. Ask him to remove his clothes, socks and get ready to shower.

2. Get his towel.

3. Wash himself with soap and put shampoo on his head.
*TIP: Put some shampoo in a smaller container (put those hotel shampoo containers you take home to use!) so if it spills, you won’t waste a lot. Give him a small bar of soap so he can hold it in his hands. Micah loves holding the shower head and washing himself when he takes a shower.

4. Clean up wet spots on the floor.

5. If you are potty training, ask him/her to dump out the pee in the toilet. Remember to remind him/her to wash his/her hands after!

IMG_7358Living Room/ Study or Play Area:

1. Pick up and put away his books and toys after he uses them.
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2. Straighten up the pillows or rugs.

Kitchen:
1. Assist you in food preparations.
a. Rinse fruits or vegetables (while you do this, talk to him about the colors, names and importance of each one).

b. Slice bananas if he wants to have it for snack or dessert.
Show him how to hold the knife properly with the blade side down and away from him.IMG_7336
c. Bake with him!
Show him how to mash bananas, or crush crackers to make them crumbs. I had pre-measured the ingredients and placed them in different colored bowls and had him put them into the mixing bowl. Mixing is so much fun!

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4. Show them how to scoop and drop!
Micah loved it! He got upset at me when I took the tray away to bake it in the oven because he wanted to keep doing it! He was pretty mad -while I thought it was pretty funny. I told him I had to bake it or we couldn’t eat it.

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5. Breakfast anyone? Slice the bread and spread the jelly! Who wouldn’t want to do that?!

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6. Empty out the plates and bowls from the dishwasher and sort out the utensils.
REMINDER: SAFETY FIRST! I remove all the knives and sharp objects or anything that can potentially injure him before I call him to help me.
With Micah, I had him put the plates and bowls on the floor because the shelf was too high for him to reach. I placed one of each on the ground so he would know where to put what item. I found it interesting that he made another pile for the 2 plates that had a design on them from the plain plates pile.

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7. Setting up the table.
Ask him to get the utensils one at a time for each member of the family. He can help put the plate on the table or give each person a napkin.

8. Clean up!
They generally enjoy doing this. Micah likes using the sponge to wipe down the table or the counter. He likes tossing trash in the garbage and sweeping the floor.

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Laundry Room:

1. He/ She can help load and unload the washer and dryer.

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With a newborn around and countless diapers to change, Micah has been officially the diaper & wipes helper! He is in charge of getting us a diaper and the pack of wipes while throwing out the yucky ones. He also our little errand boy and helps with getting the blanket, the milk bottles and sometimes the TV remote. I sometimes purposely leave the dirty diapers on the floor or the table because he loves finding them and saying, “Mama, Micah tapon sura.” (translation: Tapon: “throw away” and sura (basura) “trash” in Tagalog) and he happily runs off to dump them. (I didnt teach him this but he started started stepping on his footstool so he can push the diapers down the chute. In the last picture, he returns it to his room.)

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With a little help and a lot of patience, teach your tot to participate in keeping your home clean and tidy. While they may often leave a whirlwind of chaos in their footsteps, they actually need order as much as you do. So take the time to teach your little learner and it will benefit you too!

1. Keep his physical limitations in mind.
Micah struggled with putting away the plates because reaching for the counter that was too high made him feel frustrated, thus I let him lay them out on the floor instead. I also took out the baskets of utensils and placed them on the table with the tray so he can easily see and place the spoons and forks properly into their proper compartments.

2. Keep your instructions simple.
Instead of telling your child to clean up his toys or tidy up this mess, you can say, “Honey, why don’t we put all your balls into the basket.” Or, arrange your books on the shelf. Giving him a specific instruction makes it easier for him to comprehend what you are asking him to do. You don’t want him to feel discouraged because his inability to meet your expectations.

3. Model the behavior.
In the beginning, demonstrate how to properly put away the toys or arrange the books and work with him. Describe the steps you are taking such as picking up the balls one at a time (because realistically we can pick up 3 balls at a time and they probably can only pick one up at a time.) Eventually, you can slowly fade away and help only when necessary. It will get to a point when you don’t have to help because he knows the routine.

4. Make it fun!
Sing a song, google one or make one up if you don’t know any clean up song. Whistle while you work just like how Snow White and the 7 dwarves did it! Putting away the toys with a song can transform this dreadful task to a fun game.

5. Turn helping into a habit.
This takes time and patience. Gentle reminders help your child establish the habit of helping out. Praise their efforts especially when they remember to it on their own initiative. Some people use a chores chart to remind the child on what he has to do.

6. Be realistic!
This will not happen overnight and it will not be perfect. Building character takes time but investing in teaching your child how to be a good helper is well worth the wait!

Now go have fun with your little helper!

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!” Philippians 4:13